Conversation between the ambassador of the European Union in Albania, Ettore Sequi, and the great Albanian writer, Ismail Kadare.
The dialogue between Ismail Kadare and Ambassador Sequi is the first in a series to be published by the press, conceived by the Delegation of the European Union in Albania, in which writers, philosophers, analysts, artists share with the ambassador of the European Union and with the Albanian public their views on the European integration of Albania.
Box 1: Kadare: To your question about what Europe represents for Albania I would answer: itself or nothing. And perhaps I would add also these words: The natural state of Albania, the only one.
Box 2: Kadare: Convinced of desiring Europe much more strongly and urgently than others, there are many of us who believe that this argument is sufficient to convince anyone that we deserve it much more and much before everyone else. A single step separates this misunderstanding from another, even more serious than the first. The new misunderstanding consists in an intensification of the first two. From the formula: we deserve it because we want it to pass easily to the other phase, that is the conviction of being European by now.
TIRANA - SEPTEMBER 2012
Ambassador Sequi: Mr Kadare, I wanted to thank you for having accepted to be part of this initiative in which the European Union ambassador establishes an open dialogue with some of the most renowned representatives of Albanian society in relation to one of the most important topics of the moment, a lot of fashion "for anyone, or rather the integration of Albania into Europe. It is a real honor for me, as a representative of the European Union, to have you as an interlocutor in this open exchange of ideas and points of view. You are the genius of Albanian literature and I am more than sure that I would not exaggerate if I said that you are also the most renowned personality in all of Albania.
Once, an Albanian friend of mine told me that a long time ago, perhaps even at the beginning of the new Albanian state or maybe a little later, when an Albanian traveled outside Albania or when he boarded a ship bound for the West, he used to use the expression "I go to Europe", as if Albania were not already in Europe. I have heard that this expression was also used in Greece a long time ago. I personally believe that Albania belongs to Europe, not only geographically, but also as a real entity in many aspects. Mr Kadare, what does Europe represent for the Albanians: a territory, a concept, a purpose, a dream, a return to the family?
Ismail Kadare: What you say about integration in Europe is quite true, as it is the most passionate theme of the Albanians today as it is today. I would add: it is happily true. The opposite would be sad. As regards the way of observing Europe in a detached way, from Albania and the Balkans in general, I completely agree with you. Only here would I dare to say "unfortunately" instead of "happily". For many consecutive centuries Europe became so foreign to the Balkans that there seemed to have been a tectonic pit dividing them. In reality, neither the Balkans nor Europe moved. But the inner mental and spiritual distance was such that it created the paradox you just mentioned. In the twentieth century, as if the old distance were not enough, Albanian Communism gave birth to a new detachment. Europe became "imperialist", a forbidden, doubly distant, highly hostile space. We now often use the expression: "Return to Europe" as if it were a journey to the old continent that we have abandoned and that awaits us. The drama was so serious that today it is hard to believe that we have become non-European, or rather we have dis-Europeanized, but not following a transfer or deportation elsewhere, but right where we have always been, right in the middle Europe. Right there we separated from it, surrounded by barbed wires, like cursed beings. Therefore, when it comes to integration, returning to Europe it is obvious that the opposite process will take place exactly where the damage occurred. In other words, where we have always been and where we are now. In this sense, to your question about what Europe represents for Albania, I would answer: itself or everything. And perhaps I would also add the words: the only natural state of Albania.
Ambassador Sequi: Starting from "Il castello", "The bearer of misfortune", "The adverse year" up to "Doruntina", to mention just a few of your books, you systematically deal with the relationship between Albania and Europe, the place of Albania in Europe and the risks of detachment from Europe. In many of your essays and interviews you often talk about what you call "The European identity of the Albanians". In short, what would you say are the most distinct features of this identity? You spend most of your time in France, in "Europe". Do you think there is a common European identity or as Wim Wenders says, a Europe understood as a soul? If yes, what are the relations of the Albanian identity and the European one today?
