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Dream On...

Albanians seem to be blessed with an optimistic streak. Given their past that is probably a blessing. Unfortunately, optimism can obscure reality and a recently published survey suggests that when it comes to membership of the European Union, some Albanians have abandoned reality entirely.
The Albanian Institute for International Studies recently published the 2005 edition of their annual survey, Rethinking European Integration: Perceptions and Realities. Asked how long they though it would be before Albania joined the EU 53.4% opted for ten years. Amazingly, another 11.1% thought it would take only five years. Together, nearly two-thirds of those interviewed believe Albania will be a member of the EU by 2015 at the latest.
This is fantasy. Membership of the EU is only open if a country meets the Copenhagen criteria. Any aspiring member country must be a stable democracy, respecting human rights, the rule of law, and the protection of minorities; must have a functioning market economy; and must adopt the common rules, standards and policies that make up the body of EU law.
The challenge facing Albania in achieving these objectives can be clearly seen in the Human Development Index, published by the UNDP. In the most recent index, based on information gathered in 2003, Albania ranks 72. The 15 members of the EU at that time ranged from Luxembourg at 4, to Portugal at 27. The 10 countries that joined in 2004 ranged from Slovenia at 26 to Latvia at 48.All 25 had achieved high human development.
Another highly relevant index prepared annually by Transparency International measures the perceived level of corruption. Albania ranks 126 in this index for 2005. Again for comparison the EU 15 rank between Finland at 2 and Greece at 47. (I'm afraid Greece and Italy weigh rather heavily on the EU's overall ratings. Italy ranks 40, but the next worst ranking is Portugal at 26.) Among the 10 that joined in 2004 the rankings run from Malta at 25 to Poland at 70 (Poland holds this group back since the next worst is Latvia at 51.)
Finally, Freedom House produces an annual Freedom in the World index, ranking countries on the basis of political rights and civil liberties. Ranking each country from 1 to 7 and categorising them as free, partly free or unfree, Albania scores 3-3 and is categorised as partly free. The EU 25 are all categorised as free, and 22 of them score 1-1. The culprits who let the side down are Greece and Latvia (1 for political rights but only a 2 for civil liberties), and Lithuania that only manages a 2-2.
Given these consistent disparities between Albania and the EU countries the optimism of so many Albanians is unfounded. This is not to criticise Albania - it is hard to imagine any country achieving such a comprehensive transformation in such a short space of time.
The survey becomes even more surprising when you discover that those interviewed are not ordinary Albanians, but are officials of both local and central government, business people, and members of the media and NGO's. They are people who should have a better, and more realistic, grasp of the challenges facing Albania.
One other finding from the survey might help explain why they seem so hopeful. No less than 44% of respondents believe that the EU should accept Albania as a member even if it does not meet the criteria. The authors of the report suggest that this may indicate that 'Albanian's may have a difficult time envisioning an Albania that is as European in its economic development and its cultural outlook as any West European country.' So perhaps Albanians are not quite the optimists they seem after all.
Since the report was co-funded by the British Embassy it fell to the British Ambassador, Richard Jones, to speak at the launch of the report. Being a diplomat he was very diplomatic: 'Albania’s vocation lies in finding its due and rightful place in the modern European continent,' said the Ambassador. But most of his speech was a reiteration of the membership requirements and a challenge to Albania's political leaders to get their act together: 'Achieving Albania’s strategic objectives of integration requires a common national endeavour. All Albanian politicians should mean it when they say that integration is at the heart of their policy platforms. The pursuit of narrow party, factional or personal interest only distracts from the achievement of the objective of integration – to the detriment of the Albanian people, and of Albania’s relations with the rest of the international community, including the European Union.' As for those 44%, the Ambassador also pointed out that 'the member states are in no mood at present to lower or ignore the standards.'
EU membership will be good for Albania, good for this region and good for the EU, but I'm going with 15 years minimum.

Comments

ITS said…
Good, good! I am really impressed with the research and fact checking. On the other hand 47% of all statistics are made up.

Personally I believe that Albania will join the EU, when Albanians will stop caring about joining the EU. In calendar years, 25-50. Maybe by the time I am in my death bed.

