Anniversary of Germany’s Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Albania

Prime Minister Edi Rama’s remarks at ceremony marking anniversary of Germany’s Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Albania:

 

The Head of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Tirana Office actually ruined my speech, because she started her opening speech exactly with the very same sentence I was about to start my own speech, namely a quote by President Friedrich Ebert, who firmly believed: “Democracy needs democrats.”

In the meantime, while carefully listening to the previous speakers and thinking that it is only Germans who host parties while discussing as if at a meeting, and this is of course the reason why they have moved too far ahead of others, since they spend every single moment in an organized way, I was thinking there is somehow an interesting coincidence that we are here to celebrate an anniversary of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

He was an exceptional individual, a symbol of Germany’s Social-Democratic Party, a saddle-maker who worked his way up to the top of German politics as the President of Germany and he spent his entire tenure struggling to keep together impossible coalitions. Meanwhile, talks here focused on a coalition that I very much hope will be possible and not impossible and I am looking forward to seeing it happen as our friends and partners in the German Social Democratic party wish to be formed at the time they want it to happen.

Having said that, I believe the Friedrich Ebert Foundation really deserves respect and really deserves special attention as a significant point of reference along this 30-year journey, with the Foundation being always present and accompanying us with its expertise and know-how, which is an extraordinary know-how originating from history of social-democracy itself and history of Germany itself too.

When entering this place earlier, the ones we met first were the rivals of Friedrich Ebert foundation, namely the representatives of Konrad Adenauer Foundation, who were pretty naturally invited to attend this anniversary, because both of the foundations, although representing two political parties in dialectically rival parties, just like the German parties there, these foundations, too, are a very inspiring epitome of cooperation for common goals and motives that transcend the party boundaries.

Of course, I can’t hide the fact that I felt the pleasure the head of the foundation experienced when for the first time since her childhood, I believe, she shook hands, welcoming the friends from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in her position as winner. Meanwhile,  the head of Konrad Adenauer I think he was born while in power in Germany since is a very young man and for the first time he is now in opposition, but what is worth always remembering also as a great lesson drawn from Germany’s extraordinary example, as well as from minor examples like the one I mentioned here is that the democracy quality as a quality of coexistence among people who differ, just like the quality of every coexistence, after all, doesn’t depend on how much we agree, but on the way how we disagree, because it is something else disagreeing by discussing and openly confront different opinions without forgetting to smile and behave humanely  and shake hands at the beginning and at the end of discussions, while it is something completely different to disagree by engaging in heated conflicts, throwing insults or even grab and pelt stones at each other. In this respect, of course we still have a long way to go, because for 1001 reasons it took us a long time and we will still take some time before we reach that point, when the political opponents are rivals and not foes.

On the other hand, I happened to listen to the interaction between the two honourable friends – who have especially travelled from Berlin and I want to thank them for this, regarding the European integration process, progress in efforts to formally launch the EU accession negotiations and I would like to repeat here what I told them when I met them earlier that for us this has been a period of some kind of maturation to fully understand this process, the very contradictory and sometimes often unpredictable nature of the process. It is quite clear, especially after this sudden and recent exposure of the Bulgarian issue, that this is a process where we cannot afford losing focus for a single moment from the fundamental fact that we are in this process, not because others have imposed it on us. For the first time as a nation, for the first time as a state we are part of the process people have freely chosen themselves for the first time 30 years ago to become full-fledged members of the united European family.

Keeping this fact in mind, we must necessarily continue to do even more than we have done to date.

We must keep doing every day a lot more than we did yesterday, no matter what decisions are made in Brussels, no matter what additional conditions are set by the Bundestag, no matter what additional conditions are imposed everywhere else, or no matter how many other conditions unfold even in Bulgaria, because I think these are not related to each other.

They are completely separate from each other. They are divided for the simple reason that this is our choice, this is our path and this is our goal, but at the same time this is our obligation, more precisely our debt to our children and the future generations.

