Published on : 07 September 2017

Talk with journalists about the first 100 days of government

- There were many thing we had to deal with during summer, especially the victims due to coastal unsafety. But not only this. For instance, there is a watchtower behind you but there’s no guard in it, and it has always been a Ping-Pong game between the City Hall and the Ministry. The City Hall says I have no money to pay the coast guard. What do you think about this? Are you committed to follow up this concern that has made more victims than in the previous years?

Prime Minister Edi Rama: The vast majority of these events have nothing to do with the Coast Guard. It has happened either on unauthorized beaches, and it is something that happens on unauthorized, you cannot help, or when someone goes swimming and has a stroke. It happens.

-Of course, but the fact that there was no coast guard has been pointed out

Prime Minister Edi Rama: OK, but this hasn’t happened because there was no coast guard. This is what I’m saying. Then, this is another story. The coastal administration is another story, which I believe we will give another standard next year. One of our goals is to have a radical change next year with regard to the whole tourism aspect, and I believe we will succeed in a very good plan we have.

-The new municipalities have complained about the lack of funds for the Coast Guard.

Prime Minister Edi Rama: This is an area that cannot be covered by the municipalities. They have the right to complain, but they cannot cover this area. This area will be under the control of the government which will cooperate with the municipalities on determined elements. For instance, how can municipalities clean the coast with efficiency, if we consider that the cleaning fee they collect, goes for a normal administration of a territory with a determined population density? The exponential growth of the population in certain areas due to the season, makes it impossible for municipalities to administer the entire cleaning system properly. So, this also requires a change. The first mandate has served in many respects as a great source of experience and knowledge. Now, it is very clear on how to do a number of things.

-During the summer season, municipalities had management issues because they didn’t have capacities to manage, especially the high number of arsons. Do you think it was wrong to give such competences to the municipalities considering that they don’t have the required infrastructure yet?

Prime Minister Edi Rama: It is impossible for the municipalities to face such situations alone. This has nothing to do with the competences because they’ve been entitled to manage the forests, but they don’t have the responsibility to fight alone with the fires. Even in this respect, we need a thorough restructuring of the Civil Emergencies about which we talked yesterday, and I believe that the Civil Emergencies will pass to the Ministry of Defence. We will build a completely different system of Civil Emergencies, plus, we are now working on implementing an aspect of the law that is not being implemented, which is that at the moment of civil emergencies the population should be mobilized in certain strata and certain levels. We will set some binding levels, and then we will see the outcome. I think the situation will be much more under control. I hope that those who have been banned and are under investigation and are being tried for arson, will receive the punishment they deserve because this story with the arsons is unbelievable. However, there’ve been too many problems this year. For instance, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece have suffered a lot in this regard, especially Italy. We did not actually receive any help from Italy, though we knew they would help, but they had endless fires and couldn’t help us.

- When you say that tourism will have another standard next year, do you mean that you didn’t like it this year?

Prime Minister Edi Rama: There are many aspects that need to be addressed, and I believe that they can be successfully addressed. Just as I think that next year we will a much better quality tourism in many regards. We’re seeing it everywhere. For example, we will request that all hotels and all service units that perform seafront services set up sewage plants by May. We will not allow any hotel or service unit to have any activity that does not have a sewage plant and that drains the sewage to the sea, or that goes on with septic pits. This will no longer be allowed. It is not a big investment. It is a reasonable investment for a service unit. Of course, when it comes to tourist complexes, the investment is bigger. However, it is completely reasonable and we must do it. We will make them very clear that otherwise they will not be able to run their business. We will set up a totally new purification system for the entire coastline, a cleaning system that will be made in partnership with municipalities, but we will not leave it directly to municipalities alone. There are many other elements up to the whole chain of activities that will take place during the season, which will be organized in such a way that it is not just water, sun, sand and food but also activities that are related to entertainment, tradition, with kids. People across the Albanian coastline have no place where to take their children.

- Since we’re at the coastline, I’d like to talk a bit about the coastline control. The other day "News 24" published an exchange between the General Director of Police and the Interior Minister, where the General Director confirmed and expressed concern to the Minister of Interior about the malfunction of the coastal radars, which in his opinion has become a barrier for the fight against cannabis. How can you comment this? Does this confirm the accusations that the State Police is involved in the drug trafficking?

Prime Minister Edi Rama: First, it is not discussed that we are at a closing stage of this battle and that we have actually won this battle. The data are stubborn. Propaganda is propaganda. The attempt to spread this kind of propaganda is a bit embarrassing, because actually today we are in the conditions when, as our partners confirm, the territory has been completely cleaned from this plague. What happens in terms of transport and of the ongoing fight to prevent or stop traffickers, is an inertia which I anticipate will keep going for a short time and will be minimized. So this is a story that will no longer be news or current events.

