I just finished reading The Absentee by Maria Edgeworth. In my opinion, its themes are more pertinent than ever in our modern society, where individuals, largely due to social media, are more concerned about public approval rather than their own fulfillment.
Albanian nationalism is on the rise; or so claim its critics – mainly the governments of the bordering countries of Macedonia, Serbia, and Greece. They claim the rise is a threat to their liberal democracy systems and could potentially destabilize an already troubled Balkan region. Don’t believe them! Albanian nationalism might be a lot of things, but a threat to liberal democracy is not one of them. If anything, Albanian nationalism has embraced Western and democratic values at an unexpected rate, considering Albania itself was a totalitarian communist regime less than three decades ago. A realignment of Albanian foreign policy coupled with the systematic undertakings of its critics has helped reify the notion of Albanian nationalism and its commitment to liberal democracy.
Mad Men are now in charge
Albanian foreign policy is at its current heyday. After following the late Enver Hoxha’s self-reliance foreign policy under his decades-running communist regime, Albanian foreign policy is awakening from its hibernation. Late partnerships with the Soviet Union and China, based primarily on a shared ideology, are long gone. In the last three decades, Albania has attained full NATO membership as of 2009 and is an official candidate to join the European Union as of 2014. Its primary alliance is with the United States, a relationship that all Albanian leaders, wherever they fall in the political spectrum, deem eternal. The Albanian commitment towards the ideal of democracy is solid. Other important allies in this journey include Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and France.
As the Balkans region remains a diplomatic turf battle between Moscow, the West and Turkey, the current Albanian leadership has been presented with golden opportunities to capitalize on each party’s interests to leverage against one other. Prime Minister Edi Rama, a painter by trade, has a colorful style when it comes to diplomacy. Through a healthy dose of hyperbolic marketing, Rama and his cabinet have been able to reinforce old alliances and forge new ones while protecting the interests of Albanians in mainland Albania and Kosovo.
Where ideology is diametrically opposed, Rama has leveraged economics, offering trade deals and inviting foreign investors to invest in opportunities in Albania. For example, the relationship with China is entirely economic, as China does not recognize Kosovo’s independence. With Russia, the relationship has stagnated since 1961, as Hoxha’s Albania sided with People’s Republic of China during the Sino-Soviet Split and eventually withdrew from the Warsaw Pact. As Russia is the main supporter of Serbia in the region and, hence, refuses to recognize Kosovo, the relationship between Albania and Russia is almost non-existent. Yet, with Moscow being accused of interference in Montenegro, Macedonia, and Serbia, Rama’s cabinet has been vigilant in asserting its position as the only NATO member in the Western Balkans, urging all parties involved to solve problems through dialogue. “You cannot consider yourself an European nation and not talk to your neighbor,” Rama stated in a visit to Belgrade. Although Serbia and Albania, like all other Balkan states, have different stances on Kosovo, they fully supported the Western Balkans having a common economic zone akin to a mini – European Union economic zone. As Rama was the first Albanian Prime Minister to step in Belgrade in decades, visiting Belgrade more than any other Albanian Prime Minister, his behavior has not gone unnoticed. France awarded him the Order of Legion d’Honneur, their highest national decoration, for his willingness to cooperate in times of adversity.
Rama has also leveraged ideological similarities in foreign policy by cultivating stronger support for Albania’s entry into the E.U. During his visit to France last month, he confirmed the Albanian-French special relationship and the importance of long-term cooperation between the two countries in rule of law, defense, security, and tourism. Rama has promoted the message that Albania is open for business. While his predecessor, Sali Berisha, initiated the doctrine of openness with the grand slogan of “Albania 1 Euro,” (stating that the cost for foreign investors would be 1 euro for a variety of governmental services), Rama has increased promotion of the country to foreign investors, achieving the largest foreign investments to date through government concessions. Every foreign leader invited for an official visit is urged to bring investors with them. This effort culminated with the Polish Prime Minister bringing an unprecedented number of businesspeople with her.
Turkey remains an important strategic ally, with bilateral trade aimed to reach one billion dollars in the next years. The current Turkish leadership has been a champion of close cooperation with Albania, offering new agreements on culture, trade, military cooperation, and investment opportunities. Addressing the Albanians as brothers, Turkish President Erdogan has pushed for closer collaboration between the two countries. The relationship has reached historic highs, with Albanian leaders invited to every major Turkish celebration of large infrastructure projects. At the Euroasia Tunnel opening, Erdogan stood alongside Albanian President Bujar Nishani. Similarly, at the opening of Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, Erdogan drove with Prime Ministers Rama and Bildirim across the bridge. Rama was also a special guest to Erdogan’s daughter’s wedding. But as Erdogan implements his Islamist agenda, Albania, a secular democracy but a majority Muslim country, has curbed his passions in favor of Albania’s potential role as a bridge between the West and East, a role traditionally understood for Ataturk’s Turkey.
