17 prominent personalities join reformed Academy of Sciences

Prime Minister Edi Rama’s remarks at admission ceremony of 17 prominent personalities as associated members of the Academy of Sciences:

 

Dear Skënder,

Please modestly allow me to compliment you on hosting this meeting that, according to me, is yet another event finally to be recorded on the long road full of vicissitudes of this Academy, in a habitat that best fits like a carefully sewn suit, unlike the suits of politics that sometimes squeezed, sometimes wrinkled, strangled and sometimes freed you. I am sincerely grateful for the fact that in a relatively short time you succeeded in saving me from allergy because of the Academy of Sciences.

Much honoured academics, deans and rectors!

You all know and it is not a secret that the relation I have had with the Academy of Sciences has not been a love at first sight, even not at second or third sight. I am very pleased to come back today to the very hall of the unforgettable Aleks Buda, without having to face the challenge of neither uttering words that shun the very essence nor wearing the dress of a swindler from the Tabir Sarai (a government office in Kadare’s Palace of Dreams novel) located along the Martyrs of the Nation Boulevard. However, also allow me to recall here that your much honoured colleague Rexhep Qosja, at a very inspiring unforgettable moment has once written “only the fools feel no pain and that’s why man should always feel some pain about something.”

My words have often hurt many who have loved the Academy of Science unconditionally. However, I want you to sincerely trust me that I have been feeling excruciating pain at the situation we inherited in the Academy of Science when I took office. I can confidently state today that the reform embodied in the 2019 law on the Academy of Sciences has allowed us to make a real leap between two eras of the country’s highest scientific institution.

By the word leap I don’t mean we have safely crossed to the other side, but, if we were to photograph this breakaway moment, we are almost in the middle of step already pulling out of the quagmire, while slowly but confidently setting one foot ashore, from where we can again go off at a run for the Academy of Sciences.

I actually strongly suspected whether this institution, disfigured and vandalized for so long, would ever get out of the 30-year old agony and that’s why I am very happy to be here today and I am not exaggerating it at all. I am also happy that if I was to travel back in time I would no longer find statement of fact I made not long time ago but in 2017, just before the reform process was to begin, and it was about the continued rottenness of an institution that had been founded as the shining jewel in the crown of the Albania knowledge, but that had turned into the source of permanent dismay, if not a heart-breaking sorrow for all its founders.

Of course, the Academy of Sciences has yet a long way to go before this institution moves to where it should be, but it is at least a normal institution, which no longer stands out negatively, even though has yet to stand out positively on the list of 120 academies of sciences around the world.

Being ordinary, though it is boring, I believe it is much better than being notoriously unwanted like being first bottom.

 

Finally, the Academy of Sciences is no longer a constantly dilapidating building structure, like it was the case since the infamous 2008 reform, where every subordinate institution was annihilated and the Academy was entitled to only five honorific competences.

The new law, the outcome of a joint work of this team of academics and the professor freed from the chains of politics to be mostly credited with, envisages 20 direct competences of this institution, as well as a specific role in conducting research and in delivering research and complete freedom to attract additional funding, including European Union funds for scientific research.

We no longer have an institution whose sole purpose of existence degraded into the distribution of honoraria, special allowances and pension payments, while playing no role of whatsoever in science. We no longer have an institution with 85% of its publications being mere reprints or sometimes worthless translations of articles from international scientific institutions, which were then sold as Albanian studies just to feed a handful group of people.

There are three major Albanian studies projects due to be launched following a very sad and long hiatus in this domain, thanks to a government funding, namely the Large Albanian dictionary, Albanian Encyclopaedia and the History of Albanians.

They are definitely not enough and do not represent a sufficient government contribution, yet they are significant signs of life, as well as other signs, finally, in a space having this very institution as its centre of gravity and where so many hallmarks are left thanks to dedication and knowledge of the founders, as well as the members of the Academy, traces that will soon be followed by many others by also increasing the interaction between the Academy and the government. I certainly cannot avoid this, increasing the government’s financial support for the Academy.

The three projects are very significant ones also in another aspect. I have always wondered and tormented by the question – and I have publicly stated this anytime I have visited the Academy – how Aleks Buda or Eqerem Cabej would feel if they were to resurrect and visit the Academy of Science in the aftermath of the “2008 massacre?” Finally, I can provide somehow a relieving answer to this question today, because there are three projects that would make Aleks Buda and his Albanian language alter-ego Eqerem Çabej feel really proud.

Another aspect to be materialized under the ongoing reform is also the vindication of a direct relationship with the universities of this Academy. It sounds unbelievable, but it is unfortunately true that the Academy of Sciences and the universities lived on totally separated over so many years.

Signing the accord with universities and their inclusion in the process if certifying the candidacies running for an academic title, as well as the main projects of deaneries, at least provides the ground for partition from an unfortunately ongoing era, when the academic titles were awarded like the today’s Presidential medals for years on, with these titles bearing the names of Skanderbeg, Naim Frashëri or Mother Teresa, at a time when as much as you can feel proud to get one of them for legitimate reasons, you also feel humiliated when you see that same medal is awarded to a talava music master just a day later.

