1. ‘’Small country complex’’: sixth anniversary of NATO membership – successes vs unmentioned challenges
Albania is a small state and almost irrelevant to what happens in the international arena, however it is also a member state of the biggest security and defense organization, NATO. April marked six years since the country joined the alliance and it rightfully served as a moment of reflection on achievements and challenges deriving from membership. This was necessary to understand benefits, responsibilities and challenges of the future. In the celebrations of the event, during speeches, several key words can be identified that fully reflect our country’s approach towards itself. In several occasions during her speech, Minister Kodheli referred to the moments of joy and covenant (besa) with NATO. To confirm this, the U.S Ambassador, Mr. Donald Lu, refers to Albania as the most enthusiastic country in NATO, even though the smallest one. What they fail to mention are current and future challenges. For instance, our country is ranked among those that have not fulfilled the requirement to keep the defense budget at 2%. To the contrary, from year to year the latter keeps shrinking by reaching 0.84% in 2014, which goes against the commitment of member countries of NATO to prevent further decrease in the defense budget.
An important dimension (maybe the only) of the celebrations for the sixth anniversay of NATO membership was substituting kalashnokovs with M4 carabines. This coincides with expenditures of the Ministry for April (and March), where 93.16% are occupied by equipment, maintenance and services. Investment in managment of defense resources, including standardization of education and military exercice are not reflected in the registered expenditures for this month, despite being a priority for the Defense Directive 2015.
- Balkan Medical Task Force
On April 17, the Minister of Defense signed an agreement to establish the Balkan Medical Task Force, sponsored by the United States and Koingdom of Norway. The aim of the agreement, according to the notification in the official website of the Ministry, is to strengthen multinational medical capacities in the Western Balkans. However, it is unclear from the enthusiastic news what the details of the agreement are and what are the duties and responsibilites of Albania, deriving from signing the agreement. Firstly, no information is given as to the funds allocated by the United States and Norway on the one hand and the responsibilities and contributions of Albania as party to the regional agreement.
- The approach ‘’the lesser evil’’
Although it is not in the competencies of the Ministry of Defense, Minister Kodheli did not keep silent on the hottest topic of the day: Albanians abandoning their country. In the conference ‘’The great transformation: 25 years of Albanian experiences of transition and democratization’’ she said: ‘’But allow me to become controversial and point out where Albanians are instinctively going? Albanians search for the West, despite the concern they create, they are a better example than the small number of people who choose the fundamentalist East’’. At least two problems can be identified in this declaration. First of all, Ms. Kodheli is trying to justify failures in social programs and policies, for the success of which she is portraying a distorted panorama far from reality. Secondly, this declaration offers a negative approach of ‘’it could be worst’’, since it is praising those who go to the West for good intentions versus those who are eastern fundamentalists (!). As for the latter, such an approach is wrong not only because it does not leave space for improvement, but it also accepts the fenomenon as the lesser evil, thus not allowing facing the problem.
- Public Procurement of the Ministry of Defense
Several strange elements stand out in the public procurement of the Ministry of defense:
- In two different cases, companies are excluded from the tender because they have not submited documentation that prove they have paid their obligations to OSHEE for the period of application.
- Just in April three different tenders are won by the same company, which oddly offers always the lowest value which renders it a winner.
To end on a positive note, the Ministry of Defense should be congratulated for the initiative to establish a rehabilitation center for families of military representatives whose children have problems of an autistic spectre. The opening ceremony of this centre was organized on the 22 of April 2015. According to the speech of Minister Kodheli during the opening ceremony ‘’If this center we open today serves for attention, professional treatment and support, our final challenge is full integration of these children in society. Our goal is not only to facilitate sacrifices, or to be close to the families, it is rather to march this path together until we guarantee complete conditions for their equal treatment and acceptance in society, this is our final destination’’.
Ministria e Mbrojtjes – http://www.mod.gov.al/index.php/newsroom/lajme
Qendra e Botimeve Zyrtare – http://www.qbz.gov.al/botime/botimetf15.htm
Agjencia e Prokurimeve Publike – https://www.app.gov.al
Kryeministria – http://www.kryeministria.al/al/