President Ilir Meta: ‘Albanians have made their choice to join EU’

President Ilir Meta: ‘Albanians have made their choice to join EU’

Albania is in the grips of a deep constitutional and institutional crisis driven by a deliberate plot to hijack the state in the service of vested interests, the country’s president, Ilir Meta, tells Kathimerini in an interview.

Amid mounting international concern over the escalation of political tension that threatens to turn the Balkan country into a hotbed of instability and dampen its prospects for European Union membership, Meta is asked to comment on his acrimonious relationship with Prime Minister Edi Rama, on the possibility of his being ousted from the presidency and on the burgeoning drug trade in his country.

Reading some of your more recent interviews, you tend to give the impression that Albania is on the brink of disaster. Is this accurate?

Albania is a modest country, with still a very young European population, with affluent natural resources and blessed with breathtaking natural beauties. Albania is a NATO member, also firmly anchored in the European integration process, expecting to open its accession negotiations.

Unfortunately for some time now, Albania has been the highlight of international news for a number of issues related to the non-functioning of the rule of law. As the head of state of this wonderful country, I cannot be but awfully concerned about the regrettable backsliding that seems to be escalating to disturbing proportions.

In my capacity as the president of the republic, I have state responsibility to duly address every aspect that moves us away from our European-related reforms and trajectory, having in mind that this is the most unifying strategic objective of the Albanian people.

My realistic statements only acknowledge this unfortunately sad truth, while I tirelessly and firmly continue to make every effort to see the country functioning within its constitutional and rule of law boundaries.

At this moment Albania is in a deep constitutional, institutional and representative crisis. It is my responsibility not to sit in silence but to contribute to resolving this crisis as soon as possible, so that we do not miss the October European Council opportunity to open accession negotiations.

Your differences with Prime Minister Edi Rama have become almost vindictive. You have traded heavy accusations and now Rama is planning to have you ousted. If parliament votes in favor of such a motion, do you plan to accept it and if not, what will your reaction be?

Today in Albania there is only one major conflict. It is the conflict between the prime minister and the rule of law, democracy and political pluralism. This is the mother of all other conflicts.

I have always been very open and cooperative with the prime minister, all state institutions and political actors to induce a positive and constructive political approach focused on EU-related reforms as the top priority for the country. State responsibility and the best national interest have been the only two guiding principles in how I exercise my duty and I will never compromise them over personal relationships. I have taken a sublime oath as president of the republic to uphold and defend the constitution of my country, and I will remain faithful to this pledge until my last day in this office.

Each and every issue related to constitutional acts or decisions can be adjudicated exclusively and only by the Constitutional Court, including the presidential decree to cancel the June 30 election or the governing majority’s political attempts to dismiss the president of the republic.

Our constitution is extremely explicit in defining the president as the only state authority with the right to decree the date of elections, and the Constitutional Court as the sole authority with the competence to adjudicate the constitutionality of a constitutional act.

It is the prime minister’s right, or anyone else’s, to seek to capture every independent institution, but Albania has once and for all said “never again” to authoritarianism.

You have spoken of a plot to institute a dictatorship aimed at establishing a parallel state in Albania and Kosovo, backed by billionaire financier George Soros, and said that the plotters have found the “right man” to do this in Rama. How much do you know about such a plot?

I have only spelled out the obvious, how a structured group practicing deep-state tactics is seeking total state capture in Albania, serving underground agendas. It is clear that these agendas are anything but compatible to our NATO membership, with our EU integration process or with our strategic partnership with the US.

Democracy and rule of law stand at the very heart of these relations and as such they will never be subject to negotiation. The honest and hardworking Albanian people will never accept to be a colony in servitude of money-laundering and international organized crime. They will never accept to be misused for causing turbulence in a region where they have historically been the most peaceful although undergone horrific sufferings.

Albanians have made their choice, to join NATO and the European Union. No one can divert this strategic project. This should be clear!

How do you respond to claims that Albania has become a “European Colombia” in terms of the drug trade? This image is gaining traction as a result of growing allegations from inside Albania of cartels’ involvement in politics, allegations that extend all the way to the prime minister.

International specialized agencies have increasingly raised their concern regarding these negative phenomena, which I must emphasize have nothing to do with the large majority of our extraordinary people.

We cannot afford to naively believe that these reports are based on domestic debates. These are serious issues, considered most professionally by those agencies which are generously assisting our institutions to improve Albania’s capacities in the global fight against narcotic cultivation and trafficking.

It is these reports and other scandals exposed in domestic and international media that have created doubts regarding the genuine political will invested by state actors in this fight.

In this regard, I want to emphasize the need to multiply efforts by law-enforcement agencies in this area, fully supporting all those courageous women and men that daily confront these criminals.

I hate the expression “Albania is the Colombia of Europe” that many media are using, because my country has extraordinary potential to become the “Switzerland of the Balkans.”

Given the political climate, do you think that your country should be give a date to start European Union accession talks this fall? If you were an EU leader, would you vote in favor of this?

When there is a will, there is always a way. October is not far away, but we are still on time to transform this deep crisis into a real European opportunity for the sake of the Albanian people. The insistence to remain indifferent toward the current deteriorated circumstances or even worse to blindly head toward one-party rule will have devastating repercussions for the country and its European future.

Democracy and the rule of law is the best answer and the only remedy to any domestic crisis in a NATO country.

Based on this belief, I have again tabled a new proposition to hold threefold elections on October 13: local, parliamentary and presidential. I have not heard, yet, any counter proposition or reaction to my proposal. I am patiently still waiting.

I remain hopeful that maturity, responsibility and the best national interest will prevail.

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