It is our obligation to make Albania a country and a space of functioning democracy with its institutions functioning like in the European Union, like in every EU member state, despite the status we enjoy at a certain or a given phase of this process, regardless we are still considered a candidate country, regardless we are called I don’t know what, because we are a candidate country for several years now, but let’s say aspiring groom to the European family, despite being called a negotiating country and so on and so forth, because these phases that grant us various statuses  throughout this process, it actually doesn’t depend on us, but it depends on what the united European family of 27 countries decides and we have never come across a predictable decision from beginning to end. Who would have ever thought that Bulgaria was going to block the process, while we were focusing all the time on how the elections would end in the Netherlands and we were convinced that once the Netherlands was relieved of the heavy burden of the electoral challenge, it would also be relieved of the distress vis-à-vis giving its green light to Albania’s accession talks with the EU. But this time it is Bulgaria that shows up and nobody can fully predict whether no other EU member state would later seek to block the process. Bulgaria is blocking the process now, but one must not forget that Bulgaria fully backed the EU membership process just two years ago.

This means we need to focus and mobilize all our forces and work hard and do utmost efforts to make the best of this know-how and benefit as much as possible from this know-how, with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation being just one of the many sources offering and making it available to us, including the European Union, the European Commission, which is the richest know-how of sources for us. The EU integration process is after all also a process of know-how and methodology transfer how to address issues of democratic state-building process by delivering on the right reforms and paying attention to the critics on how things move forward, as well as the necessary technical assistance to improve and make things move forward in the right direction.

I also heard people talking about the Open Balkans initiative and I am totally confident that the Open Balkans is the right idea at the right time and everyone will definitely embrace this idea gradually. The point is that we, Albania, do not have time to waste, but we must continue to elaborate and implement this idea.  

This is undoubtedly the future and there is no other option but fully opening to each other and building a space here in the region, which would be the embodiment of what we would be as individual states, but also as the Western Balkans joining the European Union.

This way we would gain time from the future, because however, in all cases, we will be forced to finalize and deliver on the Open Balkans initiative and we will have no other way when we join the European Union and it would be extra effort and extra wasted time. By effectively and confidently finalizing the initiative today we not only build a legally functional space of the four freedoms of the EU in the territory of the Western Balkans, but we also provide ourselves the opportunity to grow our economy.

None of the Western Balkan countries can afford shunning the economy and instead primarily dealing with politics for vested domestic political interests.

To conclude, I would like to return to the role of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and share with you profound gratitude in my capacity as the Socialist Party leader for the Foundation’s contribution together with the Socialist Party through a number of stations, and for the precious assistance the Foundation has provided us regarding what I consider the most important asset of any country, state, organization and party, and that asset is the know-how. I was pleased also to meet one of the Foundation’s officials, Michael, who came especially for this meeting to Tirana and whom I greet from this podium.

Thank you very much for coming. In the meantime, earlier today, together with Ditmir, we had an important conversation with friends and the Head of the Foundation about the idea of ​​our political academy we plan to establish in collaboration with the Foundation.

I am immensely glad that the Foundation will be with us again in this new initiative and I am very glad that we share the same conviction with our friends, as we discuss important topics ranging from global warming to social justice and so on, which are topics concerning each and every one of us, but are also topics related to our political family in Europe and throughout the world, we forget that all projects, all programs, all energies, organizations, institutions, foundations that are committed to working on these topics, to raise awareness of the public on these topics, to promote activism, volunteerism and so on, are destined to take back if nothing, only a small part of their investment as long as we do not invest, as long as companies, organizations, foundations, institutions do not invest in the political education of the younger generations.

By political education I do not mean party education, since this is something that parties can do individually, but I mean education of the younger generations with the simple basic idea that without politics, all these efforts are doomed not to make the best out of the societies, the countries and states throughout the world, and without politics people are doomed to suffer more and more from the woes or hardship associating various eras, which require an extraordinary interaction between them to cope because this is why the politics was born.

The constant decline of the idea that politics is useless, the constantly prevailing idea that politics is an evil and that we should avoid politics in our lives is the basis of a foretold failure. 

Without politics, without improving the quality of politics through education, through the passing on to the younger generations those elements that have kept politics afloat since it was born, we will find it extremely difficult, decade after decade. Our political academy is just a drop in the ocean, yet we want to make that effort and join forces with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and others to help talented young girls and boys, inclined to activism and who want their country to understand and politics is a valuable tool for them to fight for their causes and advance these causes. 

I won’t take more of your time, but I respected the theme party concept we used to host 30 years ago, but it took the 30th anniversary of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation to participate in such a party.

I now believe the themes are over and it is time for entertainment. I very much hope you have organized entertainment equally good as the thematic part of this meeting. Thank you!