Albanian Literary Figure Faik Konica once said:
Në qoftë se Shqipëria do të vdiste ndonjëherë, atëherë në epitafin e saj duhet të shkruhet: “Shqipëria lindi nga Zoti, shpëtoi nga rastësia, vdiq nga politikanët.
Translation: If Albania dies someday, her epithet should be written as such: Albania was born from God, saved by chance, died from politicians.
I feel like this statement accurately reflects the current sentiment surrounding the issue of chemical weapons from Syria. For those that do not know, Albania is currently a candidate site for the disarmament of the Assad’s regime’s chemical weapons from Syria. While Russia has negotiated the destruction of the weapons, Assad has stated that he does not want the process to take place in Syria. Russia and the US have remained two of the most vocal countries but neither has volunteered to do so on its own soil. Enter Albania. Norway and Denmark were also petitioned, as well as France. All three of these countries have said “no”. In the past, Albania has served as a site for the destruction of chemical weapons. It is believed that Albania was the first country to destroy all of its own communist chemical arsenal in 2007 (about 16 tons), though there are some who doubt that they have been destroyed in their entirety. At the present moment Albania is under a great deal of pressure to accept the current offer. Many feel that the leaders can use this as an opportunity to gain positive global recognition, receive money (I’m sure a large sum though I do not know how much), and overall, impress leaders in the US and Europe, which would ultimately help with EU membership. Note, the European Commission just recently recommended that Albania become an EU candidate country in October of this year.
Considering these aspects, there are several reasons why the Albanian government would want to bring the weapons here for destruction. BUT THEY NEED TO SAY NO! For starters, these weapons would cause large environmental concerns for the country, exposing Albania to huge amounts of toxins. This could not be clearer as many of the other countries have immediately said “no” for the exact reason. In one of the articles I have printed below, the author makes mention of US environmental policies against the import of such weapons. Imagine the outrage if it was suggested that Austin, TX serve as the cite for the weapons destruction. So why then would Albanians need to be exposed to them? Furthermore, even if Albania did get rid of its weapons from the 1960s and 70s, these weapons from Syria today are probably very different and more technologically advanced. In addition to this, there is a great chance that these weapons could be trafficked, which would cause even more detriment to a country that is currently struggling with widespread organized crime and corruption.
If these reasons are not convincing enough as to why the weapons should not be destroyed here, let us all take time to remember the tragedy in Gerdec in March of 2008. Gerdec is a small coastal Albanian city that served as the site of weapons deactivation, which resulted in a catastrophic explosion, killing over 25 people and wounding about 300 others. Many of those wounded lost limbs and major body parts, and still today have not yet received proper aid or assistance. You can see a lot of these victims here in the streets of Tirana pleading for money or food. As it is written on many walls and sidewalks here, “Mos harro 15 Mars” translation, “Don’t forget March 15th”.
I have included a YouTube clip below of some brief footage from one of the protests last week here in Tirana. I have also included links to other articles written on the subject, some well written, others not so much. This is just to give you all an idea of the voices in the matter. Stay tuned for more info.
- Albania asked to host destruction of Syria’s chemical arsenal (latimes.com)
- Send Syria’s Chemical Arms to Albania (bloomberg.com)
- Albania confirms US demand on Syria chemical weapon destruction (news.yahoo.com)