Response to the Report by the Head of the OSCE Presence in Albania Ambassador Eugen Wollfarth

As delivered by Ambassador Ian Kelly
to the Permanent Council, Vienna
September 20, 2012

The United States joins in welcoming Ambassador Wollfarth to the Permanent Council, and we thank you for your comprehensive report.  Your Mission and our Embassy in Tirana enjoy excellent collaboration and cooperation, and we appreciate your efforts.

Albania has seen much success in the recent past, and this reporting year was no exception.  Unfortunately, the presidential election completed in June was marked by bitter partisan division and lacked sufficient transparency, but it nevertheless represented a peaceful example of the fundamental democratic practice of choosing a new president.

Affirming the mechanisms of democracy takes a great deal of work beyond selecting a new president.  To this end we offer our praise for the passage of electoral code reforms, and particularly to those experts and co-Chairs from both main parties who worked so hard on this effort.  We caution, however, that passage will mean little if the new policies are not implemented in good faith.  It will be particularly important to ensure that the selection of a new Central Election Commission (CEC) chairman takes place in a process that is as consultative, non-partisan and transparent as possible.

We are concerned that the partisan divisions that dominated throughout the presidential election may continue, or even grow, as Albania prepares for next year’s parliamentary elections.  While any political campaign undoubtedly will be hard-fought and spirited, all political parties must strive to conduct campaigns that are constructive and based on the issues Albania must continue to address, issues critical for the country’s continuing Euro-Atlantic integration.  The political fighting that took place this past year regrettably diminished the world’s view of Albania and served to obscure the impressive progress the country has made over the last 20 years.  Albania’s political leaders must keep the best interests of their country in mind during the upcoming campaign to ensure that the progress of reform is not simply set aside for the next 12 months.

We were encouraged to hear of the appointment of the Ombudsman, or People’s Advocate, to continue work on ensuring the protection of the rights of the Albanian people.  He has already done commendable work, and we urge Albanian authorities to pay heed to his statements and recommendations.

We commend the OSCE’s Presence in Albania as it continues to provide important support for the progress that Albania is making.  The Albanian people deserve a great deal of credit for the progress their country has seen in recent years.  Now is the time to redouble their efforts and make the most of their country’s tremendous potential.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.