Albania: Through a Glass Darkly

There lies a big paradox within our judiciary system. It is being reformed by the same institution that aims to control it, the parliament.

For Albania, getting the invitation to join NATO is one thing, becoming a NATO member is quite another. Between these two points, a year stands for Albania. Five months have passed so far, full of criticism and fiery debates.

The parliamentary sessions have ended. Politics is on holiday. Until the next NATO meeting, in which the organization will celebrate its 60th anniversary, in 2009, many things are waiting to be realized by the Albanian government and parliament. There is no denying that great reforms have been made in recent years. The newly published report by the World Bank, "Doing Business," confirms this fact. It is much easier opening a private business in Albania than in Bosnia and Herzegovina or Macedonia. This is due to the "one-stop-shop" policy the Albanian government has undertaken. Still, a lot of crucial and necessary reforms have yet to be made.

First, there are the ID cards and the biometric passports. One of the big problems these ID cards will solve is with the elections. How well they do their job remains to be seen. The problem, for the moment, is that they are not being made at all. When the Democratic Party came to power three years ago, in July 2005, one of the promises it made were the ID cards. During the eight years it was in opposition, the Democratic Party criticized and debated, and sometimes didn't recognize, election results. This bitter experience must have shown them the necessity of ID cards. But it has taken three years to choose a company to make the cards. It seems quite a lot of time for something so necessary to Albanian democracy and legitimacy.

Second, there is the reform in the judiciary system. This is crucial and necessary, too, but the most difficult to realize. The judiciary system is very corrupt. Every time the judiciary is criticized, the prosecutor general has been blamed, for links to organized crime, and for apathy in solving some big cases, but the problem is that for 18 years the prosecutor general has been controlled by politics. This is a crucial point. The prosecutor general is elected by the parliament, with a simple majority. So, the political party who wins the elections chooses the prosecutor general, and with the constitutional changes made in April this year, the party who wins the elections will have a good position in parliament. So, it will choose the prosecutor general without the alliance of the minority. There lies a big paradox within our judiciary system. It is being reformed by the same institution that aims to control it, the parliament.

Third, there is Gerdec. The investigation is going slowly, sometimes hampered by the parliament, as was the case with the immunity of the resigned defense minister. The reconstruction of the damaged villages is going slowly, too. People are claiming that they haven't received the right amount of compensation money. Accusations of illegal arms trafficking are being made but no one in particular is being accused. The Republican Party is again part of the government even though it promised not to be part of it, until the Gerdec case was solved.

Fourth, there is the economy. Economic growth has been great in recent years. The problem, however, as is evidenced by economical analysts, is that the population is not getting richer. The G.D.P. per capita is $6,200 according to the 2007 estimation by the C.I.A. World Factbook. We have left behind the "poor country" label, but this economic growth is not erasing social inequality. Rich people are getting richer, while poor people are getting poorer. What is the government doing wrong?

Becoming a full NATO member is not just about having a modernized and well-equipped army. It's not about sending military troops to Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Chad, even though the job they have done representing Albania is admirable and flawless. NATO is a military organization as much as it is a political one. We have demonstrated that we are capable of fulfilling the military obligation. We have yet to show that we can fulfill the political one.

Ledion Krisafi can be contacted at lkrisafi@hotmail.com.