The decree on the sale of the Armed Forces Cultural Center to the Democratic Party approved by the Council of Ministers - according to the main Albanian media - last August 7 is being targeted by the latter and will be one of the hot topics between majority and opposition in the next legislature of early September.
After the electoral triumph, the Socialists publicly warned the outgoing government to enter a "foster phase" and not make hasty decisions until the establishment of the new government.
The interference of Piazza Austria was not liked by Prime Minister Berisha: with a press release he wanted to reiterate that the government operates in the full of its functions as recognized by the Constitution until the end of the mandate. In fact, the decree in question is only one of many that will be reviewed by the elected center-left majority, but for its dynamics it is the one that best represents the political-institutional culture of the Albanian elite. In the CCFA - PD case, the coup de theater - completely predictable and linear - that tries to partially restore formal legality is not missing. We retraced his steps in chronological order, highlighting the main elements that distinguish Albanian "doing politics".
Transparency and procedure
The first element missing in the transfer of the CCFA to the PD is transparency. In the Albanian institutional practice, the decrees of the Council of Ministers are made public on its official website before being published in the Official Journal, but the decree in question is the only one approved last August 7 not to appear on the site and consequently it is not possible to know the conditions of the assignment and to understand if the procedure was legal or not. In political practice, on the other hand, Albanian governments sometimes skip this piece, opting for direct publication in the Official Gazette - basically - to complete procedures and missing legislative aspects and buy time, because decrees often come into force or the day of issue or day of publication.
However, much of the media with Top Channel in the front row they gave the news the following day: it would be the Mayor of Tirana and the new President of the PD, Lulzim Basha, to propose to Berisha the sale, supported in the operation also by the Minister of Defense Arben Imami. Moreover, for the newspaper Shqip of the 10 last August, the other members of the Executive would have been kept in the dark because during the Council meeting they would not have discussed the cession at all.
Despite the media brawl for nine days there was no official position of the Berisha government and the Democratic Party. Even the media to their neighbors have completely ignored the CCFA - PD case. The same cannot be said for the socialists and the media close to them who are pressing on the second element that is missing in this operation: the procedure. The future Minister of Defense Mimi Kodheli declared the day after that the decree will be repealed because the procedure is not regular: the CCFA is part of the Armed Forces structures and to alienate its status it would be necessary to have the positive opinion of the Chief of Staff, of the President of the Republic and also of the Minister of Defense. Kodheli has repeatedly contacted the Chief of Staff, General Xhemal Gjunkshi who categorically denied having signed documents in which he alienates the CCFA from the inventory of its facilities.
The procedure was explained in more detail by General Aleksandër Lleshi, former Deputy Chief of Staff, in an interview for TV Top Channel the 10 last August. In the process of alienation of a military structure, it is the Chief of Staff to request it or give a positive opinion. Subsequently, the Minister of Defense asks the President of the Republic as Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces to decree its alienation. At the end of this phase, the property can be considered public and its use can be decided.
Institutions and politics
The President of the Republic Bujar Nishani is also in the cauldron of the cession. Thursday 15 August, the media Top Channel e A1 Report have revealed the existence of the presidential decree signed the same day by the Head of State who alienates the military structure of the CCFA. Contacted by A1 Report, President Nishani confirmed that he "responded positively to the request of the Minister of Defense". The reaction of the Prime Minister-elect Edi Rama who wanted to express his indignation via twitter was immediate: "Shame!. The loser party that still governs a NATO country, steals the Central Army House to make its home there! And in violation of the Law! ".
The case is also enriched by the correspondence of the last 14 between the Chief of Staff and the Ministry of Defense, of which it has come into possession Top Channel. It appears that the Ministry has asked General Gjunkshi to sell the CCFA, but the latter expressed its opposition, motivating it in 6 points. Among other things, the Chief of Staff reminds the Secretary General of the Ministry that in "Strategic Defense Review document approved by the 03 Aprile 2013 Council of Ministers has been examined that the CCFA is kept as one of the three fundamental assets of defense resources".
The institutional correspondence between the Ministry and FF.
AA. and the presidential decree show that the process of the transfer procedure began a week after the alleged government decree and in any case there is no FF approval.
