You are here: Home
Albania’s modern history can be described with Tirana’s cafés, and each phase had a defining locale. When Albania opened in 1990, the Dajti Hotel was a hub of social life. The café with a parquet floor and high windows offered a tranquil place to talk politics, mostly with former communists who felt at ease in the faded room. By my arrival in 1993, Tirana’s elite drank coffee in the pyramid, the former EnverHoxhaMuseum. Journalists, ministers, and members of parliament sat at low tables with red upholstered seats to gossip and scheme. Over time, cafés grew around the pyramid’s edge, down the boulevard, and into RiniaPark, each with a specific clientele: pro-government journalists, opposition journalists, writers, professors, actors, and exiled Kosovars. From 1994 to 1997, the liveliest café was Bar West on RiniaPark’s northern side, known as Fidel’s after the name of its owner. A prefabricated glass-and-metal hut, it served the politicians, journalists, and intellectuals who opposed Berisha and the spies who monitored their lives.
Everyone played it cool, sipping espresso in the morning and raki inthe afternoon, watching who talked with whom. To this day, a weekly magazine from Tirana has a political gossip section called “Bar West.”
The Europeans deluded themselves that the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina in April 1992 would calm down the ultranationalists, bring about an acceptable compromise and, more importantly, prevent large-scale violence. Their decision, accompanied by various statements and declarations, called for an immediate ceasefire. For example, only a few days after the recognition, they ‘call[ed] upon Serbian and Croatian Governments to exercise all their undoubted influence to end the interference in the affairs of an independent republic and to condemn publicly and unreservedly the use of force in Bosnia and Herzegovina’, warning them that ‘[p]arties responsible for such actions will be internationally held accountable for their acts’.
European in Bosnia and Herzegovina
With the fall of the Berlin Wall, a wave of political changes came also to the Balkans. As a legacy of almost 50 years of communism in the region, people were more susceptible to continuing to cherish the cult of the leader, even in multiparty systems. Some of those leaders brought independence and ‘democratic’ mechanisms to their countries but remained as key political figures who suppressed development of a democratic culture. Since the wartime leaders have been replaced by more democratic politicians, the Balkan states have attempted to build more democratic governments and societies. However, the main dilemmas relate to security and unresolved statehood. This has dominated political life and influences how the European Union interacts with the region. Fears of a chain reaction in the Balkans’ ‘powder keg’ (i.e. the re-instigation of movements to create ‘greater’ nations in order to enlarge the boundaries of the state beyond historical boundaries, beyond those areas where the national ethnic group was in the majority or to adopt ethnic cleansing as a political doctrine), and that this could spread to the rest of Europe, continue to define the EU’s engagement policy and the ways in which the accession and preaccession agenda is articulated.
REFERENCE TO THE EU CHARTER OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS
In recent decades, within the EU, increasing attention has been paid to fundamental rights. In the first place the Treaties of Maastricht and Amsterdam inserted amendments on the applicability of fundamental rights in the European Treaties. In particular, the Treaty of Amsterdam brought in a basic standard by which the ECHR and the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitutional traditions common to the Member States were recognised as general principles of Community law. Moreover, the Treaty of Amsterdam inserted a few specific fundamental rights in the European Treaties. Secondly, it was considered whether the EU as such could join the European Convention on Human Rights. Thirdly, the EU itself engaged in the preparation of a Charter of Fundamental Rights. This latter process was taken up in 2000 by a convention that drafted the so-called Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. This Charter was adopted in December 2000 by the European Council of Nice, but at that time it did not receive a legally binding character.