Prime Minister Edi Rama’s address to plenary session of the Parliament:
It is normal that today, after this dramatic period for everyone, as long as we do not count dozens of dead per day and as long as we rank among the group of countries that based on facts and figures we have coped more efficiently with this war, hearing all sorts of nonsense and gibberish, which are indeed understandable and tolerable when they come from ordinary people who, by fortunately not experiencing, except via the television screens, the tragedy that is unfolding in countries not far away from us, experience stress, insecurity, experience the anxiety of harm to their household economy, yet it’s abnormal to hear such nonsense being uttered by certain people with microphones and cameras in front of them, and people who have a public voice.
According to the projections, not our projections, but the projection models made by independent experts, who have nothing to do with the government, and which have been announced on the TV screens since the very beginning, suggested as many as 18,000 potential deaths if no measures were to be taken and life was to flow normally as nothing had happened. While our own projection models, if no stringent measures were imposed and if these measures were not to be respected by the overwhelming majority of the Albanian citizens, predicted as many as 2800 potential death. This is the fact. The governments are evaluated and assessed for what they do, but they are also assessed about what they prevent from happening and there is no argument and no logically sound reasons that would disprove the fact that Albania today has successfully coped with the first phase of the confrontation with this invisible enemy. There are no such arguments!
Of course, with the stressful circumstances, with the lack of patience or the willingness to resort to the information provided by the reliable official sources only, be them local or international official sources, there is room for the conspiracy theories too, there is room also for the fantasies over a great world conspiracy the unbridled fantasy conjures up for various reasons even in the circumstances of the quarantine, but the truth is that we are here together with whole world and we are not alone. And fortunately, this tragedy that has affected the whole world involved – if it was something happening in Albania only, God knows what we would have heard – we see every day, we hear every day that confusion prevails even in the most developed countries, even the world’s richest and wisest nations. Even the World Health Organization, the globe’s reference point, has more than once contradicted itself, in a confrontation that has taken aback not only Albania, but the whole world and is affecting the planet’s GDP like never before since the World War II.
I can say and I can prove what I am saying that no country around the globe has done nothing more than what we have done. Nothing more than us and it is not an accident that Albania ranks among the nations sustaining mild wounds as compared to many other countries of different sizes from the United States to Luxembourg. Fortunately, we have found ourselves in a situation where we have been given the privilege to refer to an expertise of the absolutely highest international levels here in Albania and that is the Technical Committee of Experts, which with the strategy they have pursued and the guidance they have provided, has proven that Albania has no need to envy anyone in this area.
I haven’t come across any world expert writing or saying anything new other than our experts have repeatedly stated. Of course, obviously this is a two-pronged war taking place simultaneously in two fronts; the front of fight on the line of fire with the enemy inside the bodies of our people, namely, the battlefront for health and the battlefront for today’s economic survival and the economic recovery in the future. We can confidently state that we are winning battle on the frontline of healthcare.
And we will definitely win the battle on the frontline of the economy.
Of course, this war can be won with our resolve, sacrifices and patience, but we will certainly win the battles on both fronts. We cannot afford that for the sake of effects and stress a situation brings about, with people on one side no longer being so constrained and self-contained they used to be at the very beginning in the face of the concrete and imminent threat, because, fortunately, they are not coming across of news reporting about dozens of dead on daily basis and, on the other hand, when people give an understandable impetus to their fantasy and complains, though little, what is for sure is that if we want to win both battles we should keep fighting.
It is quite understandable for the focus to shift on the economy, when no intense bad news stories are reported from the healthcare front. On the other hand, it would be unforgivable for us to bow to pressure driven by the need and articulated as an incentive for freedom, democracy, human rights in order to reopen, leave houses and resume work and so on and so forth, because this would translate into no more than a frittering away of everything we have done to date and we would let the enemy penetrate through a gap now left open after having been completely closed as of today thanks to the things we have done so far.
I listen carefully from all sides; I carefully read what is being said. I heard hear about countries injecting billions and about Albania allegedly still resorting to the food bags. They speak in a detestable way in the current circumstances. And moreover, the ones to speak about these food bags are exactly those who eat a lot better today, because they are staying at home without doing nothing just eating and drinking and throwing up everything, whereas those who receive these bags – since you like to call them bags – are grateful and empathetic. And it is not those most vulnerable and in need the ones to talk nonsense, but others who fare better and, moreover, do not bother to bother to make calculations. Do you actually know what is the amount French President announced yesterday, because it was just yesterday when the concrete plan on the families under social welfare benefits was unveiled. It is 150 euro plus per month. This is a concrete figure and the social assistance payment to the families in France in 150 euros plus and I am referring to facts and figures.
Albania has approved measures totalling around 4 percent of the Gross Domestic Product to soften the blow of this situation and support people in need, and these are facts and figures. I talked about the nonsense talks from those who are eating and drinking a lot better and pretend to raise the voice for the plight of the poor and needy, while despising and mocking the people exactly like the characters in the stories by Eqrem bej Vlora, on behalf of the poor, on behalf of the people in need and on behalf of those most vulnerable.