AA. Here, another element present in this story: the political use of institutions that inevitably leads to an institutional conflict, weakening them. There is a conflict within the Armed Forces between the Supreme Commander and the Chief of Staff, another between the Armed Forces and the Executive and for the insistence of the latter and the "oversight" of the President of the Republic there will also be the first conflict between the Head of State and the new government.
The reinvention of legality
Another element that could not be missed is the reinvention of legality and is the twist in the CCFA - PD case. After 9 days of total silence, on Friday 16 August Prime Minister Berisha pronounced himself during the meeting of the Council of Ministers. "By 5 minutes the media controlled by Edi Rama have declared that the government has omitted the decree" - Berisha thunders, admitting, however, that they were not wrong about the procedure: "There is a truth ... the decree was not made public because it was understood that there was a mistake ... and could not be presented at the meeting of the Council of Ministers without being decreed by the President of the Republic and the government cannot deliberate any decree violating the powers of the President of the Republic ". No sooner said than done! At the 16 Council meeting in August, the decree on the transfer of the CCFA was approved along with other decrees and made public immediately on the official page of the Council of Ministers.
The decree enters into force immediately and the procedures for transferring ownership from the Ministry of Defense to that of the Interior must be completed by next August 20. The positive aspect is that the CCFA will be granted on loan for use.
It will be difficult to know whether the decree had already been approved in the August 7 meeting, but if so the media made it public. Instead, if Berisha was right, the long silence is not explained and in any case the now formally legal procedure continues to have a problem in its process: the opposition of the Chief of Staff. In other words, the reinvention of legality will continue in the future in search of legislative quibbles and legal interpretations and if it does not deviate from the Albanian political tradition, it will continue in parliament, in court and even in the squares.
Public utility and business
A fifth element to consider is the public utility of the sale that could even disguise economic interests. The current seat of the Democrats is the historical one: they reside there from the 1992. The building is in a property recognized and returned to the legitimate owners and the transfer of the Pd to another location would allow them to use them and the PD to have larger spaces available. Instead the CCFA is a structure in which the Armed Forces Cultural Center is based, composed of some communication departments and the Central Army Circle. Both institutions will leave the current building: the first towards its new headquarters and the second because of the negative balance towards the recently restructured Military Hotel.
For the Democrats, the CCFA would have completely lost its public function and according to Berisha "Has turned into a home for wedding banquets and funeral ceremonies". The Prime Minister is also the spokesperson of PD Erla Mëhilli in the first official statement of the Democrats on Friday 16 August, which defines the CCFA "A former army restaurant" and dwells above all on the public utility of the transfer: to the CCFA "The importance and seriousness will be restored. The building will be modernized and will function as one of the most important public institutions, such as the outbreak of opposition, of the government alternative, the institution in which a new political project for Albania will arise! ”. He is keen to point out Mëhilli that "In every democratic country the improvement of the working conditions of the opposition would have been applauded. The institution of the opposition is the foundation of democracy and a pillar of the development of a nation ".
The Chief of Staff in correspondence with the Ministry of Defense is not of the same opinion on the function of the CCFA. General Gjunkshi argues that national and international activities are carried out within the framework of NATO and FF in the CCFA.
AA. Moreover, it would also have a social function: it is a meeting point for the families of the military and the various generations, and activities and courses are held for the children of military personnel serving in international missions.
Furthermore, the aspect of economic interests in the area in question should not be underestimated. The CCFA of Soviet architecture, with enormous interior spaces and an external area, is located in a very central position on the LungoLana and in the adjacent area there will be two shopping centers and the great mosque of Tirana. In short, the location is tempting to everyone, the prices of real estate are very high and getting our hands on it is already a bargain. It is not excluded that once the property is alienated from the inventory of military structures, those who enjoy the rights can decide what to do with it without evicting the PD from its new location. For example, part of it can be sold to nearby shopping centers whose construction work has just started, or it can be demolished to make another commercial building with the PD inside. If Berisha's exit at the last Council meeting was not a slip of the tongue: among other things, he defined the deed of transfer as "the decree for the transfer of ownership of the CCFA to the Municipality of Tirana with intended use as headquarters of the PD", The Municipality of Tirana and not the Ministry of the Interior should be the last public institution to benefit from the rights. Instead if it was a slip, the situation would be even more worrying.
