Albania’s government ministries are draped by displays of EU flags this New Year's Eve.
But it is unclear, according to a new report, whether the officials inside gave much more thought to their meaning than did the Czech greengrocer in Vaclav Havel's essay, "The Power of the Powerless".
In it, the late Czech dissident-turned-statesman pondered the meaning of ideology by deconstructing the action of a grocery store manager who puts in his window, among the onions and carrots, the slogan: "Workers of the world, unite!"
“The use of the EU as a buzzword in general terms dominates political speech in Albania,” Adela Halo, coordinator of the good governance and integration programme at OSFA and a co-author of the report, told Balkan Insight.
“But when it comes to concrete reforms that are at the core of the EU integration agenda… they are almost absent from political speeches,” she added.
OSFA carried out textual analysis of the declarations made by Prime Minister Sali Berisha, opposition leader Edi Rama and several mainstream dailies, ahead of the 2009 parliamentary elections and the local polls in May 2011.
When half-a-million words of Berisha’s and Rama’s speeches were analyzed, OSFA found that the EU or Europe, used in the same semantic meaning, dominated the speeches of both leaders.
Berisha used the "EU" as buzzword nearly 8,000 times during the 2009 and 2011 electoral campaigns, while Rama used it almost 5,000 times over the same period.
But, although the EU dominates political speeches in election campaigns, Albania has made little actual progress in its accession process.
In December, the EU Council of Minister rejected its bid for candidate status for a third year, citing insufficient progress in addressing the 12 reform priorities outlined by the European Commission.
The OSFA study noted that although EU dominates the speeches of the Albanian elite, the 12 priorities outlined by the Commission found little space in their communication.
When the speeches of the two leaders were juxtaposed with articles published by local media, the report concludes that these “priorities are paid more attention by the press than the political leaders".