Prime Minister’s address at opening of new parliamentary session  

Prime Minister Edi Rama’s address at opening of new parliamentary session on behalf of parliamentary majority:

Good to see each other again here following the summer recess!

I wish you and your family members and relatives are all safe and sound in the context when we are all witness to a situation that often startles us.

During this speech, I would try to briefly touch upon some main issues, which, I believe, will top our common agenda. I will start with the elections. April 25 has been set as the election date and I think that without wasting a single minute, we should together, through the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs and the representatives of both sides, write into law what will be the reflection of the changes we made to the Constitution of the Republic of Albania and the Electoral Code prior to the summer recess.

I think there is no time to lose and we need to work intensively and with all the strength and together with all the available experts to guarantee the implementation of the changes we jointly made.

On one hand, the candidates open-lists mechanism, where we still need to discuss and find the right path through full cross-party consensus, not only inside the parliament’s hall, but also with that part of the opposition outside parliament, but, on the other hand, this should be definitely done as soon as possible. It cannot be an extremely prolonged process just for the sake of a 100% consensus, but we should seek complete consensus for a speedy and swift process.

Of course, a process is also needed to include the mechanism of pre-election coalitions as an electoral subject in the Electoral Code.

These are the two key issues that need to be tackled.

We still face the concern we have been facing since day one. We have publicly and politically stated that the only problem worrying us about the 100% open-lists is that such a proposal may threaten or compromise gender equality. If this can be done through a mechanism, as we are not here to invent it, but through a reliable mechanism, then it is not a problem for us. However, if no credible mechanism is found, then don’t expect us to open the candidate lists 100%, if the latter do not ensure gender equality.

100% open lists that send the Parliament of Albania back in time lead to nowhere.

But I believe this is not an unknown challenge or a new challenge we face for the first time here. World has gone through countless experiences. The world has certainly had to address such an issue. I am confident and I believe that together and through good will we find a way, as we did before the recess, to make sure that all parties feel represented in what will be the final product, where no party can ‘take it all and where each party has to concede that what it failed to gain has been already earned by the other party.

I support the Parliament’s Speaker’s appeal about the indispensability to speed up the process to select the Election Commissioner and the members of the new bodies of the central election administration. We need to move forward expeditiously.

Secondly, we need to address the Venice Commission recommendations about the Law on the Media, or what I call “the anti-defamation” law and I won’t change my opinion that defamation needs to be addressed legally when it comes to the online media.

Fortunately, we now have a quite helpful report by the Venice Commission and based on that Report we will work together to reach a right conclusion and adopt the law in Parliament as soon as possible. This is because defamation is wreaking havoc.

The Opinion contains valuable suggestions about the public media too, including the national broadcaster, the Albanian Radio and Television and its board. It is time to bring about a radical change to the way the Radio and Television Board is conceived so that we clear the path to all those profiles suggested by the Venice Commission to join the Board as members, who have actually unreasonably denied the opportunity to contribute to this important institution of the public media over the years.

Another significant aspect that was highlighted almost by everyone, but again has to do with the Venice Commission recommendations is the aspect regarding the efforts to address the recommendations about nominations to the Constitutional Court. To this end, we need to materialize a concrete draft on the entire work that has been done to date. This will certainly need full harmonization with the international partners, who oversee the Justice Reform step by step and therefore we put an end to the situations and the absolutely absurd and harmful impasses that we were created in the past.

It is time to take the draft law on the President of the Republic. It is actually a draft that has so often appeared and disappeared from the scene of the political debate, even from the internal debates between the parliamentary parties. I believe time is high that a law on the President of the Republic is adopted. There are abundant experiences in this aspect too and don’t need to invent them, just go over them and harmonize them so that a law on the President of the Republic is adopted.

Another important issue I think deserves Parliament’s specific attention this year is the new draft budget, through which we will be able to address many of the topics often addressed in completely speculative and propagandistic ways and not in realistic and factual ways. By this I mean specifically the need to address the salaries of doctors and teachers. There are two categories, doctors especially, but certainly teachers too, who at this stage of the country’s developments and this stage of our lives have to play an extra role due to the additional difficulties triggered by the pandemic.