Rama has also searched for new partnerships with facially non-traditional allies as well, such as Israel, Singapore, Kazakhstan, Brazil, and Iran. During Rama’s official state visit in Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu looked straight into Rama’s eyes when he said that the Jewish people never forget their friends, recognizing the refuge and sanctuary Albanians offered to the Jewish people during World War II. Agreements for bilateral trade are signed and there are talks underway to establish a transit airline between Tel Aviv and Tirana. When Singapore recognized the independence of Kosovo, Rama scheduled an official visit to Singapore, arguably the first visit for a sitting Albanian Prime Minister. He pledged to increase trade collaboration between the two countries. Of course, he did not forget to invite Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to visit Albania and bring some investors with him. Similar strategies were followed with Brazil and Kazakhstan. The relationship with Iran is at its beginning stages, remarkable given few could have predicted it would even initiate. After all, Albania houses on behalf of the United States some 2,000 exiled leaders of the Iranian opposition. Yet, in his visit to Tehran, Minister of Foreign Relations Bushati stated that the two countries had agreed to open embassies in the capital of each nation and to increase their collaboration on trade, culture, and tourism. The Albanian leadership took the opportunity to remind Iran to reconsider its stance on Kosovo, given its Muslim majority population.
Chickens come home to roost
A realignment of Albanian foreign policy does not alone explain the rise in Albanian nationalism, especially outside of its borders. The systematic undertakings and second-class treatment of Albanians from the critics of Albanian nationalism, the surrounding countries, have led to a reification of the idea that there is such a thing as an Albanian identity. Failing in their challenge to incorporate Albanians as equal members of their respective societies, Albania’s neighbors now have to deal with the powder keg they lighted.
Historically, Albania has been a constant migrant factory. With nearly one-third of its population emigrating at different waves and at different magnitudes, Albanians have always searched for a better life. Prime destinations include Italy, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Turkey, and the United States. In none of these countries, Albanians have territorial claims, even though their ancestral roots in certain of these countries go back to the medieval times.
On the other hand, Albanians also have a large presence in bordering countries such as Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Greece, in all of which Albanians insist to be autochthon and subject their current status due to them being late remnants of the Ottoman Empire. Winter nights would not suffice to tell the complex stories of these relationships, but it’s safe to say that they are carpet bombed with lost chances for reconciliation.
In Kosovo, Albanians comprise the largest ethnic group, about 90 percent of the population. Since its unilateral declaration of independence, more than 116 countries have recognized Kosovo. Serbia objects to this claim and has pushed an aggressive agenda to reverse the trend of recognition or, failing that, to at least cement claims to the northern part of Kosovo, a mineral-rich region. However, its efforts have been met with the same coin, something for which the Serbian leadership was not prepared.
When the Serbian government wanted to allow a train to go to Kosovo this year with its carriages painted with “Kosovo is Serbia” and offensive religious and nationalistic Serbian symbols, the government of Kosovo threatened that it would not allow the train to pass. It almost seemed like the count down had began for things would turn for the worse, when the Serbian government decided to stop the train before entering Kosovo’s territory. Then-Prime Minister and current President Alexander Vucic condemned the threat, labeling it terroristic, while claiming that he was not aware of the symbols on the train. Such claims have been systematic from the Serbian government, ranging from not knowing the location of Radovan Karadzic, architect of the Bosnian genocide (who was arrested in Belgrade, after tips from foreign intelligence agencies), or issuing arrest orders for former leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). While European Union leaders try to bring Kosovo and Serbian delegations to talks, skepticism and lack of trust constantly postpones any potential agreement. The latest Sisiphus’ challenge was the international arrest order issued against Ramush Haradinaj, a former KLA member and former Prime Minister of Kosovo. This was Haradinaj’s second arrest order, having been found not guilty of the first round of charges filed against him at The Hague. He was not found guilty this time either and was greeted with a hero’s welcome when he got back to Kosovo.
In Macedonia, Albanians never have fitted in. Such differences almost led the country to civil war on ethnic lines in 2001. That unrest was stopped with a last-minute agreement, commonly known as the Ohrid Agreement, that required that Albanians are given more rights and are fully integrated into Macedonian society as equals. The latest Macedonian census in 2002 showed that Albanians are roughly a quarter of the population. Albanian political leaders in Macedonia claim that there are more yet to be counted, despite many ethnic Albanians being forced to immigrate abroad due to the lack of government investment in Albanian-populated areas. They further claim that Albanians in Macedonia continue to be treated as second-class citizens and are not offered equal opportunities in life and administrative offices. Despite the governmental coalition of 2001 including an Albanian political party, the BDI of Ali Ahmeti, such claims were not taken seriously.