- I see, but is it concerning when the Director General of the Police addresses a concern to the Interior Minister who has failed in the anti-cannabis actions? At least, the Ministry of Defence had a shadow of a doubt because there were contradictions between the ministries and the main agencies.

Prime Minister Edi Rama: You haven’t noticed the letter, which is not the letter of the Ministry of Defence but it is a joint letter of both institutions. It has been mismanaged in terms of public relations. In terms of the intention, it was not to create conflict with the institution, but rather to take a common cross-institutional stance with regard to this issue.

- I understand you. You say that you have advanced in the anti-cannabis fight. But a few days ago, the EU ambassador pointed out that Albania should do more to combat drugs by turning it into a priority.

Prime Minister Edi Rama: She did not say that Albania should do more. She only said that this topic is an important topic that will definitely be considered also when the negotiation process will continue.

- Is war on cannabis a condition for opening the negotiations?

Prime Minister Edi Rama: It is not a matter of condition. It is a matter of findings related to the country’s situation. I do not see what the ambassador said the way it was interpreted. I see it merely as putting a matter in the limelight, given that both the European Union and the European Commission are well-informed in real time that the progress made in this respect is extraordinary, and that this story will be over this.

- Mr Prime Minister, as you are here for the second informal meeting with the new ministers, have  you have specified the competences of the ministries? For example, do you know today who will manage the territory, which ministry?

Prime Minister Edi Rama: Certainly these are the basic aspects of this work. So we know very well who will do what.

- Which Ministry is responsible for territorial management?

Prime Minister Edi Rama: The territory is managed by municipalities.

- Undoubtedly, but there has been a Minister for Local Affairs and Urban Development that are no longer there.

Prime Minister Edi Rama: The Ministry of Urban Development did not manage the territory. It dealt with territorial planning. Territorial planning is in the meantime under the responsibility of a Territorial Planning Agency. There is also a cross-ministerial structure, which is the National Territorial Council. So these are enough. Meanwhile, the Ministry has performed its function because it has given direction to all aspects of our program related to the National General Plan and to the local plans. Thus, we now have two Agencies, one is for planning and the other for development, and there is also a National Territorial Council that will deal with aspects of both planning and responding to the needs of municipalities when it comes to confirm development permits.

- By creating these super directories, such as merging mortgages with legalization, or merging taxation with customs, are you looking for an absolute power in the government?

Prime Minister Edi Rama: I'm sorry but this is completely unrelated. These institutions are much more functional if they are compacted in view of the goals and functions they cover. I have said it several times, but you have not been attentive. In terms of figures, our administration is a small one compared to many other countries, but we have far more directors than in many other countries. That is to say, we have many directors who have no reason to be there because, either they are incompetent or because they have been put there in order to expand the influences of parties in the system, and therefore they cannot perform their function properly. Their merging brings much more compactness and makes them realize the purpose much better. After all, the creation of the Property Titles Agency is not to have absolute power, but it is to have a much faster and much better service for the citizens.

-Does this Agency depend on you or on your ministers?

Prime Minister Edi Rama: All of them depend on me, but this is not important. The whole purpose here is to serve the citizens better. It is not to have more power because we already have the power. It is not the merging of the functions of one or two Directorates, of a Ministry or of two Ministries that increases the power. Human resources are necessary from the standpoint of their quality. Based on the Law on Civil Service, when they are in the Civil Service, we will follow a very reasonable process and we will do tests on the quality of human resources, in the sense that the merging of ministries or directorates does not automatically have as a consequence the dismissal of all those in that ministry or in that directorate.

- The new legislature, the Parliament starts at 10:00 am on Saturday. You have said that most likely the opposition will deal with you, but we will most likely see a resistance to the election of Gramoz Ruci as Parliament Speaker.

Prime Minister Edi Rama: By “us” I don’t mean only us. “Us” is all this. They won’t deal with me personally

-Could there be resistance to the election of Gramoz Ruci as Speaker of the Assembly?

Prime Minister Edi Rama: I’d feel very sorry if this happened because it would be the first sign that the opposition hasn’t understood anything of what has happened in this country and of what happened on June 25.  I’d like to see quite the opposite, for the good of the country. If we were to look at it in a strict political aspect, we are interested in having an opposition that keeps doing what it did for 4 years because it only digs its own grave. If we look at what the country needs, what the people need, and what we need in order to better rule the country, we will definitely need an opposition that does not refer to the sources of physical strength and irrational language strength, but refers to reason, refers to a mission, to a program, to a whole set of purposes that make the difference and challenge the government in another form.

