By: Iain Martin, Editor of CapX
Why is it assumed to be acceptable to be rude about Albania? Here I am going to defend the honour of the Albanian people and explain why they deserve our friendship and understanding, rather than crude insults by smug, metropolitan Remain campaigners who are forever lecturing others about xenophobia.
In a speech last week Michael Gove cited Albania among a long list of countries that trade with the EU while not being in it (although Albania is in the queue to join). Albania is not in the European Economic Area either, but wants to join. Cue derision from the Remain campaign. An advert was produced which the Remainers have pushed out with glee on social media.
It features the red Albanian flag flying above Buckingham Palace, with the sneering slogan declaring: “The Leave Campaign want us to quit the single market and be like Albania. Seriously.”
To put it mildly, Albania has not had its historical troubles to seek. It is in a geographical position that made it ideal for being trampled over by major powers. As the Ottoman empire disintegrated it became independent, although this was not a happy experience either as it was economically under-developed and riven by factional politics. Then the Italians invaded in 1939. The Fascist occupation was followed by a period of occupation by Nazi Germany. As though matters could not get any worse, after the Second World War a bunch of particularly stupid, brutal, cruel Communists took over and set about turning the place into one of the most backward economies on earth, while banning religion and torturing people.
The path out of Communism since 1989 has hardly been smooth either. The new governing class bankrupted the country with a series of crazed financial schemes in the 1990s, during which time Albania’s greatest export was billed as organised crime. Actually, a lot of law-abiding Albanians had had enough. A third of the population (1.25m) left for a new start in Italy, Greece and other parts of Europe. Eventually after numerous changes of government, the place got in the the queue for the EU and tourism has boomed in the last decade. In short, the Albanians have had a pretty awful time of it in the last century, and it has usually not been of their own making. Yet the Remain campaign thinks they are fair game and worthy of mockery of a kind that if it came from Nigel Farage would be denounced by the Guardian.
Remain campaign, you owe Albania an apology.