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Rep. Christopher H. Smith, Chairman
Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Co-Chairman
For Immediate Release
July 14, 2004


(Washington) - The United States Helsinki Commission will hold a hearing to examine the prospects for advancing democracy in Albania.

 Advancing Democracy in Albania

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

10:00 AM - 12:30 PM

334 Cannon House Office Building


Scheduled to testify:

            Osmo Lipponen, Ambassador, Head of OSCE Presence (field mission) in Albania

            Nicholas C. Pano, Professor Emeritus of History, Western Illinois University

            Erion Veliaj, Executive Director, MJAFT! ("Enough!")/Balkans Youth Link

            Kreshnik Spahiu, Executive Director, Citizen's Advocacy Office, and Chairperson,                             Albanian Coalition Against Corruption

            Fatmir Mediu, President, Albanian Republican Party

            Fatos Tarifa, Ambassador of the Republic of Albania to the United States

Edward Selami, Former Member of Albanian Parliament


Within the next 12 months, Albania is expected to hold new parliamentary elections, and further reform is viewed as key to their success.  The country has faced tremendous challenges in its democratic development since emerging from harsh communist rule and self-imposed isolation in the early 1990s.  Initial progress was quite dramatic in some respects but proved also to be highly fragile.  Pyramid banking schemes collapsed in 1997, causing massive civil unrest.  The Democratic Party which came to power in 1992 lost to the former communists - renamed the Socialist Party - in elections that year.  During this period, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe deployed a field mission or "presence" to help restore stability in the country and get democratic development back on track. 


Despite highly polarized politics and splits within the Socialist camp in particular, there has been renewed progress.  Albania, nevertheless, continues to face the difficult task, common to the region, of tackling organized crime and official corruption. The Albanian Government is making efforts, for example, to combat trafficking in persons, though it remains a source and a transit country for women and children who are sexually exploited or used as forced labor elsewhere in Europe. 


Meanwhile, Albania has maintained strong bilateral ties with the United States and cooperated with the international response to past regional conflicts. The country is a strong supporter of the war on terrorism and works within the framework of the Adriatic Charter, a U.S. initiative that includes Macedonia and Croatia, in laying the groundwork for further European and Euro-Atlantic integration. 


An un-official transcript will be available on the Helsinki Commission's web site at within 24 hours of the hearing.

The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.

Media Contact: Ben Anderson
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Citizenship and Political Rights
Combating Corruption
Freedom of the Media
National Minorities
OSCE Institutions/Structures/Meetings
Rule of Law/Independence of Judiciary
Trafficking in Human Beings


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Chairman Chris Smith (L), Bill Browder, author of Red Notice, and David Kramer, Senior Director for Human Rights and Human Freedom at the McCain Institute. Courtesy of The McCain Institute for International Leadership. (Feb. 2015)