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November 24th, 2021
The “Open Talk” is an initiative reflecting Albania citizens’ deep ambition and support towards western democratic values. It is a grassroots movement based on a transparent dialogue with all individuals seeking a more accountable, representative and corrupt-free political model.
Likewise in other developing countries, there is a true “political-fatigue” among Albanians, independently their age, ideological or religious background. But with a specific particularity. Organised crime and large-scale corruption have penetrated the public sphere like nowhere else in the European continent making the country the 2nd most corrupt, and by many security experts and journalists, as the first narco-state in Europe.
The country’s ability to fight corruption, illegal immigration, transnational organised crime, trafficking and ultimately terrorism, has been seriously undermined.
Due to bad governance, international reports reflect a serious deterioration of governance, rule of law, economic and human rights standards. This democratic decline has fuelled in turn more informality, corruption and criminal activity. Drug cultivation followed by money laundering investments, have increased exponentially. Under Edi Rama’s rule, Albania appears to have become a “captured state”, through massive vote buying and electoral manipulations by means of illicit gains. A vicious cycle ensues: captured electoral mandates produce more corruption and drugs, and these in turn have produced more captured electoral mandates.
The massive violation of free & fair elections at national level, has been followed also by a deterioration of internal democracy standards at party level. Today, party statutes and democratic standards are not respected and DP has lost four successive electoral battles.
It is in this specific context that one should read the “Open Talk”. It is a political action to free Albanian politics from its criminal and corrupt seizure. It is a challenging endeavour, to say the least, for any politician and man. However, it is a challenge I have accepted with the same determination I did 30 years ago when we freed the Albanian society from the world’s most ferocious regime, that of Enver Hoxha. The Democratic Party can be considered as one of the most successful anti-communist parties in Eastern Europe. Under our mandates, Albania joined NATO, the Council of Europe, started its EU accession process while boosting FDIs and intra-European trade at record levels. The same ambition drives our effort in this last political battle. Offer a decent governance to all Albanians, free of crime and corruption, while further promoting our western identity and democratic ambition.
This newsletter is a mean to communicate with each of you on this umpteenth political endeavour. By wishing you would be able to follow its future developments in the incoming weeks and months…
Prof. Dr. Sali Berisha
Former President and Prime Minister of Albania
A short Q&A on the “Open Talk”.
> What is the “Open Talk”
The “Open Talk” represents a national tour of public debates held by former Albanian President and Prime Minister, Dr. Sali Berisha. Open to all citizens, these public debates focus particularly on the Albanian opposition’s action following the electoral defeat of the general elections held on April 25th 2021.
> The objective
The “Open Talk” is a political action aiming to reform the Democratic Party of Albania (DP). Having lost every single general, local and partial elections since it passed into opposition on 2013, DP’s membership and local branches are calling for a deep strategic and leadership change. Current DP Chairman Lulzim Basha has been leading the party since 2013. As part of the “Open Talk” initiative, new party statutes are being drafted expanding membership rights on the appointment of candidates, introducing political fractions, limiting the chair’s mandate etc.
> The national context
Albanian political regime has transformed into a one-party-regime under Edi Rama’s socialist rule. Through his full parliamentary majority, Rama currently controls without any check & balance or political coalition the executive branch, all 61 out of 61 municipalities and the new judicial institutions. International organisations have constantly underlined the serious threats posed to political, media and economic freedoms in Albania. As large-scale corruption and drug trafficking have fuelled massive vote-buying practices and the criminalisation of politics, the Albanian Democratic opposition has been unable to counter the negative effects of Rama’s authoritative rule on the country. This situation has resulted in Albania being the no.1 country for EU asylum seekers and for US green card applications per capita in the world. There are allegations that corruption and illicit influences have penetrated even through opposition ranks.
> International stake
Four years after its constitutional enactment and more than 200m euros of EU and US backed investments, the Albanian Justice reform has been tainted from its numerous negative side effects, including leaving the country without a Constitutional and a High Appeal Courts. International experts have expressively called North Macedonia and Kosovo not to follow Albania’s reform model. The reform has been implemented through the technical intervention of George Soros’s Open Society Foundation (OSF). Throughout this period, former President and PM Berisha has consistently pinpointed the reform’s derailments and Rama’s strong grasp over the new justice institutions. A recent EuroNews opinion poll, shows that only 25% of Albanians think the reform was good, and only 6% believe the profit is higher the costs (here). In parallel, Berisha opposed another OSF policy in relation to the territorial partition of Kosovo and the reshaping of Balkans’ borders following the idea of “land swap”. For a detailed assessment of Rama’s and OSF influence on the Albanian justice reform please follow link here, in English.
> The “French” legal battle
In this particular political situation, following the 2021 DP electoral loss and eight years in opposition without no political role in the party leadership, the U.S. State Department Secretary Antony Blinken designed Berisha under section 7031(c), banning his entry to the U.S. on the ground of “involvement in significant corruption”. Berisha considered this decision being based on fabricated information lobbied by Rama and Open Society Foundation networks. This, having in mind that there are no corruption accusations for him by any individual or institution in the country. Berisha announced it would seek for justice by contesting the decision through an independent French tribunal based in Paris. He also asked for the facts over this designation to be made available to the public. As of today, these facts remain not yet known.
> What’s next
The “Open Talk” initiative will culminate on December 11th 2021 with the holding of the DP National Convention voting the new statutes and the renewal of the party leadership. According to DP statutes, the Convention can be called by 1/4 of the national party delegates, or approximately 2000 delegates. It is the first time that such a bottom-up initiative is being held in the Albanian political landscape.
Restoring DP’s euro-atlantic democratic standards, by reforming its internal party decision-making.
Following the recent development described above, DP chairman Lulzim Basha has decided in full violation of the party statute to expel Berisha from the DP parliamentary group through a personal decision. He also refused to convene DP’s national council and convention.
Basha has also dismissed or attacked numerous DP representatives at local and national level, including elected Members of Parliament for their support to the “Open Talk”. Both leaders of DP Youth and Women Forums have been target of a vindictive decision-making for their support to the “Open Talk”.
Although party statutes guarantee the independence of these forums, DP chair Basha unilaterally declared the ending of their mandates while infringing party rules. EPP’s youth and women representatives have criticized the move as against European democratic practices.
Basha refuses to recognize the signatures of appx. 5.000 DP national delegates (representing close to 75% of the total number of delegates) calling for the National Convention of the party on December 11th. He called instead for an alternative Convention on December 18th, practically pushing the party towards a potential split.
It should be noted also that 60% of the DP current steering council (SC), has been handpicked and appointed by Basha against DP statutes. According to the party statutes, SC members shall be voted through a secret ballot and true competition among different candidates.
These practices reflect the lack of internal democracy, the absence of political competition, the level of purges and the authoritative degree reigning within the party. The lack of transparency in the recent decision-making processes, including as of the compiling of electoral candidates lists, are perceived by the party base as a major reason in asking the reshuffle of the opposition’s leadership
In the incoming weeks, “Open Talk” followers will be informed in details on the new party statute novelties and on the actions that will follow the December 11th National Convetion.
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