Summer session of the Parliamentary Assembly (25-29 June 2012)

Address by Sali BERISHA, Prime Minister of Albania

 

on the occasion of the third part of the 2012 Ordinary Session
of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly

(Strasbourg, 25-29 June 2012)

  


Dear Mr. President of the Parlamentary Assembly, Mignon,
Dear Mr. Secretary General, Jagland
Distinguished members of the Parlamentary Assembly
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is for me a great honor and special pleasure to address today this Assembly in the Palais de l’Europe on behalf of the first Albanian Charmainship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

I would like to start by extending to you Mr. President Mignon, my most heartfelt congratulations on your reelection as a member of the National Assembly of France. We are very pleased that you will continue the successful chairing of this Assembly in the years to come. I would also like to cordially thank you for the warm hospitality that you offered to me and my delegation during our stay in Strasbourg.

I also avail of this opportunity to express my profound appreciation to the Secretary General Jagland for the excellent job he is doing at the helm of the Council of Europe. Secretary Jagland and his team have been carrying out important reforms that provided this prestigious organization with the necessary impetus to move ahead towards its objectives.

Mr President,
Twenty years ago, on 6th May 1992, in my first official visit outside the country as the first President of Albania, which had just come out of the worst dictatorship in Europe after the Second World War, I presented before this honorable Assembly, the will of my government and of my nation for the membership of the Republic of Albania into the Council of Europe.

This dream that Albanians had nourished for many decades came true; in May 1995, Albania became a member of the Council of Europe. Today, my country leads for the very first time the Committee of the Ministers.

Mesdames et Messieurs,
Dans cette enceinte, je me sens comme chez moi, car pendant des années, en tant que leader de l'opposition albanaise, j'ai eu l'honneur , chers amis et collègues, de partager avec vous, comme membre de cette Assemblée, des moments et des activités des plus belles et des plus importantes de ma vie politique.

Or, aujourd'hui, c'est un moment particulier, historique, pour moi, pour ma nation et pour le Conseil de l'Europe. Aujourd'hui, je suis ici en tant que Premier Ministre de l'Albanie, l'une des plus jeunes démocraties de l'Europe, Présidente du Comité des Ministres du Conseil de l'Europe. Et pour une coïncidence tout aussi symbolique, l'Albanie a pris cette présidence de la plus ancienne démocratie de l'Europe, la Grande Bretagne. Je saisis cette occasion pour exprimer mes félicitations les plus cordiales et ma plus grande appréciation pour le succès de la Présidence britannique.

Cette année, l'Albanie fête le Centenaire de son indépendance. Il y a cent ans, beaucoup d'efforts étaient déployés pour que les Albanais n'existassent pas comme notion politique. Pendant ces cent ans, nous, les Albanais, nous avons vécu de grands morcellements, des occupations sauvages, des nettoyages ethniques et des dictatures orwelliennes. Or, aujourd'hui, nous célébrons le centenaire de l'indépendance de l'Albanie comme une nation libre, comme un pays qui préside aujourd’hui le Comité des Ministres du plus ancien temple de la démocratie européenne. C' est le diamant sur la couronne du Centenaire de l'indépendance de mon pays.

Que Dieu bénisse le Conseil de l'Europe et ses pays membres !

Il n' y a que vingt-deux années en arrière, l'Albanie était le pays des droits et des libertés interdits par la Constitution et de l'atéisme imposé. Aujourd'hui l'Albanie est le pays des libertés et des droits garantis par la Constitution, le pays du respect total des droits de l'homme et des minorités, le pays du respect et d'une tolérance interreligieuses exemplaires.

Le pays qui vivait l'isolement le plus profond, est aujourd'hui membre de l'OTAN et contribue dans ses missions de paix en Afghanistan et ailleurs. Les Albanais voyagent aujour'hui sans visas en Europe. Le pays qui, deux décennies auparavant, s'alignaient derrière l'Uganda et l'Angola comme le plus pauvre du monde, fait aujourd'hui partie du groupe des pays aux revenus moyens élevés. L'Albanie n'est pas encore un pays développé, mais il a les mêmes indices que ceux des pays développés pour ce qui est la mortalité infantile, la mortalité maternelle et la mortalité , en général, aussi bien que pour l'accès au système d'éducation, à celui de la santé et à l'usage de l'internet.