Yet, a few years back, a charismatic Macedonian by the name of Zoran Zaev became the leader of the Macedonian opposition. Pro-Western, he started a campaign of leaks showing that the current Macedonian leadership staged evidence-incriminating Albanians in dozens of occasions and used derogatory terminology when addressing them in private meetings. Outrage followed, leading to new general elections in December 2016. Nikola Gruevski, the leader of the far-right VMRNO-DPMNE that was the party in power, launched a full-fledged campaign against the EU and NATO, while pledging a Macedonian nationalist agenda. The Albanian parties in Macedonia were plagued by infighting, but gained enough MPs between them to hold the balance of power, forcing any party seeking to form a government to include their members.
After meeting in Tirana with Prime Minister Rama, who is technically obliged by the Albanian Constitution to protect the rights of Albanians without regard to their location, the Albanian parties in Macedonia collectively agreed to a common platform for their support. These demands included Albanian becoming a dual language in Macedonia and appointment of a special prosecutor to handle cases they claim to be dubious and ripe for mistrial. Gruesvski, whose party has the largest number of MPs but could not form government due to lacking a majority, did not accept the terms. Zaev did. However, President Ivanov, a close friend of Gruesvski, as well as, from the same political party, refused to assent to Zaev’s request to form government, citing “legal and political” reasons. Among such reasons was what they call “The Tirana platform”, alleging that Prime Minister Rama served as a coach for the Albanian parties to reach such platforms. Rama, on the other hand, maintains he was merely a host to say the least and a cheerleader at its best.
On April 27, the majority elected Talat Xhaferi, a former defense minister and member of the Democratic Union for Integration (BDI), as speaker. Part of his role would include formally petitioning the president to ask Mr. Zaev to form a government. Violence erupted at the Parliament after: Zaev and other Albanian MPs were assaulted by outside protestors who stormed into the building. The protesters opposed the coalition’s call to grant greater rights to ethnic Albanians, including the demand to make Albanian an official language of Macedonia. A few days ago, President Ivanov accepted Zaev’s second bidding to form a government and the country is projected to go towards a stable government in the coming months.
In Serbia and Montenegro, Albanians are somewhat making progress. Mostly in the Preshevo Valley, ethnic Albanians were disappointed to not be included in Kosovo. Since then, they have been officially recognized as a minority group within Serbia and were visited by Prime Minister Rama in an official visit. In Montenegro, Albanians had their second county recognized this past month. Montenegro is aiming to enter NATO, which Albania has supported. The two countries state that they have excellent relations between them and are hoping further collaborate in future on trade, tourism, security, and infrastructure.
And then there is Greece. Albania and Greece have an inconsistent relationship. While both are NATO members, their relationship is haunted by ghosts of the past. The two countries technically remain at war due to a statute in Greece since World War II, technically abrogating NATO’s treaty. However, the two countries have a Treaty of Cooperation in spite of the technical state of war. Many Albanians believe that the law allows Greece legal protection from legal suits from the Chams, ethnic Albanians in Greece that were pushed away from the Ionnania region that they claim to be homeland of Chameria. Chams have been very active in their claims after forming a political party in Albania, accusing the Greek government of genocide against Muslim Chams after the end of World War II. They have appealed to the European Courts, demanding reparations. Relations reached a low when former Prime Minister Berisha and the Greek government reached an agreement about disputed naval waters, but the Constitutional Court of Albania found the agreement unconstitutional, upon litigation supported by civil society and then-opposition leader Rama. In a recent interview, Alexis Papahelas, a prominent Greek journalist, asked Prime Minister Rama to reassure the Greek public that there was no Turkish hand involved behind the scenes when the Constitutional Court reached the decision. Rama assured him. However, as Chams increase their political presence in the Albanian Parliament, their agitation is likely to increase, projecting future areas of disagreement.
The dog that barks doesn’t bite
While the rise in Albanian nationalism has been gradual, it does not follow that it is a threat to liberal democracy. Despite their location, Albanians have always pledged to support democratic institutions and desire to be part of the EU and NATO. The only other country that has criticized the rise of Albanian nationalism is Russia, who is struggling to assert its influence in a region that historically had been in its sphere of influence.
Albanian rhetoric has not always been holy either. As of late, Prime Minister Rama and President Thaci of Kosovo declared that if the EU turns its back on the Balkans, specifically Albanians, then Albania and Kosovo would unify consequently. Such rhetoric contradicts Rama’s previous stance, who, when asked about the concept of Greater Albania, would always claim, “Albanians will one day unite together but under the European family.”
However, those statements appear more as a rhetorical warning to the EU or feeding into domestic electoral campaigns, rather than actual substantiated threats. Both countries have a long way to consolidate their democratic institutions, decriminalization of politics, rule of law, and their respective economies. Immature political elites haunt Albanian and Kosovo politics, which in turn it actually presents a real threat to this momentum in Albanian foreign diplomacy and to its national interests. Whereas Kosovo needs to speed up its process of international recognition, Albania needs to deal with challenging domestic issues such as public infrastructure, high corruption, high unemployment, and improvements in the overall quality of life. In this regard, Rama’s cabinetwork leaves a lot to be desired. Hence, his statements offer the perfect refuge for his accountability towards the electorate, as he curbs into their nationalist passions.
