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Advancing Democracy in Albania Focus of Helsinki Commission Hearing

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. 

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