But hey, who wants to be under the same union as the Greeks? Definitely not me!
annabengan said…
I think 20015 is realistic - but who knows what will happen...it seems like it is to a great extent an issue of bad governance and money going into the wrong pockets and areas - just look at the huge differences of the human development in the North and the South of the country - and also how women are treated in different parts of the country. It is VERY dangerous to judge all of Albania from what is going on in Tirana. It gives a false image of the daily lives and quality of living of most Albanians I believe...Get out and see for yourself. I mean there are remote villages in mountains for example - gets REALLY cold there in the winter, where people are living, people who have NEVER HAD ELECTRICITY in their homes! Tirana is for me just a facade that for sure gets prettier and prettier everyday - but what about the rest of the country?
Considering that there are only 3 million people living in the country though, one would think it should not be so hard to provide everyone with services and housing etc that they need. Thanks god for the remittances coming from abroad and the great optimism I feel that ordinary Albanians have: they are really struggling sooo hard to make a better life and to give their children opportunitites they never had themselves.
ITS said…
Anna,

Remitances coming from abroad? What remitances? There has been next to NOTHING nobody ever did for Albanians.

My people have to raise the standards of living for themselves, over time. Quite honestly nobody else cares. As Alwyn points out, European countries are not as concerned as to "lower their standards any time soon!"

That's Europe's stance towards Albania. That's always been the case. If we would have waited for support from European powers, we wouldn't even be a country today!

Personally, I don't even want
Albania to join the EU. I realize that I am a minority on this issue, but nevertheless a different point of view. We are not good enough for EU, EU is not good enough for us!

Here is a little something I wrote about "remitances" on my blog. I hope you enjoy it!

http://www.digitalobjective.com/2005/11/myth-of-foreign-aid.html

cheers,
Its, I can sympathize with you my man. In Greece, there is such a ferver about Albanaians committing all the crimes. Whenever a crime is committed, the first thing Greeks say is "ALBANIAN".

But, even more sad is this joke that was passed around during the Olympics.

Q: Why didn't Albania send an Olympic team to Greece to compete in the Olympics?

A: Because every Albanian who can run, jump or swim is already in Greece.

Now, I've found Albanians to be quite friendly in my expectations. But, since I'm an American, they realize that USA has helped them immensely and they harbor no ill will like other countries.

Cheers from Athens
ITS said…
SA,

Thanks for the racist joke! There is nothing better to reinforce your point than repeating Greek poisonous propoganda.

I don't know where you get the idea that "they realize that USA has helped them immensely and they harbor no ill will like other countries."

USA doesn't help anybody by itself.
annabengan said…
There is a misunderstanding here: when I talk about remittances coming from abroad I talk about money being sent by relatives that have emigrated from Albania, back to their families in Albania. This is crucial for most Albanians today I think.

Coming from one of these European countries where you say that "no body cares" I would say it's not true. EU invest A LOT of money in development programmes for example, in Albania, year after year, despite that Albanian men keep trafficking their own sisters and girl friends, despite that the elections keep being fraudulent year after year for example with the aim of changing this. Money that some people, some European tax payers, think would be better spent in developing countries in Africa for example or in their own countries. Of course you can always discuss the "true" objectives and goals behind EU's policies and cooperation with Albania, such as trade gains and stopping of immigration flows etc - less noble causes according to some people. Also you can discuss to what degree the EU actually take the human development and social aspects into account or just focuses on big infrastructure programmes, law reforms etc.

Personally, I think Albania is a part of Europe just as much as Italy or Greece for example. But let's hope that when that day comes, when a decision will be made - it will be the votes of the Albanian citizens who say YES or NO to entering the Union. (But right now I even doubt the election management of Albania could organize such an election properly to be honest...)

Also, I was quite surprised when I first came to Albania that most people here seem to LOVE the United States and would love to move there. But as it's easier to get into Canada they go for that instead. I could be wrong, but that is my impression.

Bury that racist joke, I agree. Especially as some Albanian workers in the construction of the Olympic Game infrastructure - I bet a lot of it was illegal labour too - actually died in incidents at their work places.

By the way, when I was in Greece last time a Greek guy working in a hotel said to me on my question if he had ever been to Albania: No, cause Albanians don't like us.

Well, I wonder why.
ITS said…
I agree that Immigration is the biggest "industry" in Albania, yes.