Selon le dernier recensement, il résulte que les Albanais qui, en 2001, avaient un nombre de maisons d'habitation moindre que celui de toute autre nation en Europe en 1980, au cours des dix dernières années, seulement, ils ont atteint le niveau des pays développés, dépassant même 5 nations membres de l'Union européenne et de l'OCDE.

L'économie albanaise, en dépit du fait qu'elle s'affronte aux conséquences de la crise européenne et globale, a maintenu, au cours de ces dernières années, une croissance considérable qui, pendant les cinq dernières années prises ensemble, a atteint les 22 pour cent ou qui est 4 fois plus élevée que la croissance moyenne de la région. l'Albanie est en train de construire l'une des infrastructures les plus modernes dans la région. L'année dernière mon pays a accueilli plus de 4 millions de touristes et visiteurs par rapport à 300 milles, en tout, en 2004

Albania is fully engaged in the process of integration into the EU as the best project for its future and the future of the Albanian citizens. My government has always considered this as a merit based process. Certain internal political problems have slowed it down for some time, however, these problems finally are being solved and the country will continue to press ahead vigorously towards the EU.

We have come a long way and still a bumpy road lies ahead of us. But the very truth is that this is the success story of freedom!

In the last two decades of our difficult but successful journey of building freedom and its values, democracy, the rule of law and an open society that respect human and minority rights we have always had the very valuable and important help and support of our loyal and outstanding partner, the Council of Europe and its institutions, for which I take this opportunity to reiterate my deepest gratitude.

Distinguished members of the Parliamentary Assembly,
It is for me a great occasion to reiterate today the full determination of the Albanian Chairmanship to work relentlessly in the next 6 months and in close cooperation with the member states, this Assembly and the Secretary General to further promote and enhance the common values and objectives of our organization.

These common and universal values of freedom and human rights, democracy, the rule of law and the free market together with our people’s aspiration for peace, development and prosperity are the strong bonds that unite our countries and our nations in spite of their unique and distinct historical, cultural, linguistic or religious traditions, Hence the motto: “United in diversity” chosen by our Chairmanship.

We believe no topic could have been more appropriate and suitable to this time of major economic and financial crises and other challenges than “Democracy at risk: the role of citizens and of the State today”. For this crises are often followed by the emergence of populist and extremist trends, not to mention the reappearances of xenophobia or even renewed nationalisms.

That is why we welcome the decision to implement some of the important recommendations of the Report “Living together” – Combining diversity and freedom in the 21st century”, as a clear indication of our firm determination to address any challenge that European democracies might face nowdays as regards the full respect of human rights. I take this opportunity to express my utmost gratitude and that of the Albanian Chairmanship to the Group of Eminent Persons for their commitment and professionalism in drafting this report.

In order to raise awareness about its significant findings, the Albanian Chair is organizing a high level conference in which the following topics will be discussed:

• Diversity in Europe as an asset for the future”;
• “Promoting intercultural dialogue – a task for society as a whole in Europe and beyond”;
• “The role of education and the contribution of young people towards promoting mutual understanding, tolerance and better integration in society”.


In this context, strengthening dialogue and cooperation with the countries of North Africa and Mediterranean, the so called “Arab spring”, is also a field where Albanian Chairmanship and my country intend to offer their modest contribution. We strongly support the democratic aspirations of these countries and their peoples. We believe, they can find in the abundant experience of the Council of Europe and its related organizations helpful models for their historic undertaking of thoroughly transforming their countries and their societies towards more democracy, the rule of law, civil society and higher standards of human and minority rights.

That is why we fully support Secretary’s Jagland initiative for more democracy and stable societies in the regions neighboring Europe. In close cooperation with key partners and through well designed practical cooperation this initiative could become an important framework for real progress in this direction. We trust that the council of Europe possesses all necessary mechanisms in this respect.