Ismail Kadare: Starting from the last part of your question, Europe as a vital faculty, understood as a spiritual principle, has been defined since the past century. What was valid for a nation continued to be valid for a family of nations. Europe, as you also say, was conceived as such by its spiritual founders, that is, as a large family. Reason why, the birth of the United Europe, if for the old Europeans it was good news, it was twice as much for us others, that we had lost it. For us, Europe, even before being a luxury, an ascent towards progress, a perfection, is a necessity. A missed life. For the Albanians, the most isolated people on the continent, it was something more: a home. It may sound pathetic, but it is not. For a people without a family, the discovery of the latter constitutes an entrance to a completely new phase of existence. In other words, for the first time in the last 600 years Albania is preparing to enter the continent without its solitude. And this new phase in itself requires a new doctrine. The doctrines of peoples are often elaborated in the most difficult periods. It was the Albanian National Renaissance, heir to the distant European enlightenment, that defined Albania's new orientation. The statements "Freedom" and "Europe" were getting closer and closer. The main exponent of the Albanian Renaissance, Naim Frasheri, went even further, proposing the new idea in the form of a cosmic subversion. In one of his poems, he wrote that the sun for Albania does not rise to the east, but to the west ("O fausto glow, that rise where sunsets"). According to the Renaissance a free, serious and virtuous Albania could be such only in its own continent.
Ambassador Sequi: From time to time I repeat to my Albanian interlocutors and friends that being part of the European Union, that is of Europe in itself, must be a national goal, today more than ever. On the other hand, I also want to repeat that being a member of the great European family is not an empty rhetoric or a purpose in itself. Personally, I believe that being part of Europe, not only for Albania but for all the Western Balkan states, constitutes a goal that helps your countries and your people to embrace and put into practice the values
and they reside at the base and are shared among all members of the European club, which ultimately contribute to making your society and the countries included more democratic, freer and more prosperous: therefore, it would make a big contribution to your people because live better, in peace and harmony.
In one of your interviews, talk about "the unconditional devotion of the Albanians to Europe" and refer to an Albanian writer of the '30 years, who said: "we love Europe with a tragic love". In your brilliant essay "On the European identity of the Albanians", you write that "the loss and rediscovery of the maternal continent does not make you less European than the others. Far from it, it makes you even more so. As an attentive observer of Albanian life, you believe that it is not always understood that traveling without visas in Europe does not automatically make you part of Europe or Europe, indeed there are other much more important elements, those fundamental values of which we spoke earlier. , which should be embraced, enthroned and made self-reflected by every country in order to be called "European country"?
Ismail Kadare: It is true that when something is desired excessively, the path to it could be complicated by misunderstandings. Albanians are famous about the latter. Convinced of desiring Europe much more strongly and urgently than others, there are many of us who believe that this argument is sufficient to convince anyone that we deserve it much more and much sooner than all the others. A single step separates this misunderstanding from another, even more serious than the first. The new misunderstanding consists in an intensification of the first two. From the formula: we deserve it because we want it to pass easily to the other phase, that is the conviction of being European by now. At first sight, this naive belief appears surprising, but not in a good way. You, as a representative of Europe, are entirely right to remind us that being European is not a goal in itself, such as moving to a higher and more elitist condition. The appropriation of the values of the other peoples that make up the European club, even before it means respect for Europe, means respect for oneself. It is associated with the level of individual, institutional and legal life. These all go together, following an inner harmony.
Without wishing to be the devil's advocate, I would like to suggest that a form of strong craving, of hope and naive impatience, are perhaps better than indifference and distrust. When I talked about the excessive optimism for Europeanisation I did not consider the opposite, which unfortunately is equally excessive. The prejudice that the Balkans can never become European is quite common in the peninsula. It must not be forgotten that the occupation of a multinational empire, which was the Ottoman one, had the permanent aim of generating the distrust of the nations in themselves. After all, self-confidence becomes part of freedom in cases like this. It will be of great help so that European values and standards, which are widely spoken of today, are reflected more efficiently in us.
Ambassador Sequi: As we mentioned before, being part of the European Union means embracing the fundamental values and principles of the great European family. The 10 October of this year, the European Union will publish an annual report, which we call the "Progress Report", in which the progress of Albania in its attempts to approach the European Union starting from the Last year. We have signaled to our Albanian partners that there are still a series of things to be accomplished, some goals to be achieved and some results to be achieved before October if they wish to hasten progress towards Europe. Of course, much of the work to be done falls on the political class. So far, we can say that some of the goals have been achieved, but there is still work to be done.
