Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania
There are very few colourful characters left in Balkan politics, mainly because The Balkans, is the poorest part of Europe. Savaged during World War Two, most of South Eastern Europe fell into obscurity, when communism took its grip on power, turning these little countries into minor minions of the Soviet Union. The only true exception was Greece, which also had its post war political challenges, but Albania has remained an enigma to most Europeans, and until the 21st Century, very little was known about this beautiful country or its politics.
After 1990, the Balkans experienced the free for all of heavily disguised democracy. It was the usual game of musical chairs, where all the old communist leaders repositioned themselves – spinning their fiction on the wheel of fortune –with newly named political parties. Offering absurd agendas, they remained the same men and women from the same old political club. Meaning that most of what they said was unpractical drivel, their main objective was to make money.
Today, things are very different, although there is still that whiff of corruption in the air, and so it is positively refreshing to write about the Balkan artist and Prime Minister, which Albania has chosen above all others, to lead it into Europe. This is because Edi Rama, the ex basketball playing surrealist artist, is now at the helm.
Coming to prominence in 2000, as the mayor or Tirana, he spent eleven years tidying up a capital city which had lost its lustre. Not always the most popular politician, he managed to get rid of the third world buildings, which cluttered up the centre of Tirana, and embarked on an ambitious rebuilding program. With his artistic flair, he also managed to cheer up some of the older buildings too.
In 2011 his term in office as mayor, came to an end, which is when he entered main stream Albanian politics, achieving the office of Prime Minister in 2013, which he has held since, on behalf of the Albanian Socialist Party.
Edi Rama Surrealist Painter
Popular with many western politicians, his towering figure even managed to dwarf John Kerry, at a recent meeting, and he remains friends with many of the worlds greats, and perhaps not so good.
By Charlie Loftus