Center for Comparative and International Studies, in cooperation with Center Science and Innovation for Development and Mesdheu Center, successfully organized the second day 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 workshop, organized online on 10th April 2021, brought together academics, researchers, experts, civil society activists, and young people to discuss youth involvement in a constructive dialogue regarding the communist past focusing on the case of Albania. Thirty persons from Albania, Italy, France, and North Macedonia participated on the second day.
The first speaker of the workshop was Altin Gjeta, who holds a Master of Arts in International Relations and Politics from the University of Westminster, London. He works as a researcher at Albanian Centre for Good Governance, visiting lecturer at the University of Durres and he is a regular contributor with columns to different media platforms. In his note, he argued that the failure of Albania to deal with its past has perverted the establishment of shared memory and understating of its communist regime’s massive human rights abuses. Altin concluded that these assemblages of failures, denials of communist regime abuses, the emergence of a crisis of representation, and disillusionments towards democracy risk tearing apart the very social fabric of the society – and lastly hampering further Albania’s transition toward a functioning democracy.
Dr. Erida Curraj, holds a Doctorate Degree in Industrial Design, a Joint Ph.D. Program between Ferrara and Polis University. She teaches a master course in Industrial Product Development at the Department of Art Design at Polis University, and a Design course at the Polytechnic University of Tirana and is an expert at SCiDEV. She presented the findings of her Ph.D. project regarding industrial design in the communist regime. She presented part of her database of furniture design from 1945 to 1990 and D-I-Y furniture designs after the first decade of post-communism. She concluded that generally, in Albania is still a misunderstanding of the value of industrial heritage, the lack of community conscience, and political responsiveness.
Prof. Asoc. Ilir Kalemaj, Ph.D, Vice-Rector and Chair of Department of Social Sciences University of New York Tirana, main argument in his note was that Albania has a weak political culture that is chiefly the legacy of its recent communist past. Albania’s communism that lasted for more than five decades was of a pure totalitarian type, making it an exception even among its peers in former Eastern Europe. This combined with weak democratization standards and feeble institutions in the pre-communist era was one of the main impediments of establishing a strong rule of law that is a pre-condition for fast democratic consolidation in the aftermath of the communist era. Therefore, Albania is still suffering from a protracted transition, with little headway toward strengthening its institutions and building a vibrant deliberative democracy.
Dr. Dorina Gjipali, Lecturer at Luarasi University and expert at CCIS, focused on the constitutional development in Albania during and post-communism. Socialism opposed strongly the principle of separation of powers, considering it a fabrication of reality and supporting the full power of the Assemblies as direct representatives of the sovereignty of the people. These theoretical positions and the support of the principle of unity of power were materialized in the Soviet constitutions and later in other socialist countries including Albania. She concluded that today, while in Albania the separation of powers is weakened and seriously threaten by a super-powerful executive, ensuring and protecting the constitutional democracy, and the social contract it reflects, requires active citizenship.
Lutjona Lula, expert of SCiDEV with a Joint Master of Arts (M.A.) focused in South East European Studies from the University of Belgrade and Karl-Franzens University of Graz, discussed transitional justice in the case of Albania. Lack of databases and a common understanding of the number of victims weakens the victim-centered processes of transitional justice, by making it difficult to promote internal reconciliation of the society. Transitional Justice tools that have a perpetrators-centered approach such as lustration have not been successful amidst some initiated attempts. The country has not gone through a complete transitional justice process. The topic of compensations has been the most publicly discussed, and often used for short-term political powers. While compensations are currently being implemented accordingly, internal reconciliation of the Albanian society must take place as soon as possible in order to avoid further delays and restore justice and trust in Albanian democracy.
Rei Shehu, a student at the Mediterranean University of Albania also shared his thoughts regarding youth perspective on the communist part and current collective memory in Albania. The session was then followed with Q&A and with a youth perspective session whereby young participants shared their views on how to deal with the past.