I believe we can afford adopting a significant pay rise for health workers like never before in the past 30 years, showing solidarity and expressing through this pay hike our absolutely legitimate appreciation and our absolutely deserved respect for them.

The same is the case with the teachers, another category that is special one not only in common times, but also during this time and during the upcoming academic year, when they will have to deal with additional difficulties as they will have to simultaneously cope with the teacher’s daily and everlasting job, teaching and education, committing themselves at the same time to protect the health of the children and everyone else. It is true that children are not the most vulnerable part to COVID-19 though not fully immune to the infection, but it is also true that kids can transmit the virus. And indeed, sending children back to school would exponentially increase exposure of each and every one of us to the virus, even though we show utmost caution and rigorously observe the preventive rules, because children will come back home and they can’t wear face masks all the time when at home. It is something surreal to think about it.

Finally, I support what the Parliament Speaker stated in his opening remarks about the agreement that Kosovo and Serbia signed in Washington.

It was definitely an incredibly significant moment in the relations between the two states. It was also extremely important that, in view of this moment, that Kosovo’s recognition from Israel was reached, but except the fact that this agreement was reached at the White House and except the fact that Israel recognized Kosovo, the deal offers nothing new.

All topics of that Agreement are topics of the Berlin Process, widely discussed in every round of the Berlin Process. I am saying this for a very simple reason; to figure out how much time Albanians have lost regarding what the Agreement actually offers.

The Agreement just confirms what has actually been there over the years and the absurd refusal to move forward in that direction has only resulted in a waste of time, which has also brought about incalculable damages. Wasting time because of farce patriotism and an imaginary war against a neighbour that used to be an enemy in the past and now is a neighbour with whom Albanians have pending issues to settle, but these pending issues cannot be tackled at peacetime by behaving as if being at war. Behaving as if being at war and refusing to communicate in order to tackle the pending issues, which remain there over the years just and merely as ammunition to load the imaginary rifles, means that you are merely executing or shooting at your own people and you are crippling the future of your own country. It is absolutely unquestionable that refusing to accept sophistication of a relation that comes with peace means you are either incompetent to govern, or cynical towards your own people.

What remains impressive is that short-sightedness of those who have eyes, ears and mind but intentionally refuse to see, refuse to listen, refuse to listen up and this is something that has harmed and continues to harm both Albania and Kosovo and Albanians.

I heard someone yelling here “we will not give up the sea.” He was wearing a mask and I couldn’t figure out who this person was defending the sea at this hall, but whoever he might be I would like to tell him that he wouldn’t be able to do that, even if he would have wished to do so.

Secondly, whoever would wish to give up the sea, he stands not a single chance of doing so.

Third, don’t become both ridiculous and unscrupulous at the same time.

I mean, devilishly ridiculous, because those who fan the flames know very well that there is nothing real here, but instead of working for the people, they are seeking to make use of the people. Instead of working for those Albanians who involve in idle talks about something that is not their cup of tea and it is neither the duty nor have they the opportunity to have all the necessary information and worry, they want to use them. They are merely seeking to gain a vote, “grab whatever they can” and venture out into the sea sailing one-man boats to defend the sea at daylight, by moving the boat shovels both to the left and the right and later appear neatly dressed on the media to issue statements to protect the sea.

Whom they are defending the sea from? Which sea are they defending?

Have you found out that the sea has withdrawn towards Greece” Or has the sea moved into the mainland, where you have waged this boat war? Have you seen anything there?

The sea is right there and it hasn’t gone anywhere. Neither the sea, nor the land, or the air and the matter can be negotiated and divided as it was the case with the tenders when the Socialist Movement for Integration headed the Albanian Road Authority. It doesn’t work this way. Whatever negations take place, they are done by the authorized persons and the negotiations can’t be the sort of the boat talks. In the meantime, when they reach a conclusion, if they reach one, they present this conclusion to the authorities. And it an authority, like the government, signs an agreement, there is another authority that judges that very agreement and this authority is the President of the Republic, who, for reasons I am not aware of, has been involved in this sea protection thing, even though he knows quite well that if not an agreement is sent to him, nobody has …(inaudible)… There is another authority then, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Albania, to which the President has already hinted he will address once an agreement is signed. There is also another authority, the Parliament of Albania.