If anything to be taken seriously, such statements are the bells that remind those that support democracy that other actors are playing in the Balkan region and in such pivotal times, support should not be frugal. If anything, it reminds everyone of the powder keg that is the Balkans. The question is now if other actors try to empty it or will they keep uselessly pointing at it and standing by?
As an individual, I am deeply honored to have been selected as one of the Great Grads 2016 of The City College of New York.
(On the other hand, as a recent alumni, I am a bit disappointed. We can do better. We SHOULD do better. 😉 )
Eh mer plaku Mere, mire e the…”Kokerrat e tespive rrijne gjithnje bashke se i mban peri…” Por, ky peri i shoqerise tone kur u lirua xhanen? Mos valle idealet e vyera qe na rriten u vjeterruan kaq shpejt? Mos valle vlerat tona ishin arkaike dhe te papergatitura te perballojne kete furtune moderne e zvetesuese? Apo mos ndoshta keto vlera zvetesuese ishin gjithmone te pranishme, por ne beme sikur nuk i pame, sic beme kur te tjeret na thane ja ujku dhe ne akoma po kerkonim gjurmet?
Nuk e di. Po ta dija, nuk bisedoja me ty o plaku Mere. Moderniteti qenka i eger; nuk te falka jo! E ka kapur njeriun e sotem per fyti e nuk po marrim vesht cpo i ben. Dreq o pune! Rro o gjyshi i madh e shiko cfare behet ne shoqerine tone. Filozofine e mexhelisit e shiten per botekuptime provinciale dhe dekadente. Rrjedhshmerine e llogjikes e shiten per kokefortesi fshatareske. Hijeshine e kullave e shiten per pak fodullek e paftyresi urbane. Vendosmerine burrerrore e shiten per vendime amorfike si ajo anija me vela qe lundron nga fryn era. Fisnikerine shpirterore e shiten per cungueshmeri paradoksale. Fjalen e dhene e shiten per genjeshtra qesharake e feminore. Pastertine hyjnore e shiten per interesa te erreta e te ceketa. Drejtesine morale e shiten per ideale vulgare dhe te shtremberta.
Me duket se nena e gjithe te keqijave eshte hipokrizia, kjo dhelper tinzare dhe e pangopur qe kerkon te ushqehet ditat dites. Nuk ushqehet me te mira materiale, por me degradimin e shpirtit njerezor, pasi nuk deshiron ta shohe njeriun te jete mbi veten.
Nuk eshte e lehte te luftosh hipokrizine; po te ishte e lehte te gjithe do ta benin. Perkundrazi eshte shume e veshtire – e veshtire deri ne piken ku njerezit preferojne ta perqafojne ate sesa ti shpallin lufte. Eshte shume e veshtire pasi ne arsenalin e hipokrizise eshte nje arme sekrete, shume e fuqishme e shume e demshme; kjo arme eshte bindja e gabuar, por qe individi ne fjale e beson verberisht, qe individi eshte ne rrugen e duhur ne kete udhetim qe askush nuk ia ka pare hajrin destinacionit.
Ne keto kondita, cdo veprim i nje pale te trete qe buron nga miresia e tremb njeriun hipokrit. Dashamiresia disavjecare i duket sikur qellimet e atij “mikut modern qe ju do te miren.” Sa zhgenjyese! Dhe sa naive! Individi bie ne kete vorbull qe nga lageshtia ja ka turbulluar pamjen me nje imazh fiktiv e qe ky i fundit e ka ngrene sapunin per djathe. Shkalla e rradhes eshte momenti kur njeriu hipokrit bie ne nivelin mosperfilles, nje status temporar, por me probabilitet te larte te kete pasoja te perhershme. Shkurt eshte si ajo shprehja popullore: “Stambolli po digjet, kurse ajo mikesha krihet.” Por mua me duet se keto “mikeshat” moderne jo vetem qe krihen, por here pas here e hedhin nga nje shishe benzine tek catia e komshiut (here nga kureshtja per te pare cdo te ndodhi, here nga padituria se ne te ardhmen flaket qe mbollen do ju kthehen mbrapsht e here nga mendjemadhesia katundare qe i karakterizon keto individe.)
Fatkeqesia me e madhe eshte se gjasat jane qe nje dite do te pendohen…do ti bien mendjes mbrapa e do ta kerkojne Vloren…, por nuk do ta gjejne….do te enden si cifutet ne shkretetire per te gjetur rrugen e duhur, por ndoshta do te jete shume vone, pasi hekuri rrihet sa eshte i nxehte.