- With this opposition you have a still unopened part of the 18 May agreement, which is constitutional reform. Have you thought, or do you have a plan, a joint project, or of your own for a different election system, e.g., a primed system, or something that you might have planned when you signed this chapter of the agreement?

Prime Minister Edi Rama: We did not plan anything when we signed the deal. We just shared the same view. I still think that there are some election issues that need to be addressed, and therefore a reform is needed.

- Including a system change?

Prime Minister Edi Rama: This is an open topic. Even when we talked about the constitutional changes, we did not just mind the election. In this regard, I hope the opposition is reasonable and ready to continue in this line. It will be very bad news for the country, for the quality of political life, if it goes on acting as it has done in these four years, but it will be very good news for the Socialist Party in the narrowest sense of interest.

-When you say the opposition, do you mean also the SMI as a party that should be taken into consideration with regard to electoral changes, if there are any? For it may take on a different electoral system.

Prime Minister Edi Rama: The SMI has never been a reference point for the major things, despite what is said. As for the consideration, of course we will take into consideration every MP of the Socialist Party, of the Democratic Party, of the SMI, of the PDIU, of whatever party is in parliament, and we will do everything we can to ensure a better interaction between the government and all parliamentary forces. Then what kind of opposition the SMI will be, this is one thing that remains to be seen in action because it is not the same as the Democratic Party. It is another kind of being and another kind of reason why the SMI is in opposition.

- Will you follow again the replicates, to turn the parliament as you said into a worthy competitor of the Portokalli TV show?

Prime Minister Edi Rama: Actually, if we look at how the 4-year term of the DP went, I have never predicted that it would end the way it ended in terms of electoral support.  What missed is precisely what I’m saying, that people tend increasingly less to follow a policy that is based on the competition among those who say the last word, who show their teeth the most, who vilify the other the most. There are more and more people interested in having an opportunity to understand what the different attitudes are and who has the strongest arguments to do something in the way it is done. As far as we are concerned, we will approach the parliament in view of the people and not in view of an inertia which, if the Democratic Party has it, will be a major disaster for the Democratic Party and for the parliament, but not for us.

-Mr Rama, things went well when you did the agreement with Mr Basha. This agreement is still partially into effect. There was a recommendation of the technical ministers, although you did not accept their report, to repeat the practice of opposition-government co-governance 3 months before the elections. It was a good practice from both parties in these parliamentary elections. Would you accept this recommendation and have this practice repeated in the coming elections?

Prime Minister Edi Rama: This remains to be seen and to be discussed. I have no prejudice in this regard. I believe that, despite having had some negative aspects, especially in relation to individuals who were unjustly penalized in a somehow chaotic process, the deal and what brought it was of great benefit for the country. These were the most peaceful elections and the cheapest in financial terms, even for the fact that the territory was not covered with posters, with faces, flags and banners. Of course, average people have highly appreciated the deal.

-So, you leave the opportunity for this to be repeated open?

Prime Minister Edi Rama: It has been a moment of great liberation from an unreasonable tension. Think about it, it's the first time in the history of elections that consumption has not fallen, which means, people were not afraid, had no insecurity, they did not say, "wait, do not buy, 'I'm not investing, I'm not doing because you do not know what will happen,' which is the first psychological reaction to a moment of tension or in election time. So, I’m not contrary to look at this, of course, considering also the created experience and by articulating better and more efficiently, for there were also things that were unnecessary.

- Mr Rama when you refer to today's opposition, one of the opposition representatives, you personally, but also other exponents treat it differently. I am talking about Majlinda Bregu who is treated with more dignity, with more respect. I do not want to ask if it was in your plans to be in government, but I want to ask you if Majlinda Bregu is a potential candidate or likely to be the chief negotiator of Albania if the negotiations are opened.

Prime Minister Edi Rama: I do not know where you have seen a different treatment of Majlinda Bregu.

-She is one of the most cuddled MPs in the Socialist Party, for example, there is no conflict in the Integration Commission; there are agreements, smiles.

Prime Minister Edi Rama: You impressed me with this look, and I'm looking for words now but I see no different treatment to be honest. It's all a media story. The Integration Committee has been of the opposition. It will be of the opposition. Again the opposition will have the right to elect the chairperson of the Integration Committee.

- I am asking if Majlinda Bregu could be a potential candidate or appreciated by you to be a chief negotiator because of her experience.

