Oct 19, 2010

CfA: International Conference, 20 Years After: Rethinking Democracy


Twenty Years After: Rethinking Democracy and State in Albania

Tirana, Oct 22nd-23rd 2010

The Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS),
The Albanian Media Institute (AMI),
The Southeast EuropeAssociation (SOG),
The Department for South-East-European History of the Universityof Graz,
The Friedrich-Ebert- Foundation (FES)

Twenty years on from the fall of the Berlin Wall and the wave of change in the Eastern Block, Albanialooks remarkably different. Twenty years after, the giant state produced by communism, a state that not only failed to provide basic political and public goods for citizens, but was a threat to freedom, property, life and future of Albanians, has gone forever. Also a very extreme centralized economy and an indoctrinated society has gone together with the harsh communist rule. What are then today in Albaniathe state, the economy and society? And what is the interplay among them?

The first and immediate answer is that twenty years after the fall of the communist regime, the state, the economy and society are in transition. Frequently used to describe the first years of democratization, however, the term “transition� is by now reductionist, if not irrelevant in exploring the present, and useless in shedding light on the aspired future.

Can weak institutions, eroding legitimacy of political institutions, distrust of political parties, corruption and sustained political tensions be considered temporary distortions of the transition towards democracy or consolidating features of the system and Albanian political landscape?

Even though Albaniais now a NATO member and under evaluation for candidate status in the EU integration process, conflict and contestation continue over the fundamental institution of democracy – free and fair elections.

Twenty years ago, two great challenges lay ahead of Albania’s economic transformation:
1) moving from an entirely centralized system to a market economy, and 2) accommodating globalization as the foretold international trend immediately after the end of the Cold War. From the shock therapy strategy pursued at the beginning of the nineties to the neoliberal ideas of the small state, the often controversial and chaotic economic transformation of Albaniahas had and continues to have tremendous impact on social mobility within the country and abroad, on polarization and the unequal development of regions etc.

Twenty years after, Albania social fabric has changed .However, the presence of a dynamic civil society as an ultimate outcome of societal modernization is yet to materialize. Civil society organizations have indisputably contributed to societal modernization, but they have not been immune to politicization, loss of independence and therefore, loss of their raison d’être - to serve as government watchdogs and enable democratic, societal control of state.

The problematic and often controversial transition of Albanian politics, economy and society has been mirrored by the transition of the media to today’s rather chaotic and dysfunctional critical stage. Likewise, the opposite is true: malfunctioning within the media has mirrored itself negatively in the democratic development of the country. Twenty years after, the Albanian media as be best described as finding itself in a position where there is freedom of press, but
not free press.

The international community has played an important role in Albania’s democratic processes and transformations. The role and participation of the international community in the fabric of democracy in Albaniahas evolved with time. For a relatively long time, Albaniawas undoubtedly a negotiated democracy, dominated by external actors, slowly heading towards an exit strategy. Despite appearances, Albaniais far from that point and still cultivates a culture of
dependency. The higher trust towards international actors evidenced in the Albanian public indicates the serious democracy and legitimacy crisis of governing institutions. Two decades on the role of outsiders in Albaniais clearly related to state functionality and democracy.

The Conference will be honored with the presence and contribution of the following scholars and analysts:

Nicholas Cristopher Pano, Elez Biberaj, Sabri Godo ,Clarissa de Waal, Fatos Lubonja, Franz Lothar-Altmann, Bernd Fischer, Michael WeichertAlbert Rakipi, Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers, Ivan Vejvoda, Remzi Lani, Paolo Quercia, Michael (Misha) Glenny, Karl Kaser, Piro Misha, Alexandros Mallies, Miranda Vickers, James Pettifer, Janusz Bugajski, Michael Schmidt-Neke, Robert Pichler, Saso Ordanoski, Johanna Deimel, Hannsjoerg Brey, Judith Hoffman, Daniel Korski, Veton Surroi, Judith Batt, Gabriel Partos, Fabrizio Luciolli, Sonja Licht, Petras Blaess Rafaljovski, Sozi Ozel, Gerald Knaus.

Attendance by invitation only:

Conference Secretariat
Ms. Rezarta Ajazaj, PhD
E-mail: rajazaj@aiis- albania.org

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