The new regional summit among Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia in Durrës, marked another low in the relationship between Tirana and Prishtina.
The responsibility for this lies completely with Edi Rama, the prime minister of Albania. And he should be ashamed for his behavior towards Kosova.
What is Edi Rama’s problem?
It seems that he cannot swallow the refusal of Kosova to join the new mini-Yugoslavia that he and Serbia’s new dictator Alexander Vucic have designed together. They have dragged North Macedonia’s Zoran Zaev into it, but everyone else in the region is showing cold feet.
Rama is looking a lot like Vucic recently. Like his friend in Belgrade he has the opposition cornered and has faced more than a year of street protests. The parliament is his personal toy. An early election is necessary to solve the crisis, but he is loving the situation in which Albania has returned virtually to a one-party system as in the dark times of communism. The new media law is an open assault on the freedom of speech. This is not a someone who can bear being told No about anything.
He took Vucic’s bait and now is spouting against Kosova and its leaders insults and untruths that have been reported with enthusiasm in the Serbian media.
Why is Kosova unwilling to join?
Kosova is being asked to join a union and open its borders with a country that doesn’t recognize its existence, that it is working intensively to destroy the new republic, and that committed major war crimes against its civilian population, for which it has neither apologized or agreed to pay compensations.
Kosova has responded to Serbia’s aggressive campaign of derecogniton and intrusion in internal affairs by placing a punishing 100% tariff toward all Serbian products in Kosova. The measure has been criticized, but Kosova is only defending itself with one of the few means in its hands. This Rama-Vucic mini-Schengen would require for Kosova to annul its tariff without forcing Serbia to renounce its hostile anti-Kosova diplomatic campaign and policies. The only way for Kosova to sit in that table is as a full member recognized by all countries including Serbia.
Furthermore, Kosova is not alone in refusing the new mini-Schengen. Montenegro and Bosnia are keeping their distance. Even North Macedonia, a “founding” member has many officials skeptical of their country’s participation. This makes the lashing of Edi Rama against Kosova look even more deranged.
The Western Balkans want to join EU, not some B-level union, new and lesser Yugoslavia that has traded Slovenia and Croatia for Albania. Edi Rama must be smoking his own pot if he believes this would work.
What has been more hurtful is the open and public dismissal by Edi Rama of the crimes against humanity that Serbia has committed in Kosova.
Only a few days ago, Vucic, dismissed the massacre of Reçak as fake. He assaulted the integrity of OSCE Ambassador William Walker and the observers who witnessed the crime. More than a thousand of Albanians are still missing scattered in mass graves hidden in Serbia. Vucic himself has been in the 1990s a leader in the fascistic Serbian Radical Party. His foreign minister was the personal spokesman of war criminal and dictator Slobodan Milosevic. They have shown zero empathy over the years and instead of issuing a formal apology have continued to ridicule the tragedy of the Kosovar people.
When asked about the painful memories of war that are still fresh as a good a reason for Kosova not to join Serbia in such initiative, Edi Rama of Albania, called the reporter’s question “pathetic”.
Instead of using the occasion to defend the historic truths he joined Vucic in dismissing their importance.
Edi Rama should be ashamed for this response and for lashing out at the leaders of Kosova in a public meltdown that will not be forgotten. He didn’t behave like a statesman, but like a thin-skinned dictator who can’t face the truth.
He is angry because he knows now that he doesn’t speak for Kosova. And honestly, he doesn’t speak for Albania either. Not until he wins a proper new election, where all the political parties participate in a free and fair political climate.
What does Rama think? That Kosova will forget thousands of civilians murdered, the mass graves, the 20,000 women raped, more than the half of population forcibly deported out of the country, the prisons, the tortures, the denial of health services, the burning and the looting, the long years of martial law and dictatorship, the tanks crushing their peaceful protests and many other things burning in our collective memory? Kosova is a sovereign country now. More than 110 countries, including the United States, have recognized its independence. And if major worldwide organizations like World Bank, IMF, FIFA, International Olympic Committee, Facebook recognize Kosova as independent and equal to other countries, so should this BS project that was cooked in Belgrade and was served in Tirana and Skopje.
Harry Bajraktari is founder and publisher of Illyria newspaper (1991-1998), an Albanian-American community leader, philanthropist and recipient of many awards, including the Honor of the Nation Order by the President of Albania, Kosova’s Presidential Medal for Merits & the White House Presidential Call to Service Award.