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PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES OF THE 109th CONGRESS, 1st SESSION

Vol. 151 Washington, Tuesday, May 17, 2005 No. 65

House of Representatives


URGING ALBANIAN AUTHORITIES TO HOLD FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS



Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Mr. SMITH of New Jersey:

Mr. Speaker, today, I am introducing a concurrent resolution which calls for the July 3 parliamentary election in Albania to be free and fair. Joining me in the introduction of this resolution is Mr. ENGEL, and I want to thank my colleague from New York for his efforts over the years to help Albanians throughout Southeastern Europe be able to exercise human rights and fundamental freedoms that for so long had been denied them.

This resolution notes that Albania is a participating State of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, better known as the OSCE. It further notes that all OSCE participating States have accepted standards which define free and fair elections but that Albania has repeatedly fallen short of those standards. Some elections have been seriously flawed, while others demonstrated a clear and sometimes significant improvement.

As Albania approaches its next parliamentary elections on July 3, however, the resolution argues that meeting OSCE election standards is not only possible but a virtual necessity.

Meeting these standards is possible, fortunately, because Albanian authorities and political parties have adopted electoral reforms recommended by the OSCE. While Albanian stakeholders made the right and sometimes difficult decisions regarding reform, credit also needs to go to the OSCE Presence, or field mission, in Albania which facilitated the dialogue and encouraged cooperation, as well as the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights which provided technical expertise to the reform effort. The OSCE was patient yet firm in pressing for change, while other international groups gave needed expertise.

Meeting these standards is necessary not only because Albania is committed to those standards, but also because a failure to do so will cost the country dearly in terms of integration into NATO and the European Union. While there are strong ties between the United States and Albania, which this resolution recognizes, it would be a mistake to excuse Albania from its OSCE commitments.

Our desire to see Albania succeed, in fact, is why our expectations regarding the elections need to be made so clear. Successful elections will certainly strengthen Albania's ties with the United States and Europe. More importantly, successful elections are something the people of Albania deserve. After centuries of foreign rule, decades of severe communist repression and isolation, and now more than a decade of transition hindered by official corruption, organized crime and civil strife, the people of Albania must finally be allowed to determine their own future by making their leaders accountable to them. Free, fair elections can make this possible.

Mr. Speaker, I hope that my colleagues agree and will therefore support this resolution. As Co-Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I have focused on the situation in Albania for many years, and I am confident that sending the message contained in this resolution will make a difference.





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