Phillips: call for transparency about the Turkish memorial in Tirana relating to the coup

The Turkish momerial in Tirana
 The US analyst David Phillips says the memorial to the victims of the failed coup in Turkey has no place in Tirana and that the Albanian authorities should clarify the circumstances of its erection. The Columbia University Professor told to Voice of America (VOA) he sees the erection of the memorial in the framework of the efforts of Prime Minister Edi Rama to approach to the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Keida Kostreci of VOA had an interview with Professor Phillips:

Voice of America: Prof. Phillips, recently Albania is having a debate after a memorial was erected last month relating to the Turkish citizens who lost their lives in the failed coup three years ago in Turkey. The debate has to do with a number of reasons, including the fact that the Tirana Municipality is refusing to talk about its role in setting up the memorial, this is not stated on its website because of the very fact that is a memorial for foreigners being set up in Tirana Park. What are your comments?

David Phillips
 David Phillips: The real victim of the so-called coup in Turkey is the Turkish people. 100,000 people have been dismissed from work, 50,000 are placed under administrative detention, 151 journalists arrested - Turkey has more journalists in prisons than anywhere else - and there are some real questions as to whether there was really a coup. Some say it was a controlled coup, managed by (President) Erdogan and used to justify the oppression against society, turning Turkey into a giant gulag. The erection of a memorial in Albania is wrong, it does not honor the true victims of Erdogan's tyranny, and the process was not transparent.

Voice of America: The 251 people who lost their lives have been widely described as innocent victims. Also, although you say the coup may have been orchestrated by Mr. Erdogan, it has not been proven. However, what we are discussing today is whether such a memorial should be erected in another country that is not Turkey, and why the secret way of the process in Albania?

David Phillips: Shouldn't have been done secretly, there should be transparency about the decision and why the memorial has been erected in Albania? If Turkey wants to have memorials to its citizens, let it do so in Marmaris or elsewhere in Turkey, where it would make more sense. What about Albania's sovereignty? Has Albania become a Turkish colony, when Turkey controls politics and the economy? This is a flagrant statement of Turkey's tyranny, not only to its citizens but also to its neighbors in the region. The Albanian people should not accept such a thing.

Voice of America: We asked the Tirana Municipality for comments from its leaders on this kind of decision-making, and they referred the Voice of America to the Foreign Ministry, which said it had nothing to do with them. Why do you think they do not explain what the process was?

David Phillips: Seems the Municipality has no information. The Foreign Ministry does not want to talk about it. This seems to have been a direct agreement between Erdogan and Edi Rama. In the pictures between Erdogan and Edi Rama, Albania's prime minister looks like an obedient puppy before Erdogan. Why was it there in the first place? Was this in the spirit to serve the people? Who paid for the memorial? Are all these Turkish investments in Albania transparent? Where does the money go? Have this money been secured been the corrupted officials? This whole memorial incident raises many questions about Albania and its relations with Turkey. There needs to be much more public information and discussion of that relationship so that Albania can defend its sovereignty and not be manipulated by Turkey for public relations and propaganda purposes.

Voice of America: You say maybe the Municipality of Tirana has no information but in fact, the Deputy Mayor was present at the ceremony. So this seems more like a case where they don't want to speak openly and publicly. On the other hand, the Mayor Erion Veliaj, in answering the questions has completely avoided the essence of the problem without talking about the decision-making process, saying more or less just "let's respect the dead". What's your opinion?

David Phillips: He doesn't know anything about the decision-making process. Perhaps he received instructions to allow the memorial to be built, to attend the ceremony, so we really do not know the true story of the whole event. Where did the project originate? Was it an agreement between the heads of government? Was the Municipality involved? In an open society where there is freedom and democracy, there must be public notice and a public hearing so that the citizens of Tirana have the opportunity to express their opinions. None of this happened and we really don't know how they went to this point. There should be transparency and information so that those who made the decision to be held accountable.

Voice of America: In your opinion, how unusual is it to erect memorials for citizens of another country?

David Phillips: I don't know there are any similar memorials in Albania for other countries. Nor do I know of other places that erect memorials for citizens of another country. It is extremely unusual. And it comes in parallel with an attempt by the Turkish government to put even more pressure on the Gulen organization and close their schools. So I think it's part of a wider campaign to compromise Albania's sovereignty and make the government of Albania act in the interest of Erdogan. It is not at all in the interest of the Albanian people...Mr. Rama must defend the interests of his people, instead of doing what Turkey wants.

Voice of America: Should there have been any hesitation in taking the decision even given the concerns over Erdogan's repressive measures following the failed coup and the West's harsh criticism of these measures?

David Phillips: It certainly should have been considered in the broader context of events in Turkey. Turkey has turned into a giant gulag. This also sends a very negative signal to the West and the European Union when Albania's candidacy is analyzed in Brussels. Rest assured, the European Commission will see the memorial erected and ask whether Albania aspires for a European identity or prefers loyalty to Turkey.

Voice of America: You said you think Tirana Municipality don't know much about the process and they just are getting orders. Where do you support this?

David Phillips: No one, including me, knows what happened. I am simply following the course of events and drawing conclusions from past experience in comparable situations and making conjectures about the funding of the memorial and how the decision has been made. The sessions should be held in Parliament. There has to be transparency. People should demand transparency. It has to go to the end and if something is done to the detriment of the public, the people involved should be held accountable.

Voice of America: What is your opinion on the fact that the Prime Minister Rama was in Turkey as a friend of Mr. Erdogan just days before the memorial was erected?

David Phillips: Albania and Turkey are extremely close and Rama and Erdogan have a very friendly relationship. Bilateral relations should be based on national interests, not personal interests. Edi Rama must protect the interests of the Albanian people. Turkey's national interests and its personal relationship should be of much less importance. But when Rama goes to Erdogan's daughter's wedding, this raises questions about Albania's sovereignty and Rama's independence. All of these events need to be investigated. The Parliament should set up a commission to investigate Turkey's investments in Albania. And if there is wrongdoing and corruption, should be exposed.
Phillips: call for transparency about the Turkish memorial in Tirana relating to the coup Phillips: call for transparency about the Turkish memorial in Tirana relating to the coup Wednesday, August 14, 2019 Rating: 5
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