Saying “NO” for the future of your country

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Syria_chemical_weapons

Last autumn, during the hot topic of Syria’s chemical weapons, Albania was following the case as a sensitive topic. After Syria accepted on turning over all of their chemical weapons, the Nobel Peace Prize winning Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) made a detailed plan, “Destruction of Syrian Chemical Weapons”. The main issue was where the different types of weapons, (sulfur mustard, sarin, VX), are going to be destroyed and which country would accept all these hazardous waste in their territory. The US and Russia, two main negotiators, firstly came out with the name of Norway. Norway declined the offer immediately, explaining that they have no experience in the demolition of the chemical weapons and their country is not the most suitable location for this process. But they offer the use of cargo ship to the location of destruction.

Albania was the second most likely country where the destruction of the weapons was headed. It was a direct request to Albania by the United States. It was a very curios choice. A small and a country not much developed, how much experience can have on the destruction of such hazardous weapons.

The only history that Albania has with these kind of weapons was back in 2002, when were discovered 600 bulk containers of chemicals in an abandoned bunker, amount this probably acquires by the communist leader in mid-1970 but nothing is verified. This amount was declared (Albania one of the six nations) in March 2003. The United States assisted on the destruction of this amount in Albania. In July 2007, OPCW confirmed that Albania’s all chemical weapons were destroyed. But some of the hazardous wastes were left in containers that started to leak. In late 2007-early 2008 an environmental remediation firm, hired by the U.S, stated that the problem was worse that it was thought in the beginning. The solution of this firm was simple, reputing the waste in suitable shipping containers and let them sit in the open, on the concrete pad. Both the U.S and Russia have specialized capabilities to destroy themselves the weapons. Why can’t they do it themselves??? Russia has and why was Albania the chosen one? The U.S must have offered something in return for Albania if the destruction of the weapons was accepted. However, is it worthy?? Especially after having a dark past, even with the Americans assistance in the destruction of these kind of weapons.

The news of Albania being a possible candidate in destroying Syria’s chemical weapons, was spread all around the media in the US firstly and than in Albania. To the community it was a shock. Even though the news was all over the place, the media inside and outside Albania was boiling; the government of just several months still hadn’t made any comment about it. Discontent, anger and frustration was surrounding the community. Also the neighbours like Italy and Greece were expressing their insecurities about this news. Chemical weapons in the country, firstly, were not acceptable. And second, every person of the community needs to feel safe and protected by its own government. The people were angry that the prime minister could even take in consideration the proposal. We had no experience, no facilities and we don’t feel safe having those weapons around us. The same as our neighbours, that even not having the toxic agents in their territory, still were alarmed. Also, the complaints were regarding the government keeping the news secret and also the U.S on trying to convince Albania to accept the proposal.

People started to move in their communities and plan the opposition of this proposal. A key role had the civil society together with NGO’s. The most furious people were the young ones, those that have their whole life ahead and want to live in a safe place.

 

Protests took place in the capital city, Tirana and other cities, for days and also during night cold hours. Demonstrators’ fear the proposal’s safety implications and possible impact on the tourism industry. One of the primary names of the Albanian GDP is tourism. Everyone fears that having chemical weapons in their small territory (around 28.000 km2) will scare the tourist. Not taking in consideration the effects that will have in the peoples living in the country.

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Some days later the prime minister of Albania, in a press conference, rejected the proposal of U.S, marking a break with NATO and the relations with the U.S.

It was one of the times where people gathered together, for their own complaints, not forced by any political view, as it is common in Albania. It was a very genuine protest, to protect their country and their future, not for the interests of a political party. It was one of those times were the political figures in the protest were booed, for not wanting to politicise the protest which was only in favour of the interest of the community. That was the first time, I would say after the student movement in December 1990 to put end of the communist era, which the demonstrator’s wanted a better life for themselves. I want to be positive, that this was the turning point of Albanians learning to say “No” and also learning to say their opinion, outside the political box.

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