Dr. Ana L. Scheer
On April 11th, the majority of Parliament of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, upon request of the three parliamentary groups: the Christian Democratic Party, the Socialist Party and the Liberal Party, voted for the proposal of the reinstatement of visas for Albanian citizens due to the growing criminality as well as the increase of the illegal emigration in Holland.
Yesterday, on April 17th, the Parliament of the Netherlands voted in favor of the reinstatement of visas for Albania proceeding with the formal request for the approval of the EU institution to implement such a decision. This came as a big blow for Albania’s government which most likely will face another refusal from Brussels on the invitation of opening the negotiations for the EU membership.
Whilst there has been no official response by the Albanian government on this decision, the opposition and the Albanian political spectrum was quick to blame premier Edi Rama and his government for this grievous action by the Parliament of the Netherlands.
“This is a harsh punishment for Albania!” declared former prime minister Sali Berisha. “It is because of Edi Rama, his corrupt government which is involved into the trade of drugs and narcotics, that Albania will not receive the invitation to open negotiations with the EU. Albanians are risking losing one of their greatest achievements, the free movement in Europe, the free traveling in the Schengen zone.”
In 2010 the government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was one of the main supporters for the liberalization of visas for Albanian nationals. The increase of the Albanian organized crime in the Netherlands and the raising number of asylum seekers in 2017 compelled the law enforcement agencies of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to push their decision-making authorities for the return of visas for Albanians.
“Recently the number of asylum requests by Albanians in Holland has overtaken the number of Syrian applicants to become the single biggest national group”, a spokesperson from the Dutch ministry of Security and Justice stated. Worried by this increasing trend, the Netherlands seems to have taken measures to contain the influx of asylum seekers and prevent the spread of Albanian organized crime in the Netherlands.
Moreover, it appears that some EU countries may have been alarmed by a recent Gallup poll, in which Albania ranks fourth worldwide in terms of people’s desire to migrate. In Albania, 60% of the adult population wants to leave their country. Gallup’s latest worldwide survey conducted between 2015 and 2017 ranks Albania in the fourth place out of 152 countries, after Sierra Leone and Liberia which were in the midst of an Ebola outbreak, and Haiti.
The same Gallup survey places Albania at the top of the “brain drain” index in Europe, an index which measures the level of young, highly-educated people who want to leave the country with no plan of returning. The survey showed that in Albania 32% of the highly educated want to permanently leave their country. Monika Kryemadhi, the head of Socialist Party for Integration, responded that “Youth, is the biggest failure of this government, which is forcing young people to flee their country by eradicating their hope and dreams.”
Will the Dutch decision create a domino effect on the reinstatement of visas for Albanian nationals? France has been considering for quite some time to do the same. If, so the EU integration of Albania will be jeopardized more than ever. The Albanian President, Ilir Meta, stated that the decision of the Parliament of the Netherlands is a warning signal. Even the government and the ruling party in Albania know it. Most of all, the Albanian people know it, and they are terrified by the ordeal of visa applications.
But the troubles for the Albanian premier Edi Rama seem to come not only from the EU affairs but mainly from the domestic troubles at home. During the last weeks thousands of people have rallied on the weekly basis in front of the prime ministry and Parliament in Tirana. These protests have attracted the world media due to the frequent usage of tear gas in great amounts by the state police and by the sudden decision of the opposition parties to withdraw their mandates from parliament, an unprecedented act in Albanian politics, claiming the resignation of premier Rama whose party which presently sits alone in Parliament.
Albania is in a political and social turmoil. Students, intellectuals and political parties sympathizers have been rallying for months. The upcoming local elections are expected to mark a more conflictual crisis. Lulzim Basha, head of the opposition, has denounced the investigation files 339 and 184 in which former ministers and Socialist Party mayors are allegedly involved into collaboration with organized crime in manipulating the previous elections. The opposition is intensifying its protests asking for the resignation of Edi Rama and establishment of a transitory government which will ensure free and fair elections.
In order to avoid early parliamentary elections premier Rama’s only hope seems to rely on the judicial reform. During the last three years Albania has been undergoing a very substantial judicial reform. But, in addition to the devastating indicators of high emigration and great numbers of asylum seekers for such an EU aspiring country such as Albania, another recent survey, conducted by the Albanian Helsinki Committee, showed that 63% of Albanians do not believe in the judicial reform over all. Albanians seem skeptical on the vetting of judges and prosecutors who appear to have close ties with high government officials or cannot legally justify their wealth. This has left Rama into a political void.
The Albanian premier seems to have accepted the fact that most likely, in the forthcoming June, the Council of Europe will not invite Albania for the opening of the negotiations for the EU membership, but he appears more worried in preserving his power and his government than the EU integration. And Albania still remains in a crossroad, the same one in which it has been for many years, caught in the trap of the wish and desire of an entire nation to join the EU and the gravity of old politics that continues to keep this small western Balkan country out of the gates of Brussels.