Dikush mund te thote qe dhe une, sic cdo njeri, jam hipokrit e pergjegjes per kete degradim. Per here te pare, me duhet ta pranoj….Jam hipokrit pasi shoh ate gjylen e madhe qe eshte drejtuar kunder meje dhe po mundohem e lutem qe mos godet ndonje mullar…jo sepse kam frike ta perballoj, por sepse nuk ja vlen barra qirane…
Me ty e nisa dhe me ty po e mbyll o plaku Mere….Mire e the zotrote….Gjyle e madhe [mbase do] plasi nje dite…E keshtu sic duken punet, une, si ti o plaku Mere nuk kam cte bej gje tjeter…vecse te qeshi…apo nuk kam nje te qeshur tipike qe te terheq vemendjen e tejcon karizem tradite…do te jete nje e qeshur plot qetesi dhe dashuri…e mbi te gjitha, plot dhembshuri…..
We are approaching the end of a yearly long trip and it’s time to say a couple of words for the coming year. Given that for each of us 2015 was a year of challenges, adventure and different experiences, it would be foolish on my part to define all of them under one roof. But even in this diverse context, we have some joint similarities.
Upon a recent conversation, someone reminded me a few days ago that everyone of us, as human beings, fears. And I completely agree with that reminder.
We all have fear. We fear that we will get into a fight with people for no reason. We fear that we will struggle. We fear that we have not enough money to survive. We fear that we might lose our job. We fear that we will disappoint the ones we love. We fear because we fear.
Given that the level of fear has been soaring at an alarming rate in recent years, 2016 offers an opportunity to push the pendulum on the other side. I hope that this New Year brings a new spirit of calm and peace in our souls. But above all, I hope this New Year gives us the right amount of courage to have less fear.
To have less fear to put aside our personal interests to help someone in trouble. To have less fear to protect those who have greater need than us. To have less fear to talk less and hear more. To have less fear of knowledge or phenomena that we do not understand. To have less fear to say “I do not know.” To have less fear to say “No” to evil. To have less fear to refuse the offer that denigrates or injures our character and moral grounds. To have less fear of state and social pressures to be part of their control. To have less fear to be more generous to those in need. To have less fear to say “Yes” to good. To have less fear to take over a personal and professional challenge. To have less fear to love more your family, friends and comrades. To have less fear to love the same good we want for ourselves for others. To have less fear to give our sincere contribution to society. To have less fear to express our political opinions, freely, as members of a civilized society in the 21st century. Above all, to have less fear to do the right thing in difficult times, despite the fact that our actions may not be recognized as such or will cost us more in the personal and social level.
So, 2016 gives us another opportunity to not violate our moral and human values. And everything depends on our choice. Will we choose good or evil? Will we become slaves of negative values or primitive desires or will we try to rise over yourself? Will we try to build a noble character or that of a villain? The beauty of this life is the fact that we have the option to choose, which means everything is in our hands. As stated by the English poet William Ernest Henley in his Victorian poem “Invictus,” I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”
All in all, I feel like I went on for too long and tonight requires joy and gladness. Happy New Year my friends!
Miqte e mi,
Po i afrohemi fundit te nje udhetimi nje vjecar dhe eshte koha per te thene nja 2 fjale per vitin qe po vjen. Duke qene se per sejcilin nga ne viti 2015 ishte nje vit me sfida, aventura dhe eksperienca te ndryshme, do te ishte budallallek nga ana ime ti perkufizoja te gjitha nen nje cati. Por, edhe ne kete kontekst te larmishem, ne kemi ca te perbashketa.
Dikush ne bisede e siper me kujtoi para ca ditesh qe cdokush nga ne si qenie njerezore ka frike. Dhe une jam plotesisht dakort me kete.
Te gjithe kemi frike. Kemi frike te mos ngaterrohemi kot me njerez. Kemi frike te mos marrim ndonje klase te veshtire. Kemi frike se nuk kemi mjaftueshem para per te mbijetuar. Kemi frike se mund te humbim vendin e punes. Kemi frike te mos zhgenjejme ata qe duam. Kemi frike sepse kemi frike.
Duke qene qe niveli i frikes duket sikur eshte shtuar me ritme alarmante keto vitet e fundit, viti 2016 ofron nje mundesi per ta shtyre lavjerrezin nga ana tjeter. Uroj qe ky vit i ri te sjelle nje fryme te re qetesie e paqeje ne shpirtrat tane. Por, mbi te gjitha, ky vit i ri te na jape kurajon e duhur per te pasur me pak frike.