In your essay "The disagreement", which is rightly considered the pinnacle of Albanian thought, you have also dealt with what you call "the difficult relationship of the Albanians with themselves". Personally, I think that the question of mutual trust between Albanians is a very important element to be able to succeed on their way to Europe. I also believe that dialogue, collaboration and consensus can lead to feasible results.
Do you think the Albanian political class can achieve better results thanks to greater mobilization of attempts and greater mutual trust? Not only better, but also faster, because time runs and we cannot let it escape. A few weeks ago I reminded an Albanian friend and journalist of what Kennedy said of the time: "The great French Marshal Lyautey asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener replied that it took a long time for the tree to grow and become big only after 100 years. The Marshal replied: "then we have no time to lose, stop it this afternoon."
Do you believe that Albanian society, under the influence of what I call "positive pressure" and putting more effort into it, should take on a wider role in order to achieve greater and faster progress towards Europe?
Ismail Kadare: It is the first time in the history of Albania, after a century of independence, that another common goal unites politics and society, public opinion and religion, the elite and the common people as if by magic. You can imagine what I mean: The European goal.
No Albanian political party, no program or doctrine would have a long life if it dared to put even in the slightest doubt the European orientation.
When I stated shortly before that Europe is everything for us, it may have seemed exaggerated, but I am convinced of it. In addition to common values, in addition to the standards and the pace of progress, which as you said is reflected each year by the "Progress Report", the pact with Europe teaches us something, which in other conditions would have been the most difficult to achieve: harmony with oneself. This mutual understanding applies, for us Albanians, as much as it does for interbalcan harmony. Europe has failed to easily implement this kind of understanding. He worked on us without even noticing it and maybe we didn't even notice it. Albanian political life constantly needs European "positive pressure", as you have said. The expression "political life" already says it all. These are human lives, not political fights, which are basically nothing but war. And war means half life, which in turn means, more or less, half death. I certainly do not expect an idyll between the Albanian political parties, much less in relations between Albania and Europe or between the Balkans and Europe. Europe, including the Atlantic Alliance, nowadays represents the family that gives the greatest hopes to the nations, but it is not said that it represents only a push forward for these peoples. Europe has a harsh tradition and this is essentially itself. All of us, the European continent and the western Balkans, including Albania, should not be afraid of the term "hardness". Whether we like it or not, we all still keep a link with Sparta. And in Sparta there were not only Thermopylae. Of course today's chronicle of the continent is enriched with human feelings that
before they were unknown. You also told me about Kennedy's anecdote. I would now like to quote the words of an old Albanian gentleman, recently invited by his daughter to Paris. Marveling at the city, he would have naively said: "Maybe I misunderstood, but I heard that this one ... Europe, the beautiful Europe, could one day be ruined".
The expression "could be ruined" or "I fear it could be ruined" was much used by the older generation in our country. Usually it was referred to Albania, especially during its first steps as an independent state, which represented a continuous anxiety for the future. Albania will be done or not. It will continue to exist or it will be ruined ... Incredible as an elderly Albanian gentleman used in the nineteenth century, with the same sensitivity, the same expression referring to Europe. In addition to concerns about the future of Europe, whether it will change or not, whether it will be transformed into a federation of states or a political whole, etc. I wanted to consider the concern of an average Albanian as a worry for things of his own home, of the big common house.
Ambassador Sequi: Being the greatest Albanian writer, you are undoubtedly also one of the most famous Balkans outside the peninsula. And I have the feeling that being Balkan makes you feel good. I know not to exaggerate if I say that Kadare is the Balkan lawyer abroad, a rather strange lawyer who defends his peninsula by loving it and criticizing it at the same time. One of the subjects that most often pursues in your works is the relationship of the Balkan Peninsula with Europe and the European perspective of the region. In one of the last interviews you affirm that "the Balkans should feel honored that Europe is seriously concerned about them". Obviously, as an ambassador of the European Union in a Balkan country like Albania, I am very pleased to hear this. In addition, you also spoke of an absolutely necessary conciliation process in the Balkans.
