(De)politicization of citizens’ concerns on security in Albania’s public debate: Understanding and addressing the mismatch

Supported by:Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Tirana

Project:Measuring citizens' attitudes towards security and justice in Albania

Albania’s membership path to the EU has become one of the most politicized issues in the Albanian political context. Considering the new accession methodology, the process of European integration is even dynamic. With the clustering of the negotiation chapters, candidate countries are expected to advance in several areas simultaneously rather than fulfil the chapters individually in a row. Among the cluster of fundamentals (first chapters to be opened and last to be closed) are issues of security. In this regard, this policy paper will address citizens’ perceptions of security, as shown by the 2020 Albanian Security Barometer survey, with a special focus on the socio-political factors that shape these perceptions. Additionally, it will undertake an evaluation of the responsiveness of parties towards citizens’ concerns about security, how parties address these concerns, how they engage with security issues, and the ongoing reforms in several state institutions and government branches.

The focus on parties is particularly relevant given that in a parliamentary system such as in Albania, parties represent the legislators and thus carry the weight of pushing reforms forward. Despite attempts to encourage civic participation and empower civil society to engage in decision-making, looking at international reports (e.g. Freedom House, Transparency International, OSCE) throughout the years, the assessment of civil liberties in the region remains rather discouraging. In this regard, parties not only represent legislators but in the face of a rather weak civil society, continue to be the most important subjects for carrying out reforms, especially the most important ones at the core of the accession process to the EU. Thus, parties remain the most crucial subject in the politicization of issues and are the main drivers of the overall political debate.

The policy paper will be enriched with a broader contextual analysis of democratic backsliding in the recent years in Western Balkans, indicated both by data on measures of democracy and human rights such as Freedom House as well as scholars in the field of political science. The aim is to draw a clearer picture of political tendencies in the region and the challenges that they bring to accountability, transparency, and representation which, in turn, may have an impact on public perception of security.

The analysis will be two-fold. On the one hand, this paper relies on data drawn by the Albanian Security Barometer[1], which captures public perceptions of security. On the other hand, it relies on party programs and public statements of political leaders, to capture the importance that parties give to security and conclude the extent to which they address citizens’ concerns about security. In the frame of Albania’s accession process to the EU and the ongoing negotiations, a special focus will fall on acquis chapters 23 and 24, which are included in the cluster on fundamentals, respectively the chapters on Judiciary and Fundamental Rights and Justice, Freedom, and Security. In this regard, the 2020 European Commission report on Albania’s progress will be used as an additional reference in stating the salience of security within the accession process and the politicization in the Albanian political context.

The policy paper will conclude with a set of recommendations that aim both at enhancing responsiveness towards citizens’ concerns and at improving the carrying out of some of the most prominent reforms in particular state institutions.