2018 - What can we expect after a political year?

2018 - What can we expect after a political year?
This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.afp.al

By Alfred Peza

The 2017 political year that we’re leaving behind was dominated by the 25 June parliamentary elections, reform in justice and diplomatic developments on the European integration of Albania. Therefore, 2018 is expected to depend and be dictated by these dynamics. However, we just need to wait and see what happens in the next 12 months.

Reform in justice and its effects will be the most important developments on the legal side of things, but also politically, because the new justice machinery has been set in motion.

After the election of the new Interim Prosecutor General, once the High Board of Prosecution is set up, it will lead to the voting of the permanent Prosecutor General and the setting up of the High Board of the Judiciary.  This way, the first results of the vetting process will be seen and the new structures will start working. The US ambassador in Tirana, Donald Lu has warned that in January, the “new fishing boat” will manage to catch big fishes of corruption and abuse with power in Albania.

If 2018 starts like this, then this will dictate the dynamic of other developments on the political class in general, Parliament, and central and local administration. There are many criminal cases and cases of corruption which have been covered by dust all these years. If they are opened, they will cause a big earthquake on the corrupt and criminalized part of this country’s elite. Almost all former communist countries have gone through this path prior to becoming members of the European Union.

The process of integration is expected to be another important “track” that Albania’s political life will cross next year, because in all likelihood in June, we are expected to have a date for the launch of accession talks with the European Union. A dream which can finally take shape. Experts of integration affairs and today’s European leaders have forecasted that the most optimistic scenario for Albania is for the country to become part of the Union in 2015.

This optimism is based on three things:

First, there’s a will for the realization of a number of structural and modernizing reforms which culminated with the biggest reform in the judicial system.

Secondly, there’s an internal political stability, there have been high electoral standards and there’s been a promise to take Albania out of the map of the cultivation and traffic of cannabis by declaring war to organized crime.

The third reason relates to the macroeconomic stability of the country, the business environment and investments, reform in the administration and the strengthening of our regional position as a factor of stability in the Balkans.

This process is also favored by a favorable geopolitical situation, developments in Brussels after Brexit and the Euro-Atlantic alarm for the growing Russian influence in the region.

Besides the reform in the judicial system and the process of integration, I believe that there are two other major developments which are expected to determine 2018.

This is a non-electoral year and as a result, political parties do not have many electoral activities. Therefore, I believe that the majority’s energies will be channeled in delivering governing targets and electoral promises.

Meanwhile, as far as the opposition is concerned, I believe that the main focus will be its activity against the government. The opposition will be focused on reorganizing and motivating its structures after this year’s defeat in the elections, through protests, rallies, meetings and battles in Parliament.

Besides the debates in Parliament on the issue of the new electoral reform, I believe that both the DP and SMI will continue to try and find a suitable formula of cooperation in order to maximize their vote in an attempt to damage the government’s public support. The DP seems to be clearer in its objectives.

Meanwhile, after returning to opposition after 8 years in power, SMI still needs time to adapt to the new political ground.

Small parties will try to conclude their efforts for an alliance which would give a new dimension to their weight on the market. However, they are not expected to impose Parliament on the issue of the new electoral law. The most they can do would be to find a formula which would grow their political representation in the next local government elections and then, for the general parliamentary elections.

One of the biggest developments expected for 2018 is the possibility of a new boom in the industry of tourism, because during 2017, almost all the leading international media and those specialized in this domain, have included Albania in the map of top world destinations. This is an excellent opportunity to further change the image of the country, to increase revenues and strengthen this key sector for economic development. The completion of investments in several key points of road infrastructure would be an extraordinary opportunity for this industry, as it may turn one of the main pillars of our national economy.

The New Year is always filled with new hopes, projects and objectives. Though these lines, we have tried to see the glass half full, while we still don’t know what fate has in store for the other half.

Note: The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy

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