It was the journalist Mero Baze who revealed other details about the alleged business purposes. In an editorial in his daily Tema del 9 August, he does not use half-words in defining the assignment "A well-designed financial transaction". Part of the current headquarters of the PD would be owned by the family of the wife of the President of the Republic Nishani, legally returned some time ago and the Tirana development plan would provide for the construction of a building instead of the existing one: "A 100 million euro transaction" in which the families of Berisha, Basha and Nishani would have direct interests, today prevented by the presence of the PD. Baze also calls for the impeachment of the President of the Republic who would be in a clear conflict of interest in the public good.
Anti-positivism, anti-communism and institutional confrontation
The last element that characterizes the CCFA - PD case is political and in function of all the others reported previously. To anticipate the extent were the Democratic deputy Edi Paloka in a TV interview ABC News last 13 August and the journalist Edi Lesi, media advisor for the last election campaign of the PD, in an editorial in the newspaper panorama of the 14 August. These are the first two public statements and none of the two democratic representatives focused on the aspects of transparency or procedure but only on the PD's "natural" right to have the new headquarters.
For the deputy Paloka the CCFA is "A wreck of the communist regime", useless, defended by former nostalgic officers who "After destroying American imperialism, today they want to do the same with the opposition" future of the PD. "It is normal that the largest party in the country cannot be left in the middle of the street because the current location is private property and we cannot deny the rights to its owners" - declares Paloka, "Incredulous" that the Prime Minister-Elected Rama will want "Keep as a memorial" the CCFA.
Instead for the journalist Lesi, the future Prime Minister despite promising not to attack the opposition "Is playing with the reins of a crusade against the PD" e "Wants to evict the opposition from its headquarters". Moreover, the future Minister of Defense is only a member of the PS and until the constitution of the new government she has no competence to request an account from the Chief of Staff - says Lesi - as the latter could choose not to answer her.
The spokesperson Mëhilli will make the dose in the official position of Friday 16 August. There would be one in place "Unscrupulous war to undermine the institutional activity of the opposition" it's a "Unparalleled attack on the Democratic Party". The height of madness and revenge would have occurred with the twitter of the leader of the next majority who "in a harsh, undemocratic, undignified language for a modern-day prime minister, he has demonstrated once again that his concept of power is the elimination of the opposition".
In short, the line of the new opposition on the CCFA - PD case seems obvious and oriented to the radicalization of political and institutional confrontation. First and foremost, government anti-positivism which, with the eviction of the opposition from the new headquarters, wants to eliminate it. Then, the anti-communism-communism antimony: the Democratic Party has established democracy and brought the country back into the European and Euro-Atlantic family and is entitled to a seat that meets its goals, instead the Socialist Party defending an ex- Army restaurant, a den of nostalgic ex-officers proves to be heir worthy of the regime. Finally, the assault of the majority on constitutional institutions, in this case the President of the Republic Nishani - who was formerly the Minister of the Interior and one of the main leaders of the PD - is the proof of the totalitarian drift of the new majority.
Although not acceptable to opponents of public financing of parties, there is nothing wrong in granting a public structure to the second party in the country and the first of the opposition provided that it exists, is not used or exploited badly and on loan to use, but above all that the whole procedure is transparent and legal.
The way in which all the actors involved starting from the outgoing majority have managed and will manage the entire operation, is part of the political-institutional culture of the Albanian political class that has become addicted to the institutions, has polarized society and the media into extremis and transformed the principle of weights and counterweights from mutual control between state powers to unconditional control of the governing majority. And often political control has intertwined with economic interests that have nothing to do with the public good. It is not a problem that concerns only the outgoing center-right majority that has ruled in the last 8 years, but has also concerned the center-left government in the 1997 to the 2005. Getting out of this vicious circle will be one of the major challenges of the center-left that is preparing to govern again and, if it is able to put its team in line, it cannot succeed without the will of the opposition.
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