Center for Comparative and International Studies, in cooperation with Center Science and Innovation for Development and Mesdheu Center, successfully organized the plenary session of the first workshop in Tirana in the framework of Europe for Citizen Project “Youth involvement in a constructive dialogue: Communist Past in Contemporary Western Balkan” (YOU-WB).
The plenary session, organized online on 9th April 2021, brought together academics, researchers, experts, civil society activists, and young people to discuss youth’s involvement in a constructive dialogue regarding the communist past focusing on the case of Albania. Fifty persons from Albania, Italy, France, and North Macedonia participated on the first day. The keynote speakers were: Prof. Dr. Adrian Civici, Rector of the Mediterranean University of Tirana, and Prof. Assoc. Dr. Enriketa Pandelejmoni (Papa).
Prof. Civici focused on the Albanian economy crisis in the years 1980-1990 and its impact on the end of the socialist system. He emphasized that it is crucial to deal with the past to make the future’s right actions. In the last decade of the ’80s-’90s, the Albanian economy showed signs of a total crisis. Consumer goods began to be massively lacking, switching to the food coupons system for the population, exports decreased, while demand for basic imports was constantly increasing, foreign exchange reserves were declining, and, in its entirety, domestic production, especially agri-food, was declining at an alarming rate. The country fell into a deep economic and financial crisis, and the system of the centralized economy no longer had any means or opportunity to stop it. In a broad sense, despite several attempts to modify economic policy and allow some elements of the “capitalist economy,” this was a crisis of the socialist system itself and, consequently, could not be resolved without changing it.
Prof. Pandelejmoni (Papa) tackled communist legacy and memory-making in Albania. She noted that 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the history of communism still presents itself as one of the most polarizing and controversial themes in Eastern Europe’sEurope’s culture of memory, including Albania. In Albania, the research on communism and its memory are beginning, although 30 years have been passed since communism. The studies on communism and memory of communism are limited reduced in some newspaper articles and most publications of former political prisoners’ memories. Communist crimes are not profoundly studied. The only serious study on violence and terror in Albania to be mentioned is the publication of the volumes of encyclopedia of Institute for the Study of Communist Crimes and Consequences of Communism. Today as witnesses to the tragic event of communism are passing away, politicians, historians, and representatives of associations and NGOs are struggling for the reconstruction of social memory. In the framework of the EU path that post-communist Albania has to follow, it is expected that Albania should apply the European transnational perspective on the politics of communist memory.
Also, Prof. Assoc. Dr. Nevila Xhindi, CCIS Senior Advisor, illustrated the case by providing participants with photos and links from crucial sites in Albania such as museums, archives, etc. She noted that student movements, hunger strikes, protests, and the overthrow of Enver Hoxha monument and his dragging to the student city were the first acts, and unfortunately, the only ones of Albania’s decommunization. The longer the presence of communist persons, beliefs, actions, and mindsets in our country, the longer the transition continues. After three decades, we are not simply facing the inability to punish this period. Today, we are witnessing the tendency to return the old communist signs, symbols, graphics, and ideology. For the final decommunization to take place, justice must be done. Only then can we hope for visible improvements, a functioning democracy, and a smooth end to our transition.
Participants were very active with questions for both Prof. Civici and Prof. Pandelejmoni (Papa). Some of the issues discussed during the first day were: the relation between the Communist Party of Albania and the Italian Communist Party, the impact of communist legacy in the EU integration process, the impact on the economy and first years of transitions, women and communist past and youth role, history school curricula and public narratives about the past, communism and transitional justice.