By Valbona Karanxha
Doctoral Candidate, SCSU.
Political decisions affect the public opinion
The public is well aware that key decisions in politics are made behind closed doors. Practice has shown that decisions are usually delivered after the fact. One of the simplest reasons why transparency lacks in political matters is the avoidance, at any cost, of the factors that might be compromising the legitimacy and consequently impair trust among parties. On the other hand, today’s advancement in technology, aggressive media tactics and coverage place the politicians at a disadvantage, therefore parties involved are reluctant to approach the public while negotiations are still pending.
The hesitation over the disclosure of details on high profile cases, regardless of the whistle blowers, it is quite normal. Political decisions must involve keen negotiation skills and large transactions, thus politicians are accustomed to sign as many business deals as treaties, most of them having a direct impact on the constituents. However, this can be problematic for countries in semi-democratic systems because decisions are made in favor of a minority who will benefit directly, in either prolonging the power or benefiting financially. It all relates to the people not having a voice in semi-democracies. In the case of Albania, a typical semi-democratic country, still enduring a long 23 year period to transition, decisions seems to scarcely be in favor of the people. The minority in power always evaluates the options before acting, and its interests are a priority, hence decisions have favored those in power.
Adhering in IGO (Inter-Governmental Organizations): Pros and cons
Struggling to integrate, Albanian governments in the last 23 years have been eager to partake in numerous international organizations with the intention to benefit in some financial or political aspects, even if it meant violating existing laws or adapting new laws that threaten public health in the long term.
However, the misconception that the country must benefit more than it can contribute is a mentality inherited and solidified during the transition period. With a series of misfortunes caused by corrupted officials and the Albanian governments, the efforts to enter the IGO are solely founded on the immediate need for gratification, personal interest or party interest, and not the common good interest. Practice has shown that by adhering in IGO, or NGO, Albanians have misused funds in order to profit at a governmental or non-governmental level. Albania does not have a solid system of tracking the international aid. The estimated funds from the task of dismantling the chemical weapons might have ended up anywhere. The country has a poor reputation when it comes to the transparency and the corruption index.
For a country such as Albania adhering in IGO is more a hassle than a way of getting around. Participating countries in different IGO, must have agendas representing the common interest while finding peaceful solutions. Overall, not always agendas are cohesive and it all depends on how flexible agendas are on domestic and foreign policies. The domestic policies and constitutional laws governing these agendas decide somewhat how much of the international policies can each of the countries tolerate or contribute. With rising international crisis in the last twenty years the burden that countries in IGO have to bear has not always been the same. For example US has a comprehensive policy on national defense and war on terrorism therefore, the burden is heavier for USA when international conflicts and uprising emerge.
The art of negotiation and the position of Albania in international affairs
The key players in a conflict negotiate not only the meaning of terms and contracts, but also decide frameworks on how to solve the problem to the best interests of those involved. For that matter, not always the parties leave the negotiation room content. Crunching numbers, weighting options are necessary strategies solving a crisis situation at the negotiation table regardless the fact that some players will leave happy and others will leave frowning.
The art of negotiating is a skill that is learned through experience, exposure, failures and successes, but mostly failures. The lack of experience and eagerness to take on more than one can handle causes a system or a structure to collapse. These types of negotiation bloopers teach a lesson and help leaders build confidence upon experience.
In a political jungle framework, the question is how many of these bloopers are allowed before one knows that is not cut for the political job. Not that many. Negotiations, especially on high profile cases such as international conflicts, require a keen mind and considerable awareness of the domestic and international laws. But most of all, negotiations require that priorities must be set and remain non-compromised despite the gravity of the situation.
Playing hard ball in negotiations, it is a skill that the new Albanian diplomats must learn to master. Coupled with the lack of experience, negotiations might become disastrous if the skill is not grasped. The last Syria’s crisis implicated Albania as one of the NATO members and captured international attention. Albanian Prime Minister, Rama according to the national and international media, showed considerable amount of eagerness to take on the task of dismantling Assad’s chemical weapons in the territory of Albania, despite the lack of the country’s minimal capacities. Thus, negotiations involving Russia, the key factor into solving the Syrian crisis, and USA already in charge of dismantling the chemical weapons, appeared nothing less than an opportunity to capture the moment and seal a deal that would win USA’s heart and legitimize the socialist party for another term or more.
After agencies and international media broke the news, the events took a new twist, something the newly elected government did not anticipate. The fragile system shook after the whistle blowers informed the public and called for transparency. The affair went public even though the Prime Minister Rama refused to disclose details from his negotiations. In fact, much like the other countries, Albania does have some existing laws on environmental protection regardless the poor reinforcement practices.
Above all, it is the power of each party entering negotiation what really matters deciding on what side the balance will weigh more. In other words, Albania is always at a disadvantage when entering negotiations because of its fragile position. How much of the international burden Albania as a NATO ally must endure in solving conflicts that do not affect the country directly? Has the balance become heavier for the Albanian people as they struggle to maintain stability and fulfill their international duties?
That depends. For a small developing a country with a high political corruption and a semi democratic system, Albania leaves a lot to desire about the role that should and is able to play in the international affairs. The problems that Albanian government faces nowadays are multifaceted. With an ongoing dissatisfaction about the political cast the masses are losing confidence in their leadership and their patience has gotten thinner over a period of 23 years.
Edi Rama has been under the scrutiny of political and civil groups who are divided by interests and ideologies. However, there are lessons to learn and dues to pay, when decision affecting the country, its people and resources are made. Thinking of the big picture and putting people first, above all interests, will always yield success. Is the new government able to do that? That is up to the people of Albania to decide after evaluating the events that transpired in the first two months of the socialist leadership.