Interview with Marije Cornelissen about the European elections, women’s position and LGBTI community issues in Albania
* Marije Cornelissen is a Dutch politician and former member of the European Parliament from the Netherlands.
What is your opinion regarding the European elections and what do you think it can be the implication on the returning of VISA regime for Albania
We had European elections very recently. As we expected, the far right has grown quite a bit with more right-wing populists in the parliament, but also the greens have grown very much and they are traditionally stoned supporters of the accession process of all countries of the Western Balkans. So it’s a bit up in the air now what is going to happen, first in the accession process the parliament is important, but the European Commission and the Council of Ministers are even more important. So the Commission assess is the progress that a country has made and the parliament only gives its opinion but it has no power there and the Council of Ministers has to decide with unanimity before a country can take its next step. Next week, on the 18th of June, will be the decision made by the Council of Ministers on opening accession negotiation with both, North Macedonia and Albania.
From what I have heard the Netherlands and France are being difficult about opening negotiations with Albania, basically having to do as they say organized crime and corruption mainly, but knowing The Netherlands and probably this goes for France as well, it has very much to do with their own populists and right-wing voter base. So, in The Netherlands, there is this new party called “Forum for Democracy” which won enormously in last provincial’s elections, so the government in the Netherlands is afraid of them. Marine Le Paine won greatly in the European Elections in France, so Macron is afraid of her and her voters and one of the ways to show the population that they are being really firm against foreigners, is to deny Albania the opening of negotiations.
The bizarre thing is that, I think they are going to grant the North Macedonia opening, to reward them for the name settlement and I saw that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands has even said that North Macedonia is further in its accession process than Albania is. This is of course absolutely ridiculous because Albania has gone further with reforms than North Macedonia has.
As the conservative parties are getting stronger, is it a clear message about the weakness of the progressive and left-wing parties in Europe and not only?
I think that the political landscape is polarizing more and more in most countries, so the populist right is getting bigger and more extreme. On the other hand, left-wing and green parties are getting stronger as well. So, yes more polarization between progressive and conservatives. So I would hope and I’ve always been a supporter of keeping the accession process really technical and not political, just saying to every country “This is what you need to do to become a member of the EU” and if they have done that, applaud them and give them a next step.
So what most people don’t realize, is that the Deutsch parliament and I am sure this goes for the French as well, have no idea how this process works. I saw some notices saying “Albania is not ready to come into the EU now”, well no one is saying that we are just saying to open the negotiations and make sure that a thorough reform process starts and goes on at its momentum.
The time to be really critical is in about 10 years’ time when negotiations are closed. So, it’s not about Albania or North Macedonia coming into the EU now, but a lot of parliamentarians even don’t understand that at all and don’t particularly care even, because they are worried just for their internal affairs and their own voters. This makes me really sad because many decision made about Albania should concern Albanian and keep account of Albanian people because it’s about them in the end.
Many critical articles about the last European Elections have underlined the women’s strengthening position in the European parties and having indeed a louder voice regarding the restrictive abortion policies or even other problematic issues about women….
In the last few years and especially since when Trump was elected in the U.S, the feminist movement is been growing quite significantly. We have women’s marches in a lot of countries that are getting thousands of supporters, there is more attention to women issues, there are more women being elected, more women getting into governments.
So, Macron whatever he does wrong in the accession process, he did from a government with half women. Pedro Sanchez in Spain, even had a majority women cabinet last year in its forming, while now that hopefully is the same. So in that sense, the European Parliament also has quite a lot of women (over 40% women), which in one hand is positive, but on the other hand, we have these conservative forces that are trying to undermine the women’s rights. Especially at the UN level, there’s what we call the “unholy alliance” consisting traditionally of Iran, Vatican, Russia, some Middle Eastern Countries and some Islamic African countries and now the US and Brazil have joined this alliance. This is very strange because these countries suddenly became best friends when it comes to curtailing women’s rights, curtailing abortions rights.
Fortunately, there is this counter-movement as well, so while Poland, for instance, is trying to curtail abortion rights there were huge protests. In the US you see a couple of states Alabama and Georgia have adopted very restrictive abortion laws, but at the same time, Vermont has adopted a law to liberalize it and even further. So, again I think that we are living in a time of polarization where forces and counter forces more and more are poling each-other. And the positive thing about that is when things are in movement, there is always a possibility for change. So I’m trying to keep optimistic.
To be continued…