Te kemi me pak frike per te lene menjane interesin personal per te ndihmuar dike ne veshtiresi. Te kemi me pak frike per te mbrojtur ata qe kane me teper nevoje se ne. Te kemi me pak frike per te folur me pak e per te degjuar me shume. Te kemi me pak frike nga njohuria apo fenomene qe ne nuk i kuptojme. Te kemi me pak frike te themi “Une nuk e di.” Te kemi me pak frike ti themi “Jo” te keqes. Te kemi me pak frike te refuzojme oferta qe denigrojne e demtojme karakterin dhe bazat tona morale. Te kemi me pak frike nga presionet shteterore e shoqerore per te qene pjese e kontrollit te tyre. Te kemi me pak frike te jemi me teper zemergjere ndaj atyre ne nevoje. Te kemi me pak frike ti themi “Po” te mires. Te kemi me pak frike te marrim persiper nje sfide personale dhe profesionale. Te kemi me pak frike te duan me teper familjen, miqte e shoket. Te kemi me pak frike tua duam te miren dhe te tjereve. Te kemi me pak frike te japim kontributin tone ne shoqeri. Te kemi me pak frike per te shprehur mendimin tone te lire politik si pjesetare te nje shoqerie te civilizuar ne shekullin e 21-te. Mbi te gjitha, te kemi me pak frike per te bere gjene e duhur ne kohe te veshtira, pavaresisht faktit se mbase veprimet tona nuk do te njiheshin sit e tilla apo do te na kushtonin shume ne nivel personal e shoqeror.
Pra, 2016 –ta na jep nje tjeter mundesi per te mos cenuar vlerat tona morale e humane. Dhe cdo gje varet nga zgjedhja jone. Do te zgjedhim te miren apo te keqen? Do te vendosim te jemi rob te vlerave negative e primitive apo do te perpiqemi te jemi mbi veten? Do te perpiqemi te ndertojme nje karakter fisnik apo ate te nje batakciu? E bukura e kesaj jete eshte fakti se ne kemi opsionin te zgjedhim, qe do te thote cdo gje eshte ne duart tona. Sic e thote dhe poeti anglez William Ernest Henley ne poezine e tij viktoriane “Invictus, “Une jam zoteria e fatit tim; Une jam kapiteni i shpirtit tim.”
Me duket se e zgjata shume e po e mbyll se nata e sotme kerkon gezim e hare. Gezuar miqte e mi!
A lot of things have changed since the last time I have posted. I am in the midst of a transitory period in my life and, therefore, I have not updated the blog accordingly.
However, starting today, I pledge to be more active in maintaining this blog. To begin with, I have added a new section titled “Publications”, where I publicize my written work. Any type of feedback on it, whether positive or negative, is welcomed. Also, I intend to update the “About” section in the coming days.
Until then, may the force be….equal to mass times acceleration.
Deeply honored to give this interview for the Colin Powell School!
Fatjon Kaja is, by all counts, an exceptional student here at the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership. Furthermore, his good humor, sensitivity, and commitment to service for the public good have made him a trusted peer among the school’s students and fellows.
Kaja, a recent immigrant to the U.S. from Albania, is enrolled in the B.A./M.A. program in Economics and has a second major in Pre-Law, with minors in Italian and French. He is a Legal Scholar in the Skadden, Arps Honors Program in Legal Studies, the Co-founder and Vice-Director of the Guidance for the Legal Empowerment of Youth (now the ACLU Chapter at the City College of New York), and Deputy Policy Director of the Economic Development Policy Sector of the Roosevelt Institute at the City College of New York. He was a Partners for Change Fellow in 2013-2014 and has held numerous leadership roles in other campus offices…
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Note to reader: I wrote this book review last year for my Early American Political Course. Certain passages might be a bit dated as current circumstances have changed. Nonetheless, I think my review captures what the book is about and tries to do justice to it.
The recent government shutdown showed that the clashes of ideas regarding the U.S Constitution are still present in American politics. Too many politicians took the stand in Congress and argued passionately about the U.S Constitution, what it does, and how did it come into existence. Unfortunately, some of them need to rethink what they were saying. A good start would be reading Pauline Maier’s Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788. This enlightening book provides a rigorous account of the ratification process and helps us better understand what our ancestors thought about the role of the government.
As I was studying the development of political thought in early America, I had the pleasure of reading Maier’s Ratification. Maier, the William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor of History at MIT, dedicated her academic career to the American revolutionary era and the founding fathers. Sadly, she passed away last summer, leaving behind a remarkable academic legacy of books in the revolutionary era, among them American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence.[i]
As in Maier’s previous books, Ratification intelligibly reflects Maier’s ability to present information in a clear way. Ratification tells the story of how “We the People” decided whether or not to ordain and establish the Constitution of the United States.[ii] Located in the timeline of 1787 – 1788, the book offers a vivid account of the greatest public debates over the Constitution between Federalists – supporters of the Constitution – and its opponents, the “Antifederalists”, a term Maier is reluctant to use as it is a product of Federalists’ thought.
When the average American hears the terms “Federalists” and “Antifederalists,” the names of Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison and a book with 85 essays printed at the state of New York during the ratification debates come up. But, as shown in Ratification, New Yorkers weren’t the only ones debating the Constitution. It was a national debate, similar in some aspects with the one that concluded that reviewing the Articles of Confederation was a necessity.
