Albania’s socialist prime minister, Edi Rama, is the only foreign leader who came to the U.S. to trash talk Donald J. Trump last year, possibly at the behest of his close friend, George Soros, writes Spectator.org.
“God forbid” Trump wins the Republican nomination Rama told CNN’s Richard Quest.
Trump’s election would “harm a lot America and it would harm a lot the world,” predicted the 52-year-old professional artist.
Yet, Rama continues to benefit from a massive USAID program managed by his second wife (of four) and to manipulate a sympathetic U.S. embassy, even as he runs the country into the ground while fomenting chaos in neighboring Macedonia.
U.S. policy needs to make a U-Turn in Albania, assuming it’s even on the radar in Foggy Bottom.
Simply put: Albania is a mess.
One of the country’s two major political powers, the center-right Democratic Party, is boycotting parliament and refuses to participate in June elections as long as the governing Socialist Party is in charge.
Meanwhile, former political dissidents surged through Tirana streets last month protesting Rama’s appointment of a new Interior Minister, Fatimir Xhafaj, who was a state prosecutor during Enver Hoxha’s malevolent, highly repressive communist regime and has a brother indicted for international drug trafficking.
Hoxha imprisoned close to 100,000 people in inhuman jails and camps; some 5,500 people were executed without trial. Among the groups he wiped out were poets, writers, intellectuals, and Christian clergy. Pope Francis beatified 38 Albanian martyrs last year.
Incredibly, 27 years after communism’s collapse, Albanian politics is still vexed by predatory clans empowered during the Stalin-, then Mao-inspired dictatorship.
Did the West fail to aid Albania on its path toward democracy?
On the contrary, Albania (some three million people living in a country the size of Connecticut) has received extensive assistance from Western institutions including the European Union and U.S. government.
USAID spent $60 million in the country’s justice sector alone, 2000 to 2015 — often coordinated with George Soros’ Open Society Foundation under the last administration. As Albanian newspaper editor Erl Murati explained earlier this year, “U.S. official interests coincide with the activity of Soros. It’s difficult to distinguish where the interest of one begins and the other ends. His interests became synonymous with American policy.”
But Western aid has mainly reinforced a dysfunctional State while enriching a nepotistic network.
As explored in the first part of this series, “Macedonia to George Soros and USAID: Go Away,” this external aid is helping the Socialist Party and its fifth column of NGO allies, employing violence as one of its noteworthy tactics, try to gain power against conservatives.
Soros’ analogous plan for Albania succeeded already in 2013, when Edi Rama’s Socialist Party defeated the Democratic Party in a victory preceded by violence.
Albania actually figured in the 2016 American election.
The WikiLeaks revelation of Clinton emails last summer included a smoking gun: Proof that billionaire tax-evader, George Soros, directed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to take specific action, namely to intervene in Tirana on behalf of Edi Rama, leading violent street protests in January 2011.
Clinton’s staff immediately responded. Within days, a EU envoy suggested by Soros, Slovak diplomat Miroslav Lajcak (current foreign minister for the governing Direction-Social Democracy Party, he was a Communist Party member before 1990), arrived in country.
At the time, Rama was Tirana’s mayor and the country’s opposition leader, locked in a power struggle with the governing Democratic Party, which had narrowly defeated his side two years before.
Rama instigated the demonstrations — which killed four people and injured more than 150 — to protest government corruption, revealed by a video secretly recorded by the economy minister, showing how he was ordered by Deputy Prime Minister Ilir Meta to commit fraud involving public contracts and bribes. The two men belong to the same party, the Socialist Movement for Integration, DP’s coalition partner at the time.
Superficially, Edi Rama, a 6-foot 6-inch former national basketball player, turned artist, turned politician, has a cool, hipster vibe — at least, that’s what he strives to project.
Elected in 2000 to serve as mayor of the capital city (where over 800,000 people live, approximately 30 percent of the population), having spent two years as Minister of Youth, Rama made a global impression for ordering drab, Soviet-style housing blocks painted with whirls, swirls, and checkerboards from a Crayola palette.
He polished an international reputation as a post-modern innovator, giving, for example, a Ted Talk in Thessaloniki on how his urban paint projects brought down crime — although there’s no evidence they did — and bragging to the Guardian, “Once the buildings were colored, people started to get rid of the heavy fences of their shops. In the painted roads, we had 100% tax collection from the people, while tax collection was normally 4%. People accepted to pay their share for the city, because they realized that through the colors the city exists.”
Cannabis and Corruption
How is the Renaissance coming along, almost four years later? Excellent, if you’re in the drug trade. Rather badly, if you are a regular citizen.
Albania is Europe’s “main source” for cannabis, according to the 2017 Serious and Organized Crime Threat Assessment, released annually by Europol. As the best independent, English-language news site Exit.al points out, last year, the country was one producer among several (Bulgaria, Kosovo, and Serbia), but Albania appears to have displaced the others.
Cannabis production is the most important agricultural income generator, especially in mountainous regions. An Italian blog explains, “Cannabis plantations have grown up like mushrooms all over the country” in the last four years, in part because a new Vietnamese seed that grows quicker is being used.
According to Italy’s top anti-mafia prosecutor, Franko Roberti, cannabis trafficking from Albania to Italy increased 300 percent over the last year — and receipts are linked to financing for Islamic extremists, the Italians believe.
An onsite BBC report in December estimated the industry is worth approximately five billion euros a year, which is about half of the country’s GDP.
Heroin from Afghanistan also transits Albania on its way to Europe, and Albanian émigrés comprise a distribution network throughout Europe.
Although Rama points to a marked increase in marijuana confiscation by police, independent journalist Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei assessed a new drug action plan prepared for the EU and concluded it won’t make a dent in prosecuting organized crime — an unsurprising weakness considering the new interior minister’s brother is an international cocaine dealer under indictment in Italy.
In a different case, a major drug dealer wanted by the Greek government for financing multiple cannabis shipments, Klemend Balili, can’t be touched, due to his connections with Socialist Party national and local officials, write Balkan Insight and CNN Greece based on police sources.
The drug trade is enabled by ubiquitous corruption marring Albanian law enforcement, justice, and politics.
A European Union study found an increase between 2014 and 2016 in citizens being expected to bribe officials — and more public hopelessness, as well.
Meanwhile, Albanian news sites are filled with bizarre accounts of both bad behavior by politicians and brazen disregard for attempts to make them accountable: Two SP mayors investigated for document fraud were protected by the Central Election Commission as was a SP parliamentarian who assaulted colleagues. At least, the deputy accused of murder in Belgium and of plotting to kill Speaker Meta eventually did lose parliamentary immunity.
New York University Professor Shinasi Rama, an Albanian-American (no relation to the prime minister), confirms, “Albania is totally and thoroughly corrupt, criminalized to the core, a mafia state.”
The country “is being used by international crime syndicates with terrible consequences for the State, its people, social values, and of course, for democracy, because the mafia only recognizes one form of rule, its own, and it wants to impose this rule over politicians as well,” he continued.
“Basically politicians are the capos of the mafia, jostling for power, because who ever loses the State loses a lot more than administrative authority,” said the international relations specialist, who helped found the Albanian Bee, an anti-establishment diaspora group.