I will provide another example; France has allocated 1500 euros plus to the doctors and medical personnel in the red zones. We have allocated 1000s euro plus for the doctors and medical personnel at the Infectious Diseases Hospital and the University Hospital “Shefqet Ndroqi”, so 1000 euros for medical personnel and nurses and 500 euros for the ambulance drivers and hospital sanitation workers. I am not drawing comparisons with France, but I am saying that what you happen to listen while watching TV, what you read on the online media and the nonsense you and everyone else unaware of what they are talking about say actually have nothing to do with the reality.
I heard here people saying whether there is any other government delivering bags. The Italian government provides food vouchers in such circumstances. When speaking one should not forget where we live, should not forget what opportunities we can afford, and should not forget what we have succeeded to do as of today and stand by the citizens by providing everything we can. What we should avoid doing is not to cherish resentment, irritation, feeding insecurity just to take advantage of – I don’t know what – the miserable claim of allegedly being their voice. I am not talking about you, despite the nonsense I heard you talking here, but I mean many others, those who were before you here, individuals who speak without knowing what they are talking about.
I hear people here suggesting for the repatriated citizens to send them dig the land. Nonsense! Because this is neither the wish, nor the imagination spurred by the desire to impose restrictive measures on people and the lockdown we are forced to implement just for the sake of the population’s health, for the sake of protecting the peoples’ lives, but it is the facts we face on daily basis by taking into account in the end of the day whatever is taking place in every country on the planet and thanks to it we have so far succeeded in avoiding any mistake.
Everything can be done better, everything, but so far we have not made any mistakes. If we were to make a single mistake – as the Interior Minister noted – it would take just one person, and not 900,000 people, to wreak havoc. All we see today has been caused by one person alone and there are ample examples indicating that repatriations have triggered fresh waves of the infection. Yesterday I publicly explained the case of Singapore, which was the fantastic example of coping with the first wave of infections, but fresh Covid-19 cases are being detected after the repatriation of over 500 students. “Send them to dig the land!” As if we are purposely seeking to isolate them or wishing to spend money by covering 2/3 of the hotel accommodation costs, deploying a medical personnel and anti-Covid conditions there. Is there any government or a Prime Minister in the world who would wish to do such things? But, if were to fail and do such things, then you would not have the opportunity to wish speedy recovery to lawmaker Alimadhi, something I wish him too, and I don’t know how many of you would have been missing today here. “Let God have His way” – the theologian Myslym says. A theologian in Iran also said “the outbreak is an Act of God” and they didn’t order for the mosques to shut down and consequently the dead piled up because they have no place to bury them. A minister in Israel said the outbreak happened to punish the infidels. But “surprisingly enough” he contracted the coronavirus himself! How would you explain this?
I won’t go too far back in time, but I would recall the days when you were together with those who are no longer in this hall. It was the time that when you were removed from power together with those who are not here today you owed a total of $45 million to the people you talk about and raise the voice today and the country was not hit by the pandemic or the devastating earthquake.
And I hear people shamelessly claiming we received 50 million euros from Europe.” This is something ordinary people can say on their Facebook comments when lacking information and unaware of the way how the assistance mechanism works, but it is inexcusable for you to issue such statements here …! The 50 million-euro fund provided by the EU is earmarked to help the country’s health system to cope with the situation. It is a fund that will be disbursed until next March and the first tranche of only four million euros has yet to be disbursed.
The measures we have approved are covered by the state budget. There is not a single penny from international assistance being used in this process to date. Zero! This is the truth, so don’t lie to people. Start by informing yourselves first, because you are lying yourself and that’s why you believe in what you say thinking you are telling the truth. Speak by referring to facts and evidence. Let God alone. Your life and mind is the greatest gift God has given you and you ought to protect and help yourselves so that God can protect and help you.
Let’s return to the “great concern” of those I heard saying that we are sending people to prison. I don’t understand and I never did what on earth sentencing an individual has to do with the people. How fines and prison sentences are imposed on people? Are the people the one to be sent to prison? The one to violate the law is a single or several individuals and not the whole people. It is exactly in the people’s interest that an individual who violates the law should be penalized. If in a dictatorship one can say that punishment of an individual is the result of the threat this very individual poses to the government, an individual is punished in democracy when he poses a threat to the people and nobody else.
Since you don’t want to accept, understand and read that our Criminal Code envisages nothing in the event of an epidemic, I tell you ours is the only Criminal Code in Europe, from West to East, envisaging nothing but the animals quarantining. Is Denmark a dictatorship that has imposed a three-year prison sentence on anyone who violates the rules designed to protect people from an epidemic, up to eight-year prison sentence on anyone seeking to take advantage of breaking the rules in order to gain profits?! Is Slovakia, a EU member state, a dictatorship as its Criminal Code envisages 3, 5 and 10-year prison sentences? Since Mrs. Hajdari had counted a total of 675 times when, according to her, have mentioned the word “imprisonment”, although I never used this word, I am acknowledging now that any violator of the lockdown measures will face harsh prison sentences. What about Italy? Is that a dictatorship because life sentence is imposed? Italy even applied the death penalty, but it was replaced by life prison sentence when the death penalty was completely abolished in all European countries.
