What to Expect from the New President
By Genc Mlloja
Albanian Daily News
Published May 17, 2017

Despite what is happening in Albania and around in the Western Balkans, there has been an abundance of messages congratulating the President- elect Ilir Meta upon his election by Parliament on April 28 this year. In the wake of the recent political clashes in Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia not only the countries of the Western Balkans but big countries, including the allied ones, have kept a watchful eye even in the wording of the messages sent to Albania's new head of state by them.

Mr. Meta was elected President with 87 votes pro and 2 against with the opposition absent in the 140- member legislative which convened in an extraordinary session, being the fourth round requiring 71 votes in favor. The first three rounds for election of President were exhausted without any candidate.

Mr. Meta will hold the post of President during the term 2017-2022.

No one can define the profile and form of the relationship that President- elect Meta will maintain with Mr. Edi Rama, who by all odds seems to run the new left-wing coalition government for another four- year mandate after the expected June 18, 2017. 

But before trying to make a 'guess' on how the President- elect and the expected re- appointed Premier will define their relationship, it is worthy to quote some of the most significant messages being sent to the former Speaker, who, for the sake of truth, was skilful enough to build up a diplomatic strategy which has been appreciated both in Albania and abroad, but also for his untiring diplomatic drive, especially in the frame of the domestic developments. 

Meta's experience as a Speaker an asset 

As a follow up of what was discussed above it is significant an assessment made by the Greek President, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who in his congratulatory message to Mr. Meta wisely highlighted that the long parliamentary experience will help him to carry out successfully his new task and that his contribution will be valuable in the further improvement of the relations between Greece and Albania.

"Your long service as lawmaker, of course, will contribute, to the successful accomplishment of your new task. I am confident that in your new post you will contribute to the further deepening of the relations between our two countries," noted the President of Greece, Albania's southern neighbor where about 600, 000 Albanian citizens reside and work since 1992 after the fall of communism.

On the other hand the German President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier paid special attention to the consensual adoption of the judiciary reform last year, a consensus achieved after Meta’s ‘stubborn’ persistence.

Trump inauguration, US Senate President meets Meta

It is significant in the message sent by the US Senate President, Orrin G. Hatch, that he had not forgotten but instead appreciated that conversation he had with Mr. Meta, the then Speaker, when the US President, Donald Trump, was inaugurated.

"I liked deeply our conversation on the judiciary reform, drug trafficking and our common cause to defeat ISIS. As one of the newest NATO members, I really appreciated deeply the important contribution of Albania to secure stability in Southern Europe, to fight terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, and advise the countries that aspire to join NATO," said Mr. Hatch in his message expecting to work with Mr. Meta to take forward the common objectives of the US and Albanian great nations.

The President of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic in her message to Mr. Meta highlighted that she was hardly expecting the soonest opportunity to exchange points of view on the perspective of intensifying the existing bilateral. In the meantime the President of Slovenia, Borut Pahor tells Mr. Meta that he expected that the cooperation between Albania and Slovenia will increase, and a better spirit of dialogue would be created among the countries of the region.

Wishing Meta for the new post the President of the Italian Senate, Pietro Grasso underlines expectation that the cooperation between the two countries will grow.  “I want to wish for your election as President of Albania. I am convinced that the cooperation between us will grow," said Grasso. Of course that there has been hundreds of other messages some sent by friendly countries like all the EU and NATO member countries, and some others just for the sake of protocol.

But the intention of the above section was not to play the role of the protocol but to notice that important countries rely on Mr. Meta's maturity.

Meta's expected presidential status

The new expected status of the President- elect, Ilir Meta will definitely bring about changes in all fields encompassing economy, defense, social affairs like health and education, but particularly diplomacy.

Certainly not in the position of the head of the junior coalition ally, the Socialist Movement for Integration (SMI), because as it is known the Constitution does not allow a head of state to be a party member. Rather as the new head of state of this Balkan country.

So one thing is for sure: Mr. Meta’s status will be completely different from the one of the outgoing President, Bujar Nishani for many reasons, which might be of interest to be discussed.

Almost for a four- year period Mr. Nishani, who was elected with the DP votes when in power, has been locked in many disputes with the Premier and they have often opted to open fight and harsh quarrels which sometimes passed the normal protocol.

With regards to the 'new era' in the 'Presidential Palace' it should be said that firstly, everything will depend on what has been agreed between Mr. Rama and Mr. Meta before the acceptance by the former Speaker to take that position, which has been previously reduced to an honorific post with the current Premier not respecting it at all.

My humble opinion is that Mr. Meta, like in many cases during the four- year ruling, will not allow the head of the executive to take a-priori decisions without the knowledge of the people, forget of the president. There are plenty of examples of Mr. Meta's decisive rulings as Speaker of Parliament! 

Secondly, diplomacy has been one of the favorite fields of Mr. Meta, and his seal in that field is remarkable. So the presidential seat will not be anymore of ordinary signatures of letters of credentials, formal approval of ambassadors or treaties and other documents crucial for the interest of Albania. Rather, the new President is expected to have his say on the key decisions, of course on which will be his field of concern.

Thirdly, Mr. Meta has created a moderate and constructive profile in the eyes of the neighboring countries like Greece, Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania.

It should not be forgotten that it was Mr. Meta as Deputy PM and Foreign Ministry who broke the ice in the frozen relations between Albania and Serbia since the break of them in 1946. He launched a two-day official visit to Serbia, where he held talks with the then Serbian President Boris Tadic and Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic on March 12, 2013.

On the other hand, the moderate stance of new Albanian President Ilir Meta has helped to establish channels of communication with the Greek government after the most hostile stance of Prime Minister Edi Rama towards that country in Albania's history.

"With Tranquility and Love!"

Why this well- known saying of the former Speaker has become so popular, surpassing the borders of Albania. Definitely his target behind that motto has been to be an effective public Speaker in Parliament, and the current one, for the sake of the truth, will enter into history as one of the most violent ones having the Premier, Rama and opposition leader, Sali Berisha as key speakers, who used such a bad language that often degenerated into physical clashes among their respective supporters. It has always been the calmness of the Speaker, who did not let things go from bad to worse.

It seems that Mr. Meta has found the true secret to effective public speaking, which would have been a plus for the Premier. If the latter cannot help trying to be as "great" speaker before a group, let them be Albanians or foreigners, Mr. Meta has succeeded to handle an amicably conversation between him and the audience. And I personally have heard such a comment by many diplomats, let alone journalists, who say that he never let them down when they asked a question despite the stress of any given situation.

In addition it might seem just a 'small' sign of protocol but Mr. Meta has been very attentive to the diplomatic receptions of the various embassies in Tirana during the last four years in contrast with Mr. Rama and other authorities, including the FM, Ditmir Bushati.

To conclude it seems that Mr. Meta has found the genuine key to effective diplomacy - speaking and being a good listener. As President such qualities as a candid interlocutor will be an asset for Albania.

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