A year from now an important event is set to take place, if not the most important event in the history of the Academy of Science, its 50th anniversary. Although our country has a much longer academic history, for the sake of truth, since the first Voskopoje academy in 1750 to the cultural Renaissance clubs or the early independence years that de facto, though not de jure, have had the functions of modern Academies, I believe that today, the admission of 17 associated members, the establishment of standing committees according to certain research areas, research in new non-traditional areas, research in new sciences, in future know-how, the establishment of the centre of encyclopaedia and Albanian studies publications are a reason not to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this institution with its head down, although they are not enough to wait with their head held high.

By the way, I came to this event today to ask the professor, after the meeting, the help of the Academy for the new law on medals, which is necessary to integrate Albania in the world of nations where rationality prevails. And not only for the new law on medals, but also for other works that I believe this Academy is ready to take over today, not because here there was a lack of knowledgeable persons, quite the contrary, but because leadership has been missing till recently, organization and desire to make these peoples’ knowledge available to the challenges the country faces through a serious institution.

One should accept it is not an insignificant achievement; on the contrary it is quite an accomplishment that the terrible, scary, degrading and humiliating inertia has given way to a fresh inertia and stable effort to modestly yet decisively develop and transform. I would like to just briefly recall the moment when we on the part of the government were finally convinced it was really worth supporting the reform at a time when each and every one of you knows that there were also several alternative ideas. There is no illusion that the law we have adopted is far from being the most perfect one. However, what this is law is to be credited with is that it has restored the Academy of Science as home to the true researches and I am confident it has discouraged the science charlatans, who at certain points went too far by speaking up on behalf of the Academy of Science. After all, this was the ultimate goal of the all platforms and the ideas and this Academy is based today on several principles and I am pleased to see a broad consensus on these principles among those who directly contribute to the Academy and the scientific research.

And since we are here I would like to share a little yet significant secret that for first time ever Skënder Gjinushi hasn’t congratulated me on the election win. In other words, although he is happy I have won the parliamentary elections, he has still thought about the Academy members who are unhappy about my election victory, since they represent the minority. For the first time ever, he is sided with the minority, and I believe there could be no other more significant indicator of this reform effect. It has succeeded in depoliticizing Skënder Gjinushi, and this means the future is secured.

On the other hand, it is for sure that for first time ever the Academy members now really have the keys to this institution, instead of the keys of the political parties. They have the fate of the Academy in their own hands, but this should not be misunderstood as a way to shun our obligations. It is quite the contrary as I personally and the government I head would be very pleased and honoured to support the Academy of Sciences systematically and increase this support each year. We have of course taken over the burden of this change, as it should legitimately happen, but we are also ready to share it with you, for a part, without ever interfering, without asking for anything other than that together, when we turn our heads we would be able to say we didn’t cast a shadow of disgrace over this building of highly respected and glorious values of the Albanian science.

We are ready if it can be improved further and of course it can improve, if it can be done more and of course it can be done more. As you would say when you were younger than me, “we are always ready.” We will do everything to ease the very difficult and challenging path not only the written reform opens, but also the readiness obviously shown through the work already done.

I do not know if any of the individuals who are the reason behind our today’s gathering here would have accept to join this Academy, when it was not the Academy it is today, but I am sure that today, their acceptance to join this effort as new members of the Academy of Sciences has also to do with the fact that hope has been reborn here and the common will of the people of knowledge has emerged to get the Academy out of the quagmire, where it sank for so many years not because of their fault,  and it is a renaissance effort that is real, it is serious and, most importantly, it is genuine. Therefore, the symbolic affirmation of the efforts of all these members who join the Academy of Sciences today has a great value. It is a message that each of them and all of them together, but also the Academy itself, all of you, and the professor himself convey to the society.

I would have wished to be able and thank each and every one of them, but they form a huge group and they deserve a lot of praise. However, I would like to wholeheartedly congratulate and wish them good health and all the success in their endeavour together with you all, starting with Ardian Vehbiu, an old and dear friend;  Eno Koço, an aristocratic gentlemen who remained a dedicated student to the knowledge since the curtain fell; Ermonela Jaho. Many recognize her and would wonder why she, while that have picked her certainly know what I also already know due to the honour I have had to know Ermonela Jaho, who besides to being a music genius and besides her heroic will, she also is an embodiment of knowledge in her area of expertise.

Or to two names that we have all come across without being scientists ourselves and today we have every reason to be proud to live like their contemporaries, Francesco Altimari and Mateo Madala, a duo that kept alive so a distant relation with the Albanian Arberia. Undoubtedly, Kujtim Shala or Rexhep Ismajli, or Professor Ali Aliu who represent the most meaningful expression of the fact that age does not matter, but what matters most is the opportunity to continue contributing thanks to knowledge and the desire to contribute.

I would like to really express much gratitude, Skënder, for this invitation! Thanking all of you for your patience to listen to me, I assure all those who unlike Skënder, did not want me to win the elections, that in the next four years this Academy will enjoy strongest support it has enjoyed by the government of the Republic of Albania during whole period of pluralism in the country. I won’t dare to say in its entire history that I would make a challenge perhaps impossible given the circumstances, the context,  and the possibilities, but in the whole history of pluralism.

Thank you very much!