Prime Minister Edi Rama: All this is related to the sponsorship of an effort to hit people who have had different positions inside the Democratic Party. For instance, I’ve been very sorry to notice some very strange strikes against Astrit Patozi. It doesn’t mean that I’m cuddling Astrit Patozi. Meanwhile, I repeat that in the issue of integration we should be together and, of course, the fact that we have representatives of the opposition at key points, such as the Integration Committee or the National Integration Council, makes it easier. The truth is that Majlinda Bregu has been the representative of the Democratic Party in this regard. We did not choose her. She was chosen by the Democratic Party. There hasn’t been at any moment, any idea, any imaginary plan to have Majlinda Bregu in government. As far as the chief negotiator is concerned, this is an issue that we will deal with when we need it. Then we will consider who can do this job better. But, of course, it would be good if in this case we had an interaction with the opposition and we could sort this out with the opposition.

-Mr Rama, let’s talk a bit about the first parliamentary session. More than of the opposition’s, this is a concern of another group, even larger let’s say, which is that of the former prosecuted people who see the election of Gramoz Ruci as Speaker of the Assembly as a provocation.  Are you provoking this large and important category of the Albanian society by appointing Gramoz Ruci as leader of the Assembly, who is accused by them to be one of those who have committed crimes against this category?

Prime Minister Edi Rama: Politically persecuted people are not some spies who take over to speak publicly on behalf of the politically persecuted. It is a category that has many respectable figures, there are many honest people who have nothing to do with these voices sponsored to sing Sali's song. While anyone who feels provoked by anyone, including Gramoz, on behalf of the persecuted people, and has not felt provoked by Sali at the head of the Democratic Party for 27 years, according to me they are just hypocrites who deserve no respect and no attention. As simple as that. The continuation of this foolishness and the then opposition level of the Democratic Party, in this case with communism and anti-communism, with communists and anti-communists in 2017, is just an expression of the great gap that the Democratic Party must fill with a vision for the future, with a realistic program to be an alternative, a team worthy of meeting the challenges with the competitor who it’s us in this case, otherwise all this is a great nonsense that deserves no attention and no concern.

-With regard to governance, since you mentioned Astrit Patozi, yesterday he posted on "Facebook" saying that this may be the last time the ministers go to a meeting outside the program, as they have not received the mandate yet because once they get the mandate, you will lock them up in the Prime Ministry building and take over the government again. Will the governance approach be personalized again? Will you take upon you all the costs again?

Prime Minister Edi Rama: I’ve said that I am impressed by the sponsored attacks on those who had a different attitude within the Democratic Party, but I’m not impressed by their criticism, by the criticism of Majlinda Bregu, Astrit Patozi and anyone else against the government because, if you look at them, they are similar like two drops of water, they have no difference. They are competing for who can insult the government more beautifully, despite they have problems among them. With regard to what Astrit Patozi says about the government, and it is not more worthy of respect than Luli, Sali, or anyone else, because they turn in the same vortex of void and on the same axis of a politics that deals with persons instead of dealing with problems, deals with anathema instead of dealing with arguments, how do you respond to this? “This is the last time you see the ministers.” Why? Where are the ministers going? Will they be locked up in a tower?

-Mr Rama, is there anything that you think you have considered or done improperly in the first government term, after 4 years?

Prime Minister Edi Rama: There are plenty, but I’m not going to share them with you. What is important, and I believe should be emphasized, is that we are building a governing mechanism and a governing process that will be much more important for the people than it has been to date, which will unlock much repressed energy, many repressed forces, and relieve the stresses of people in relation to the state, in relation to bureaucracy, in relation to the offices. I wrote yesterday. Italy has 70 million people and produces less than 1 million certificates a year. If we count also those who live abroad, we are 4.2 million people and produce 4.5 certificates, which is crazy. The removal of the obligation to produce so many documents, is a great relief for the people, both in terms of time and money and in psychological terms. The goal we have put in each sector, and the duty that every minister has, is that in Albania no sector will require more documents than any country that requires fewer documents in Europe. This means there will be a drastic reduction in the number of paperwork people are required to receive services. We will work hard with the self-declaration system. Applications will be made with self-declaration, and only the beneficiaries will be required to meet the obligations deriving from the application on the basis of the self-declaration when the application is received. So if they made a false statement, they will not benefit anything. The state will no longer be a receiver, but it will be responsive to any request for any service in the sense that it will provide the paperwork that people are required to obtain from state agencies. We will start with the certificate within the first 100 days. I believe that, at a time sooner than the end of the mandate, this entire system will be a completely new service system. This is important to the people. It is not important what Astrit Patozi thinks and what the fate of Majlinda Bregu will be.

-Another important thing is Justice Reform. Why did you never mention it in the speech to the Assembly? You mentioned all the objectives of this 4-year term, but never Justice Reform.