As far as money coming from development program, here is the insight I was telling you about, witnessed personally. I am just copy-pasting this from my blog. This will tell you how much any western power cares. This is how FOREIGN AID WORKS! This is the template for any development program. From Albania to Tibet, to Indonesia, to Rwanda.


===========
"The Myth of Foreign Aid

You hear about it all the time. Such and such Western country appropriated x millions of dollars in aid to such and such developing nation. These aids can be in forms or grants, developing projects, NGOs, or expert teams sent to the developing world to rescue them from their misery. If you are from the philanthropist Western country it probably makes you proud. It fills your heart with a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that your country has made a difference to the benefit of a less fortunate society.

What really happens behind the transaction in nine cases out of ten would make any taxpayer sick to their stomach. Truth of the matter is that developing nations see very little to nothing from the aid funds. From the moment that the grant project starts conmen/conwomen from the Western world are placed in charge of managing these funds. They hire more conmen under the title of “foreign experts” to go and teach the ignorant people of “third world” basic tasks. The scope of the projects in most cases is so retarded that the only people benefiting from them through ridiculous salaries, and artificially inflated expense reports are the “foreign experts” themselves.

For example US appropriates 10 million dollars to aid agriculture development in Albania. A team of American Agriculture experts goes to Albania, and they cost about 9 million dollars in salaries. They incur some .75 million dollar in expenses while trying to teach Albanian farmers how to turn milk into yogurt. Now that’s a very noble cause considering that Albanians had been churning out yogurt for the past 2000 years, or differently put for about 1700 years before US was founded as a nation. If you are wondering about the remaining .25 million dollars, that actually goes to the purchase of yogurt making machines for the Albanian farmers. The only trick is that they are purchased by a local Albanian contractor (read Mafioso), who paid a kickback fee to the American “foreign experts” to get the contract. And by the way, the yogurt machines are total crap, and they don’t work. So the Albanian farmers are left with an expensive door stop which they might sell for scrap at the local steel plant, and a bitter experience of being ridiculed by the “foreign experts”.

Gee, if you live in the Western world, and you hear about all this help that we give to developing nations, you begin to wonder how come they continue to stay poor. You start to wonder about these fucking no good Albanian farmers who could have used that 10 mil to lay new watering pipes for their farms. And you continue to wonder…

==================

Regarding "despite that Albanian men keep trafficking their own sisters and girl friends,", I find that highly offensive too. I don't know where you get that generalization. If there is somebody doing that, it's a criminal in the first place. Your statement is racist in itself. Just because a Swedish guy raped his mother, doesn't make all Swedes mother-rapists!

As a matter of fact, the nuclear family, the family values and values in Albania stand way above your average European standards. But you probably have noticed that yourself. I just don't understand why you chose to identify Albanians as "sister-traffickers".

You see, there are these stereotypes that make me a huge opponent of joining EU, either today, or 50 years down the road. I will make sure to vote on that issue too. And it's probably not your fault either, as you are victimized by your choice of media. It's truly sickening!

Your impression about Albanians "LOVING" America, is semi wrong. They don't LOVE America per se. Your average Albanian doesn't know enough about America to love it or hate it. They love an opportunity to escape misery and poverty, and raise their children with a better future. America/Canada/Sweden, makes little difference. End of that story.

And lastly, regarding your Greek guy: I don't want to get too much into this, but our issues go deep into history. (Research: ├žameria) But in the present, let's just say that for the past 16 years, Greek govt, military, society has systematically persecuted desperate Albanian immigrants. They are treated in Greece worst than in any other country in the world. The only thing I can compare it too, is black people in South Africa during apartheid. Their hatred towards us goes as far as the Greek lobby in the United States spawns anti-Albanian propaganda of the “terrorists, sister-traffickers, etc” kind.

How could I like them? You want me to like them? There isn't much I can do about this issue, but I can guarantee you that I will never step foot in there as long as I live. One country in the world, I can make that promise to myself regarding.
Its,

I have not met an Albanian in Greece who harbors any grief toward Americans.

But, yes, that joke was not a very nice one. Didn't mean to offend.

But, you were quite aggressive with your comments on America. But, I guess you were reeling from your perception of my agreement with this joke. (I don't agree with it).