Ratification begins with the aforementioned conclusion; it narrates the events leading to the Philadelphia Convention, briefly mentions what happened inside the convention and then focuses on public debates in the individual states and the politicking behind it. Throughout the book, Maier presents the reader with a large number of central figures in the state debates, ranging from prominent figures such as Patrick Henry or George Mason to ordinary Americans that for their first time are being part of a political question and want to decide the future of the Union. This highlights Maier’s theme of focusing the book more on the people rather than on eminent politicians. After all, the book is named Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788 and not, Ratification: State Politicians Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788. Besides the prologue and the epilogue, Ratification is divided into 14 chapters. A chapter or more is dedicated to each state, mostly depending on the amount of information that Maier has been able to gather and also how much the people debated the Constitution in the respective state. The most prominent state conventions were those of Pennsylvania (chapter 4), Massachusetts (chapter 6 and 7), Virginia (chapters 9 and 10) and New York (chapters 12 and 13), meanwhile the chapters in between reflect on the ratification debates among other states such as Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maryland and South and North Carolina.[iii] The former conventions had a vital role in the ratification process and Maier makes sure that the reader is provided with large, solid information on what was going in the respective states.
Maier also covers the politicking behind all the conventions. Ratification reveals how the interest of a specific state played a vital role in the debates and how the goals of each state influenced the politics behind the convention of the respective state. For example, the Federalists of Pennsylvania were so obsessed with the idea of being the first state to ratify the Constitution that they dragged by force one of the state delegates to the convention in order to reach a quorum. Yet, Delaware was able to be the first state to ratify the Constitution as the delegates of Delaware realized that their state benefits more under the Constitution than under the Articles of Confederation. Similar patterns of thought were applied in other states. Delegates of each state were thinking on the local level rather than the national level, putting their interest on top of the list before that of the nation. However, there were also delegates that made a huge impact as ardent Federalists on the ratification process that Maier capably emphasizes such as James Wilson of Pennsylvania, John Jay of New York, and James Iredell of North Carolina.
Maier’s Ratification connects all the dots of the ratification debates on each state and offers the reader an enlightening view of the national debates over the Constitution. It connected perfectly with what I had been reading prior to it and made all historical events of the early American development understandable. Ratification connects events from Gordon Wood’s The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin, Douglas Adair’s Fame and The Founding Fathers: Essays of Douglass Adair, Alfred Young’s The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution and with Joanne Freeman’s Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic. Furthermore, chapter 14 of the Ratification narrates the convention of North Carolina and some thoughts expressed in the state convention can be traced also during the debates on the Civil War treated by Abraham Lincoln.
Ratification is the book that every individual interested in the Constitution should read. It is challenging, illuminating, refreshing and creative. However, as new documents are being discovered, scholars should attempt to discuss in more details the ratification process. The best source for them to start is Maier’s Ratification. As a final note, due to the current political climate where there is a renaissance of the Tea Party, or as I believe Maier would call them “The Destruction of the Tea Party”, it is essential that prospective and current supporters of the “Tea Party” read Maier’s Ratification as this extraordinary book will reveal an enlightening truth to them.
[i] Maier, Pauline, Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788, back of the book
[ii] Maier, Pauline, Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788, page ix
[iii] I would like to say that the idea for the above template came from the Ratification book review that my professor R. B. Bernstein did.
A virus strikes Albanian public servants each time corruption scandals become public. This is the Know Nothing Virus, for its consequences are the same as its name – the victims know nothing after they get stricken. The last scandal with Bank of Albania – the central bank in the country – proves the point.
Earlier this summer, a scandal revolving around the Bank of Albania became public. Apparently, a number of employees of the bank had been stealing money, amounting to approximately the nominal value of 7.1 million dollars. Dozens of employees have been called in for interrogation and a few have been arrested. Yet no one feels responsible or acknowledges responsibility; at least, no one admits to knowing anything.
“There was chaos. There was no regulation about the responsibilities of each person. We are still shocked. We don’t know anything,” said Petrit Ramohitaj, Chief of the Active Cash, and Bashkim Xhilaga, former Monitoring Supervisor, after they were arrested.
The Director of the Banknote Emitting Department, Dorian Collaku, couldn’t believe that the investigators had the nerve to call him in for a deposition while he was on vacation. His answer: “Let me finish my vacation and then I will come to testify.” And so he did, only to state that he knew nothing.
The Governor of the Bank of Albania, Ardian Fullani, is probably the most controversial figure in this scandal. Mr. Fullani met with members of the Parliamentary Commission of Economy to discuss the issue. In a public declaration, he stated that the act itself does not reflect on the vital role of the institution and that the people responsible will face justice.
Reasonable observers agree that it would be absurd to expect justice with Mr. Fullani still in charge of the central bank. So far, he has not even stated that he feels morally responsible for the act. There is an American saying that President Harry S Truman made into a sign for his desk: “The buck stops here.” For Mr. Fullani, the buck doesn’t seem to stop anywhere – certainly not on his desk. How do we know that? It is basic accounting. The person in charge of the organization is responsible, in the end, for accounting errors, deliberate or not, made while he is in charge. Any accounting student is taught that, on a trial balance, debits must equal credits – no matter what. Any student is also taught that the person in charge of the business is responsible for any serious accounting problems affecting the business accounts while he is in charge. Perhaps Mr. Fullani skipped those lessons.
