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PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES OF THE 110th CONGRESS, 2nd SESSION

Vol. 153 Washington, Wednesday, July 30, 2008 No. 67

House of Representatives


CONGRATULATING ALBANIA AND CROATIA ON BEING INVITED TO BEGIN ACCESSION TALKS WITH THE NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY ORGANIZATION



HON. ALCEE L. HASTINGS

OF FLORIDA

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Madam Speaker, as we now consider and certainly will adopt House Resolution 1266, congratulating Albania and Croatia on being invited to begin accession talks with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and expressing support for continuing to enlarge the alliance, I would like to express my support for these countries as they move forward.

As Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I convened a hearing on NATO enlargement in early March, where we examined the respective NATO prospects not only of Albania and Croatia but also of Macedonia, Georgia and Ukraine. While some of these countries must still contend with outstanding issues, whether of their own making or not, I strongly support their NATO aspirations and encourage them to move forward as well.

I am well aware of the many hurdles Albania has faced in recovering from decades of extremely repressive communist rule. Albania has also had to confront an often undeservedly negative image in the rest of Europe. Receiving its invitation at the Bucharest summit in April, therefore, was an amazing achievement of which every Albanian citizen, regardless of their political affiliation, should be proud. It is my hope, however, that the sense of accomplishment will encourage the country's leaders to continue the transition to a state based on democratic norms and the rule of law, especially as Albania prepares for elections next year and continues its investigation of the March tragedy at Gerdec.

Croatia also has had to address many challenges prior to receiving its invitation, although in its case those challenges related to the very violent conflicts associated with Yugoslavia's demise in the 1990s. It was clear that Croatia always had the potential to recover quickly, and it fortunately did just that.

The challenges Albania and Croatia have faced, in my view, will ultimately make them better allies. Their citizens have an appreciation of freedom and a desire for protecting freedom that many living in more established democracies may have lost. And as countries who can recall their dependence on European security structures to help them in their times of need, they now are committed to becoming contributors to those same European security structures.





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