Don't forget what Americans did for Albanians in Kosovo, or would you like to put the Serbs back in charge...

You sound a bit angry. If it's with the Greeks, I understand.

But, with Americans, we like you Albanians so please chill out!!! You are very defensive!
ITS said…
scruffy american,

Again, repeating a racist joke is racist in itself, so be careful in the future. Apology accepted.

My perception of America is from having lived there for 8 years, in three different states, and received a University level education. My perception of America is from the fact that I analyze everything personally, before arriving at conclusions.

Who's going to be in charge of Kosovo, is to be seen soon!

You cannot speak for "all American people", as I cannot speak for all Albanians.

I am not angry. I am really chill, actually. Ignorance and misconceptions towards my nationality anger me. I am political, not defensive. What are you?
Voria Pirotes said…
Joke was not racist. Maybe poor taste, but not racist. Albania is person's national origin, not race. Race is caucasion, negroid, etc. Albanians, as Greeks are caucasians, so Greeks could not tell joke that was racist involving Albanians.
Ok Its. We're cool!

Well then, if you have lived in America, then you should know that most people probably don't even know where Albania is on the map, let alone harbor any hatred towards them. We're not big geography fans I know!

As I will restate, the Albanians I meet in my daily life are very friendly, and seem pro-American.

Just so you know, one of my best friends is an Albanian civil engineer here in Greece who works as a assistant to a carpenter. He has done work in my house many times. We have been out to dinner with his wife and kids and we have a great time together. We can complain (jokingly) about life in Greece over a beer.

But, I'm curious to hear your opinion of Greeks. Do you have any stories of discrimination by them? Your comment about not wanting to be in the same union as the Greeks makes me wonder why though?
ITS said…
voria pirotes,

Are you trying to get away with a technicality? An ethnic joke is a racist joke in my book. Ethnically prejudiced instead of racist, then. I have no problem explaining myself in English as you can see.

I heard that same joke about the Mexican Olympic team at the 96 Olympics in Atlanta. Racist people are not very creative. This probably got carried over by Greek-Americans back to their motherland.


scruffy,

Read my comments above about my understanding of Greek-Albanian relationships.
annabengan said…
I guess I could consider myself being one of these "aid workers" that you are talking about. Although these days people tend to speak more in terms of "cooperation" and "partnership" than aid. I have a FAR lower salary working in Albania than in my home country.

I happen to work with trafficking issues on a daily basis and also I meet victims and hear their stories, read police reports etc so I think on this issue - my image is probably far more accurate than yours on this one. And unfortunately - most female victims of trafficking in Albania are minors and have been trafficked by their own families and boy friends, that is a fact - and NOT a media distortion. But I am not sure that the Albanian media would admit this. I did not say anything about Albanian men i general.
Lastly - don't forget - each international organization and international NGO working in Albania is here on permission of - and most of the time even invitation from the Albanian government. Nobody forces Albania to get any "aid" - they can pull out when they want.

However, considering how extremely hard it seems to be for average Albanians to travel out from this country in legal ways - I am sure most of them would prefer a membership in the EU which would allow them to travel more free.
ITS said…
Yes, the "Foreign Aid" is in Albania with Albanian's gov't permission. This is where the rotting begins.

I really, really, feel bad for your salary, now that you mentioned it.

The only true facts in this post, are Alwyn's statistics about how Albania will never get in the EU. I continue to believe that's a good thing.
Joni said…
its, years of living outside of your country, formally boost your nationality. Nationalism is BAD. It's what creates the hate between us and the greeks or the serbs. Jokes are Jokes.
Anonymous said…
ITS, for God's sake, chill out mate, its exactly these arrogantly aggressive and opinionated way of discussing that i mostly dislike about our people, the albanians. (in alb. , qetsohu o burr se s'te tha gje amerikani).

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Welcome

Welcome to Our Man in Tirana. I moved to Tirana, capital of Albania, in October 2005 and left in October 2007. This blog is a mix of photographs, reports, links, impressions and, undoubtedly, prejudices relating to the city and the country.

Since I am no longer in Tirana I am no longer updating this blog. However, there are over 300 posts covering this two year period and I hope that they are still of some interest.

So if you are curious about Albania or if you are planning to visit I hope this blog will be of value.