Prime Minister Edi Rama: I didn’t mention in the Assembly the objectives of this 4-year term. The Assembly's speech was a speech to the assembly for the Socialists, regarding our approach to power. It was not a speech about the 4-year goals. I did not talk in the Assembly about Agriculture. I did talk in the Assembly about Tourism. I did not talk in the Assembly about order and safety. I did not talk in the Assembly about the fight against cannabis. I did not talk in the Assembly about many other things. I talked about our approach to power, and about how we should use it in the next four years in view of state-making and in view of a radical change in the relationship between the people and the government. So, it was neither the time nor the place to talk about these topics, which are topics that will be dealt with also in the presentation of the program in the coming days, in the coming months and in the coming years, and there will be for sure plenty of time to talk about everything. It was said also that I didn’t mention integration. But everything that was discussed in the Assembly was in view of the integration.

- M. Rama, as a conclusion, perhaps a promise to citizens, will you lower taxes and fees in this 4-year term? For example, in the last few days there has been the news that the increase of the fuel licensing fee will increase fuel prices, which will increase the cost for the Albanian citizens.

Prime Minister Edi Rama: There is no fuel licensing fee. It is a municipal fee. It's not of the government, and the government has nothing to do with it.

- But the Fuel Association will increase fuel prices, which will affect the citizens’ portfolio.

Prime Minister Edi Rama: This is a municipal fee and it is the right of municipalities to set their tariffs. There is no government work here. You should also learn this, for average people often confuse it, but you should not confuse it.

-Are for or against it?

Prime Minister Edi Rama: I’m not here either to be for or against. These are rights of the local power. It is the discretion of the local government to impose licensing fees and especially for an activity that has generated fuel stations in the territory of the country and in the cities as in any other country. We do not have any tax increase and we do not have any tax cut. So, taxes are okay as they are. The tax burden is very low in Albania. It is not at all high, as they say. Of course, who earns more will pay more, this is out of question.

- In the campaign you said you would take to 18% the personal income tax on insurances.

Prime Minister Edi Rama: Not immediately. In the campaign promises are made for the next 4 years, and the promises are confronted after 4 years. Therefore, we won’t do everything at once. By the end of the year we will have a very aggressive package to enhance tourism. For the 5-star hotels, the real ones we lack, based on a deal with one of the 30 global brand names. Even those with 4 stars, again with the same logic. For them, we will have far more encouraging incentives.

Then for the other parts, we will see how we will proceed. We have discussed and will certainly make a significant increase in the salaries of doctors working outside Tirana, outside of their place of residence. Specialist doctors working outside the hospital or outside their place of residence, will have a salary that will be more or less in the limits that I have promised, as much as doctors earn abroad, of course after tax. We have also talked about a salary increase for our ambassadors and our diplomatic corps, because their salaries are far below the region's level.

Meanwhile, the points where we will focus on are related to some operations of the 100-day period, and they are very strong operations. We will start the fight against informality, which will not end in 100 days, but it will be very hard. We will start an operation to clear national axes from all sorts of activities that are run outside the perimeter of buildings that are built on national axes. All those who run activities in the national axes, will have to do the activity within the walls, as far as they are there. We will do a very strong operation to start the fight against the abuse with water. Water is an asset that can no longer be abused. Meanwhile, we will prepare a new budget, with a new approach, to meet a goal so that, within the 4-year term, the entire structure, the entire Albanian road network, I mean national roads, will be renewed and will have standards. We will start immediately with a major awareness campaign on road safety.

- I’ve followed the meetings you have in the operational situation room, and I’ve been impressed with the fight against the strong guys you have initiated as a step to clear the territory of cannabis. I do not know if you have such information, but there are reports from citizens who talk about affiliation of the string guys with area MPs or powerful people. Fight against the strong should not know compromises. It might seem a naive questions, but will the strong guys associated with the power resist this fight?

Prime Minister Edi Rama: We are preparing a very detailed operational plan also in legal terms, so that it is not to be an operation that starts successfully with the Police and fails with the others. We will extend this process until the last manor surrenders, because this history of Albania divided into feuds among the strong ones is an old inherited history, but it is unacceptable for us. Certainly, anyone who has any kind of property, will have to justify it. 

-For instance, when you go to a resort, do you check that it hasn’t been built with black money?

Prime Minister Edi Rama: No, I don’t deal with this, because people are innocent as long as they are free. Certainly, all those who behave in an unacceptable manner with the law and with the people, taking advantage of a status they have received and which has been recognized to them for many years, will have to face a very determined reaction of the state and of the State Police in the first place. This is out of question.

Thank you very much!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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