In your opinion, what role should Europe take in this context? What should the Balkans improve by themselves and, vice versa, what should Europe do? A friend of ours says that "if the Balkans are the problem of Europe, then Europe is the solution for the Balkans". To what extent do you agree with this statement?
Ismail Kadare: I completely agree with you. In another context, our conversation would seem fairly uniform as we return to the same subject again. But for Europe it is always an exception. When it comes to Europe or Balkan relations - Albania - Europe, as repetitive as it may seem to persevere on the same subjects, it is never excessive.
I confirm that it is true that, with my criticisms, I defend the Balkans. The rejection of belonging to the Balkans seems to be very popular lately. There are even whole peoples trying to escape from this peninsula, as if they were saying: "call us whatever you want, south-western European, Euro-Mediterranean, post-European, but not Balkan."
I don't judge these people. I personally am not ashamed to be Balkan. Of course I'm not proud of it. It is now recognized that this is the most problematic peninsula on the continent. But it is also one of the regions richest in memories, wisdom and madness at the same time. In the meantime this is the part of the earth that we are touched by, so it is our duty to follow the only way that is granted to us, that is, that of peaceful coexistence. The harmony between the peoples of the peninsula does not require a philosophy to be justified. It is simply a way that leads to life and not to its opposite. Allow me to repeat the concept that this harmony (alias vita) depends on all the Balkans. There are three peoples with a greater role: Serbs, Albanians, Greeks. All three difficult, all three important for better or for worse.
The initiative of the conciliation process in the peninsula cannot take place if in their consciences the idea that none of these three peoples can influence the existence of the other does not dominate. If this is not understood, everything else cannot be understood or explained. Currently, the atmosphere on the peninsula is somewhat distant from an emancipation of this kind. I would also like to recall that, recently, a former foreign minister of a Balkan state has just sworn publicly that the act of recognition, ie the right to a normal life for half of the neighboring Albanian people, should have passed over his corpse !
It would be useless to add comments to it. To this minister I would answer with a single sentence: give too much importance to your corpse, Mr. Minister!
I really don't believe that the peninsula needs fallacious epics of corpses. The time has come for another type of epic.
According to a well-known concept, within the time unit there is from time to time a fraction of time, which presents extraordinary potential. But it has a peculiar characteristic: it doesn't last long. In other words, if it is not seized at the moment, we risk letting it slip and then we should wait for its next demonstration.
I want to believe that this moment has now arrived for our peninsula. During our conversation we proved to be under his influence. Many might ask themselves: how come all this concern for interbalcanization, for Europe, for European orientation? We have many other urgent, current and dramatic problems.
I understand these people very well. Albania has many serious problems. Problems related to democracy, independence of institutions, justice, corruption, free voting, not to mention poverty and the massacre of the environment. However, I am fully convinced that, under no circumstances and for any reason, the question we have been dealing with these last problems so far. Indeed it touches them all, gives alarm and seeks a more immediate solution to each of them.
It is often used to say that every people solves their own problems, but no matter how good it may sound, it is not entirely true. For example, I do not know any people who managed to beat fascism alone, much less communism, without a network of global circumstances.
We need you.
We have needed you throughout the century, but it was not possible to obtain it. During the years of communism, Albania pretended to detach itself from the Soviet Union, but in substance this was only a bilateral staging. A secret pact, more understood than expressed, still continued between the two parties. The core of the pact consisted of: "You can kick as much as you want, we will defend you, as long as you don't approach the West!" Never with Europe! "
Now Europe is indispensable to us more than ever. Meanwhile, Albania will have to make a serious effort to change the European orientation, which risks becoming a threat to existence.
It often happens that the reasons for the urgent need we have for Europe are not always formulated with due clarity. Therefore I want to repeat these words again: we need you. And since you quoted a poet, you have made the paraphrase of another poet easier, which stated that, in most cases, love is the most sublime manifestation of reason.
Translated by AlbaniaNews by Daniela Vathi
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