It is a cynical fact that it is exactly the individuals, who gave up the sea, are now defending it. Ilir Meta, Sali Berisha, Lulzim Basha, – Monika who didn’t have a shovel, but just a boat, since the shovels were on Ilir’s hands back then and therefore I can’t involve her in all this – they all signed the most wrongful deal for Albania. And how did they do it?

They did it officially, by signing and sealing it formally. There could be no verbal agreement about the territories of a country.  It can be done neither for the sea, nor for the land. But they did it by signing an accord. And he did it with the longest smile of joy and satisfaction working its way across Lulzim Basha’s face when serving as Foreign Minister. Take a look at the archives. He usually has a km-long smile, but his smile on that day was a countless miles-long smile, working its way across one ear into the other.

Ilir Meta defended the then maritime agreement by making use of his entire weight in the government and the bodyweight, which was twice as much as today, telling us that we were provoking or, I don’t know, what else.

We didn’t send gossips to the Constitutional Court. Such things can happen in Albania and Kosovo only, when a Prime Minister or a head of state, in compliance with his state position, appears to make a statement and countless rumours follow.

We have sent a signed accord to the Constitutional Court. We referred it to the Constitutional Court and we didn’t turn it into a kind of fish market. Like never before, the Constitutional Court delivered a nine to zero ruling about such a sensitive issue and named it as an agreement that violates national interests.

These national interests violators, who have been found as such not by a party here in parliament, but by the Constitutional Court and therefore are guilty of violating national interests, are today the defenders of the national interests from me and us that we took the Agreement to the Constitutional Court.

(“Your Highness,” I don’t send people to prison. It is not the government that sends people to prison in democracy. It is not the political party that sends people to prison in a democratic system. To put people in prison by being Prime Minister you ought to have either the power of a king, or to be in a state party system. I am neither a king, nor the prime minister of a state party.

To conclude, please don’t be ridiculous here in Parliament at least. You can go out and defend the sea right where there are still fish voting for you, put them into the net and save the imaginary sea.

As far as Albania’s maritime border is concerned, the Greek Prime Minister’s statement to expand Greece’s territorial waters by 12 nautical miles has nothing to do with Albania. You who pretend to love Albania so much, even though you often confuse its map and I am sure you don’t exactly know the true area of the country, should clearly know that there is no physical opportunity for a country to exert the right to 12-mile expansion to the dividing maritime space between Albania and Greece.

The 12-mile expansion right derives from the International Convention on the Law of the Sea adopted in 1982 and is applied to every country. Every country that has the opportunity to expand its territorial waters by 12 nautical miles is entitled to do so. The Convention stipulates that where this opportunity is inexistent, the states should negotiate.

What are we negotiating with Greece if this was to be this easy?!

We have launched negotiations with Greece that have been suspended for the time being and no negotiations have taken place since the government change in Greece.

No negotiations are underway with Greece since a new government took office and the negotiations between the two countries didn’t conclude back then. Therefore, no agreement is in place!

Don’t become so ridiculous and I take advantage of this occasion to call on all those who are in their right not to trust us and not to vote us not to become ridiculous in the eyes of their children by seeking to defend the sea from nothing. Because, given that we were the ones to reject the previous one, we cannot be the ones to redo the agreement that violates national interests. It can’t be us!

Don’t use the word “sale” improperly and groundlessly about everything. It doesn’t work like this! The sea is not a truck loaded with 12 litres of water that can move with you not finding out about it.

There are thousands of reasons to oppose our government, but I don’t know where you find such reasons!

The sea is right there and nobody can take it away. You need to keep in mind the fact that as long as I will be in office, we will do the best.

Of course we have made mistakes and we may make more mistakes in the future, but we would never violate national interests!

I am not the one to be blamed why there are people here and Kosovo who think they can win over Serbia by firing their guns into the air. It doesn’t work. You the ardent democrats, who fear meeting others , should know that meetings are always positive, even in wartime, let alone in peacetime.