Albania will not ‘cry at Europe’s door’, PM says

Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama said, ‘To say that Albanians will become Swedes, I don’t think it will happen.’ (AFP)
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Updated 06 February 2020

Albania will not ‘cry at Europe’s door’, PM says

  • The country of 2.8 million hoped to get the greenlight to start EU entry talks in October, but France, Denmark and the Netherlands vetoed the move
  • Neighbouring North Macedonia’s bid was also put on hold due to resistance chiefly from Paris

TIRANA: Albania will not “stay at Europe’s door and cry” for it to open, Prime Minister Edi Rama told AFP, stressing that the Balkan state must focus on its own future while Brussels sorts out thorny questions over its admissions process.
The country of 2.8 million hoped to get the greenlight to start EU entry talks in October, but France, Denmark and the Netherlands vetoed the move.
Neighbouring North Macedonia’s bid was also put on hold due to resistance chiefly from Paris.
The French-led “non” outraged many in the Balkans and in the EU, where most member states had wanted to reward the two countries for pushing through significant reforms.
Brussels is now redoubling efforts to get all member states on board to approve the start of Albania and North Macedonia’s talks at a summit in May.
Prime Minister Rama, however, is not holding his breath.
“I do not expect anything,” Rama, a painter and former basketball player, told AFP in an interview conducted in French.
“We should do the things that should be done” regardless of decisions in Brussels, he said, adding that the country cannot “continue to live with this anxiety of waiting for something that is out of our hands.”
“We will not stay at Europe’s door and cry,” said the 55-year-old, who was wearing a long black coat and sneakers.
“We are not on this path because the French or the Germans are asking us, but because it is the only reasonable path for the future of our children and for the future of this country,” he said.
Rama added that the EU’s own reforms are far from Tirana’s control, though “it is important for us too that Europe changes.”
Europe “is suffering, it doesn’t work as it should, that’s clear.”
In order to placate French demands to rework the EU’s entry requirements before opening the gate to new members, the European Commission proposed a tougher and more political admissions process this week.
For Tirana, the main areas under scrutiny are its efforts to root out corruption and organized crime, as well as to strengthen rule of law.
The country has carried out intensive justice reforms since 2016, with hundreds of judges and prosecutors vetted for any links to crime or other unethical conduct.
While Brussels has applauded this process, a progress report in 2019 still noted that “corruption is prevalent in many areas” in the Balkan state. The next report is due at the end of the month.
“Albania did more than any other country for the opening of negotiations,” insisted Rama, who has been in power since 2013.
But the country will “continue to do its homework (because) we are not doing it for them, we are doing it for ourselves,” he added.
On that front, the government recently adopted a decree to bolster the fight against organized crime.
It has also asked parliament to crack down on corruption and crime in the construction sector — an issue that came to light after a deadly earthquake in November damaged more than 80,000 buildings, killing 51 people.
Authorities say they will put an end to decades of unchecked urbanization, especially in coastal tourist areas where many developers have built without proper permits or respect for safety codes.
The cost of the earthquake reconstruction effort is estimated at a billion euros (dollars), with which Albania is set to receive help at a donor conference later this month in Brussels.
“We greatly appreciate the will to organize this conference and we hope it will be successful,” Rama said.
Asked if the earthquake was a wake-up call for Albania generally, Rama said he was a “realist.”
“This is a huge opportunity for the country to demonstrate it is doing things differently,” he said.
“But to say that Albanians will become Swedes, I don’t think it will happen.”


Muslims in Italy follow rules while celebrating Eid Al-Fitr

Updated 26 May 2020

Muslims in Italy follow rules while celebrating Eid Al-Fitr

  • Italian media reported that Muslims gathered to perform Eid prayers in compliance with anti-coronavirus measures

ROME: Italy’s Muslims gathered in parks and public squares to celebrate the end of Ramadan, as many of the country’s mosques remained shut because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Islamic places of worship have been going slow on welcoming back congregations, despite an easing of a months-long lockdown, in order to guarantee social distancing and other preventive steps required under an agreement between Muslim communities and the government.

Mosques and prayer rooms will have to respect the same strict rules which have been imposed on Catholic churches. Halls will have to be sanitized before and after every prayer and a maximum of 200 people will be allowed, even in the biggest places of worship. For outdoor prayers a limit of 1,000 people has been set and each worshipper must be spaced at least one meter apart from the next. Those with a temperature above 37.5 degrees cannot enter.

Italian media reported that Muslims gathered to perform Eid prayers in compliance with anti-coronavirus measures.

“Happy Eid Al-Fitr to all Muslims in Italy as they have two reasons to celebrate,” Yassine Lafram, president of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII), said in a message. 

“This is not the only festivity closing the holy month of Ramadan, it matters even more to us all this year in Italy as it finally marks the return of our faithful to the mosque after several months of lockdown due to coronavirus. The Muslim faithful all over Italy now pray to God to accept the fasts, prayers and every good deed carried out during this holy  month and bring peace and blessing to our homes, so that phase two in the fight against COVID-19 in Italy will start in the best way possible.”

Many Muslims celebrated Eid at home with immediate family members. Those who decided to meet and pray together outside their households did it while “strictly respecting” health protocols and social distancing to avoid risk of infection, UCOII said. The organization asked people to display the same “utmost prudence and responsibility” when entering every place of worship from now on.

At Milan’s Al-Wahid Mosque Imam Yahya Sergio Pallavicini set up spacing for 140 new prayer mats. There are different entry and exit points for men and women, along with dedicated courtyards. 

Sanitization is carried out regularly while detergents, disinfecting gel and personal protective equipment are being offered by city authorities. “We pray for the inner and outer health of believers and Italian people,” Pallavicini said at the start of Eid prayers.

Almost 200 people gathered to pray in Rome’s Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. Muslims arranged their prayer mats and moved about in line with social distancing rules. Posters in Italian and Arabic told people that hugging was not allowed. 

“Even if we are in an outside space, nobody has to get too close,” the imam told his flock before prayers commenced. “It is mandatory and for the sake of everyone’s health.” There were children in the congregation too, and everyone wore face masks.

“I am so happy that I am finally meeting my friends for this prayer, but we have to stay apart,” 13-year-old Samir told Arab News. “We will have time to embrace, to play together in the future, when the virus will be gone.” He said he had missed going to his mosque, near Furio Camillo station, during the lockdown. 

“I prayed with my father, of course we were following prayers on YouTube and on Facebook. But it was not the same. Here I really feel part of a group sharing a faith. And it is great to be together again,” he added.

In Piazza Re di Roma, in the southern part of the city center, 250 Muslims gathered to pray. “We just prayed together, and stayed in the square for an hour only,” 31-year-old Latif told Arab News. “The celebration will be with our families later on.”

An outdoor celebration took place in the Sicilian capital Palermo with Mayor Leoluca Orlando also joining in. “We are happy for this celebration which marks another sign of the return to normality of our communities,” he told Arab News. “Being able to pray together is one of the most important needs for a religion as that improves the sense of community. Now we can do it again together: and that’s a great sign not only for the Muslim community but for the entire population of Palermo.”