What you and everyone should understand why these measures are needed right now is that these measures are not permanent. These measures are to be applied only during the disaster because of the epidemic. These measures will be in force only in the coming weeks or months and their effect ends there, but they are included in the Criminal Code to be applied should an outbreak happens again in the future. These measures are needed exactly because we will reopen. These measures are needed precisely because if you were to look at the increasing number of violations, the more the health system is guaranteed, the less bad news reports come from the health system, the fewer hospital beds are occupied, the more the violations increase in number, because people think that we got away with this and now it is Edi Rama who is keeping us inside our homes, it is Edi Rama who does not want us to go to work, it is Edi Rama who does not want us to go to cultivate the land. Although farmers have not been forced to stop their activities since day one of the epidemic, but this fact has not been noticed by the countryside lawmakers who speak about the food bags, since they have been quarantined eating and drinking six times a day and blame Edi Rama for “his dictatorial fantasy.” The opposite is true.
Someone mentioned Austria. Austria is pursuing same plan, but only slightly more advanced in terms of reopening. Austrian Chancellor announced plans to relax lockdown and reopen, yet said that the situation will be cautiously monitored and the country could restore lockdown rules if things go wrong. This means that nobody knows when this virus, this invisible enemy would leave, just like the last German did (on November 28, according to Myslim, and on Nov 29, according to me). It is an invisible enemy that will continue to be around. And for this reason, in addition to reopening for the people, we must also have measures to impose on those who can threaten the health of many people, by not behaving properly.
We will open other businesses, thinking the outbreak is over and you can now get back to business as usually? No, we are preparing a thoroughly detailed plan of safety protocols to be implemented by all of those who will get back to business, according to the risk level. Those who would fail to respect them will surely face punishment. How could we go on with bar-cafes that open, close and reopen again! This is impossible, because with the gradual reopening the number of people who might contract the virus could surge uncontrollably, if we fail to act. The measures are precisely for these people. But those who are given the opportunity without bearing any responsibility are precisely those who say ‘Let God have His way’ and if we heed their recommendations, they will return again to Parliament and say we have no responsibilities here whatsoever, adding that “this is what I thought, believing that God is great”, but you are to be blamed for everything.
Normally he bears no responsibility of whatsoever. He claims to be simply a representative of the non-governmental organization and calls for a six-month consultation process. He bears no responsibility, just says things that are of course normal, when not in such a situation. But, is this situation a normal one, when all the things we have learned and advocated all our lives are against us today! “Don’t go to meet your parents, leave the food at their door”; “Children should not go to school, or whoever goes to school cooperates with the enemy.” Everything is reversed, not because we did so, but because it is the only way for us not to be overthrown by this aggression.
And we cannot afford taking it easy. So, we will reopen in the coming weeks, yet we will stiffen the measures against those who through their actions can cause a fresh lockdown, if we make it clear to them that they are potential violators and what would happen to them should they abuse with the reopening and relaxed measures. It doesn’t take for them to be 100,000 people, but only 100 of them could force us to impose a total lockdown again, but even bags will no longer be distributed then.
This should be seen as a joint war, because this is a joint war indeed. This is not the case to distinguish between “us” and “them,” because this threat doesn’t care who you are, it doesn’t care whether you are tall or a short one, whether you are a Socialist or a Democrat, whether you are smart or a fool. This disease affects and grips everyone. It is as simple as that. Therefore, we should all be aware and should refrain from fuelling fantasy, conspiracy theories, resentment and indignation, nonsense talks about secret tenders here and there. No secret tenders are held in the Republic of Albania. No “secret” associates any tender, but accelerated procedures, as the law stipulates. This is miserable behaviour at peacetime and criminal at wartime.
Therefore, I urge you all not to cooperate with Covid, but instead back the changes to the Criminal Code, do not become Covid’s agents in Parliament, but vote for the Code. Don’t reject the amendments to the Code, doing exactly what Covid waits for in order to find a way to infect the violators of these measures and turn them into transporters of the virus bombs. What else can you be named, if you contract the virus just because you want to go out, or just because you want to violate the rule and by doing so you transport the virus to your own home, infecting your grandmother or your father and the latter both end hospitalized and even, God forbid it, end up on ventilator from where may never come back again? What else can they be called?! What else can a bomb do, but killing people! The only difference is that the bomb is dropped by the enemy from the air, while the transporter of this sort of bombs is you who are irresponsible, unaware of your actions, you are someone who talks nonsense and who, unfortunately for the Parliament, are entitled to take the floor, even at times like this one, you have the opportunity to become the opposite of what everyone should be today when speaking from this podium and issue statements, which simply and only mislead, or worse still encourage little informed people to resort to wrongdoings, and if something bad happens to them, you are not to be blamed for and you hold no responsibility of whatsoever. The ones to be blamed and held responsible are us.
This is the difference and this change makes us stubbornly maintain this position until the end, while others can stay and do whatever they want, which means serving the opposite, that is to serve the enemy at a war with bombs and bombers. How could one serve differently to the enemy?! One who serves the enemy is either a corrupt, or a stupid person.