Albania: South-East looking West!

I have a hard time to remember how many times I was asked in US: “Where are you from? Russia, Germany?” Hmm, not really, I’m from Albania. Well, I certainly I don’t have an accent to be from Albany, NY, so it’s got to be something else, more exotic;) The next obvious question of an unsatisfied curious mind was something like “… and where is that located?”

Yeah, where is Albania located? In Europe, a border country with ancient Greece, the former Yugoslavian states, while facing Italy throughout Adriatic coastline. That’s so obvious and well hidden at the same time since it was such a small self-isolated country for 45 years of severe communist dictatorship. I still remember the fascination of my cute Japanese friend at the E.K.Y. University after discovering the existence of an “nonexistent” country to her knowledge, surrounded by Hellenic and Roman old civilizations. With an inquiring thrill for discovering that Albania emerged from the prehistoric stage of 4th century BC, with early records of Illyria, my friend Ayumi even was offered to visit me in Tirana that summer of 2004.

How fascinating it is for a non-European person to learn about the co-existence of so many different neighboring countries settling in a rather small territory with often pre-historic conflicting neighbors. Balkans – the Old Mountain or the Chain of Wooded Mountains is a hot spot in Europe. It is geographically part of the old continent, but not quite considered part of it, at least politically and economically speaking.

All South Eastern European countries (a rather more inclusive term then Balkans itself), though arising from different backgrounds and conditions in the recent decades, seem to have a common denominator: a shared love for EU and US.

Thinking back of my country in early transition years, certain slogans “We want Albania like the rest of Europe” still persist in our collective memory of the famous 90s. In my early youth that seemed like a genuine dream more likely to be fulfilled in the near future regardless the heavy social-economic state and hardship of our parents’ generation.

And here we are 20+ years later when it feels like a lot and then nothing really has changed. The years of transition  to the free market economy, democratic law and order were so everlasting that “our men” took off that out of date wording from our daily news vocabulary and replaced it with a newer one, trendier one, meeting conditions for EU integration.

Same substance, different wording mistakenly gives a rather evolving impression of our society.  The earlier genuine dream of the 90’s for being part of European community has been endorsed by every politician’s agenda. It is worthless to spend time and energy on describing our collective frustration as citizens toward our political representation, whom are blaming one another for constantly failing on doing their homework assigned to meet conditions to grant the EU candidacy status. What is even worse than frustration is our collective indifference on accepting this theatrical role play in every inch of media channels. In this sense we are a dying society unable to trigger change and move forward. With that in mind, I so miss the 90’s wind of change.

While reading the daily local and international feeds, it so feels like living in two parallel worlds. Someone can rightfully acknowledge that our respective worlds are quite different with regards to local matters. That’s true. What makes a hot issue in Tirana cannot necessarily apply for Madrid. But in recent years there seems to be a serious sovereign debt crisis for many developed countries of the European Union which doesn’t even exclude the likelihood that any of these countries leave the Eurozone if not complying with the harsh measures set to reduce their public debt. This certainly does not translate into “Please Albania, do your homework since we are waiting for you arms wide open to join us”, like we are constantly hearing in our media/diplomatic channels. Under these circumstances the remote connection to west looks still far away. It will require a great deal of political will and social pressure to gear up the integration process with the hope that one day we finally will know where our country is located.

P.S: Welcome to my blog! 🙂