Mr. Fullani states that Parliament will make sure that a thorough investigation takes place of the Bank of Albania. By Albanian political standard, “a thorough investigation” means a never-ending, non-productive investigation that will end by blaming the poor slob with no connections or influence. And how could any reasonable person expect the investigation to be candid when Mr. Fullani is in charge of almost every committee that would undertake or assist such an investigation? Albania does not have a constitutional privilege against self-incrimination (which Americans know as the Fifth Amendment) if events take an unexpected turn, revealing criminal responsibility on the part of the bank’s management, and Mr. Fullani knows that.
The public demands that Mr. Fullani resign, and yet it seems they are powerless. A few protests were organized but they were unsuccessful. In an extraordinary meeting of the Supervisory Council of the Bank of Albania, one of its seven members, Ermelinda Meksi, a former MP, proposed that the council demand the resignation of Mr. Fullani. All the members of the Council voted for the proposition to be put on the agenda. However, the other six members of the Council, including Mr. Fullani as its chairman, rejected the proposition once it was motioned.
Nonetheless, even if this Council did require the discharge of Mr. Fullani, the Albanian Parliament would have the last say on the matter by voting on it. But Parliament is out of session this summer, as its members are on vacation, and Mr. Collaku’s answer – Let me finish my vacations and then I shall come – seems to be standard in this case.
Erion Brace, MP for the Socialist Party and also chairman of the Parliamentary Commission on the Economy, posted recently on his Facebook page that he thinks that a profound legal, structural and human reform is still needed at the Bank of Albania. Somehow, those who have been watching the Bank of Albania slide into scandal and incompetence already figured out that such a reform is vitally needed.
Mr. Brace also stated that there are restrictions on the government’s power to suspend the Governor of the Bank and other members of the Supervisory Council. Reasonable observers might feel entitled to ask what restrictions could prevent the government from dismissing the bank’s management when bank employees had stolen over 7 million dollars without being detected or stopped. If such restrictions do exist, they would make a supervisory post at the Bank of Albania a dream job for many government functionaries and even many legislators.
Many critics consider the thefts at the Bank of Albania as a case similar in wrongdoing and scandalous significance to the case of the American company Enron, one of the biggest financial scandals in recent history. In light of such similarities, citizens of Albania started signing a petition to ask members of Parliament to discharge Mr. Fullani. The petition is expected to be signed in the upcoming days and then will be sent to the President.
And yet is the President of Albania, Bujar Nishani, the right man to receive this petition? Like the managers of the Bank, he too clearly knows nothing, as he hasn’t made any statement yet about the biggest theft ever made at the Bank of Albania. He too seems to suffer from the Know Nothing Virus, for which there seems to be no cure.
Courtesy of Bank of Albania (at least this isn’t stolen yet :P)
Today, August 5, 2014 marked my 4th anniversary in New York. As the first and only member of my immediate family to migrate and live in the United States, I decided to visit Ellis Island – the gateway for millions of immigrants during the late 1800s and early 1900s – in a quest for enlightenment and inspiration.
Upon arrival, I entered the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, part of the former immigration station complex. Through its lavish photos, historical evidence, interactive displays, and artifacts, the museum reflects on the moving tales of the 12 million immigrants who entered America through Ellis Island and whose descendants account for almost half of the American people. While inhaling all this information, I fell into a nostalgic state of mind, asking me to assess my own journey and its value.
As many other immigrants, I moved to the United States at the age of seventeen by myself with dreams, hopes, and in search of better educational opportunities. While soon after my arrival, I realized that as an immigrant I would be facing numerous hardships – barrier of language, income, and network – it also became clear that New York had gifted me with endless opportunities and a chance to test the limits of my potential.
New York inspired me to dream of the impossible and then aspire to make it reality. And as I look back, I realize I have done just that. In a four-year timeline, I had the chance to exchange correspondence with the President of United States, meet in person a former Secretary of State, a former Secretary-General of the United Nations, current ambassadors, and Supreme Court justices, attend lectures from current and former CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, study under renowned scholars and work for one of the most prestigious law firms in the world. And what I find more interesting is the fact that I am constantly inspired to aim higher; as if the echo of noises in this city is a drug for my ears – it reminds me that I am an urban immigrant striver with the potential to achieve greatness and earn the remembrance of posterity.
As I walked out of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, I was presented with a clear view of the New York City skyline – dazzling, serene and difficult to describe. And the only thing I could think at that moment were a few lines from Sketches from Life: The Autobiography of Lewis Mumford:
Here was my city, immense, overpowering, flooded with energy and light,….The world, at that moment, opened before me, challenging me, beckoning me, demanding something of me that it would take more than a lifetime to give, but raising all my energies by its own vivid promise to a higher pitch.
One of my photos at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum.
Courtesy of Cem Uyar