I am also very pleased to notice that this Session is going to discuss the report of the political transition in Tunisia, the cradle of the “Arab spring”. We commend the Council’s Secretariat for preparing the Neighborhood Cooperation priorities 2012 -2014, especially with Morocco and Tunisia. We strongly appreciate the role of the Venice Commission and its valuable advice for the Tunisian Constitution and the adoption of legislation implementing the constitutions in Morocco and Tunisia. These reforms are essential for bringing the national legislation of these countries in line with international human rights standards.

The religious dimension of the intercultural dialogue is an important element in the democratic traditions of Europe. The Government of Albania adopted the National Strategy for Intercultural Dialogue in the framework of the Alliance of Civilizations and has established an inter-governmental mechanism for its implementation. The 2012 Exchange on the Religious Dimension of Intercultural Dialogue will be our further contribution in this direction.

We, Albanians, are a small nation but bearers of a great message, the message of an exemplary inter-religious respect and tolerance par excellence, a centuries old tradition of our nation. By presenting this valuable tradition of the Albanian society we aim to raise awareness for the stereotypes and prejudices against the different religions, which are often used for purposes of indoctrination and conflict creation.

Other priorities of our Chairmanship focus on the further consolidation of functional democracy, including that at the regional and local levels, and the rule of law throughout the continent. Following the well established tradition of the former chairs, we will continue to press ahead with the political reform of the organization and the Interlaken/Izmir/Brighton agenda for a more efficient system of protection of human rights in particular with regard to reducing the burden of the Court.

Promoting closer dialogue with international organizations, in particular with the EU and supporting its enlargement in the Western Balkans is another important priority of our Chair.

The Albanian Chairmanship will pay close attention to issues pertaining to youths and its education with the values of the Council of Europe. To this end, a special event with youngsters has been foreseen in commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust and those who put their lives and the lives of their families to risk in order to save Jews. As you know, Albania is probably the only country in Europe that sheltered, protected and saved its Jews during WWII and the dark years of the Holocaust. The number of Jews in Albania was many time higher at the end of the war than at its beginning.

You will become more familiar with these priorities through the expose that Albanian Deputy Prime Minister Haxhinasto will present here tomorrow.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Despite the devastating wars and painful dramas it lived through, the Ballkan Peninsula is experiencing nowdays a time of great efforts of its peoples for closer cooperation with each other, regional and european integration.

These integration processes have been proven the main driving force for our countries in their paths ahead. Albania maintains friendly relationships with all its neighbors and other countries in the region.

We believe that full respect for the current international borders, regional cooperation and integration, consolidation of the rule of law and the democratic institution is the most secure path for building the european future that our countries deserve.

Albania has firmly supported the dialogue between the Republic of Kosova and Serbia and welcomed the EU facilitated agreements between these two countries. We consider their full impementation as an important factor not only for good bilateral relations among these two countries but also for the region as a whole.

The Republic of Kosova has turned out to be a real factor of peace and stability in the region. The government of Albania greatly appreciates the significant role of the EULEX and KFOR in this respect.

On 2nd July 2012, international community will officially withdraw from the process of observance of Kosova’s independence. This is without doubts an undeniable success as regards the consolidation of democratic institutions, the rule of law, and respect for the rights of minorities in this country.

In all these processes, the Council of Europe has offered a valuable help. I hope and wish for a further strengthening of this cooperation which will result in bringing the Republic of Kosova even closer to the CoE and in gaining soon its rightful place within this institution of the democratic nations of Europe.

The Balkan Peninsula is one of the riches with regard to minorities. Therefore, expanding and strengthening their rights will continue to remain priority for all our countries as well as a condition sine qua non for peace and stability. I am fully convinced that the best way to address their concerns is the full implementation of the documents and conventions of the Council of Europe on the rights of minorities.

At the end, I would like to full heartedly invite you all to cooperate closely in the months ahead, to give life to all these priorities while assuring you that Albanian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers is fully committed to work hard to promote the values of this prestigious organization with the aim to further consolidating the democratic spirit and institutions in our societies and the rule of law, enhancing democratic institutions at the regional and local levels, while continuing the political reform intending a more efficient political organization and a Court that fully guarantees the highest level of human rights protection everywhere in the continent. Let us work together to turn the Albanian Chairmanship into a successful story for my country, for your countries and for the Council of Europe.

Thank you for your attention.