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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal   Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Speech to the Albanian Parliament
Tirana, Albania, February 19, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Speaker Gjinushi, President Meidani, Prime Minister Meta, members of the Council of Ministers and the Parliament. It is a special pleasure and privilege to be here in Shqipëri [Albanian for Albania].

I am pleased to return to Tirana after six years. And I am honored to address this Parliament during its 80th anniversary year.

During the Cold War, most people around the world did not know very much about what was going on in Albania. For too long, you were isolated from the rest of Europe and from the United States. Our only glimpse into your lives were from the reports of occasional visitors or from the evocative novels of Ismail Kadare.

One of the great joys when the Cold War ended was to see your country open itself up again to the world, embrace democratic principles, and begin to participate in regional affairs through the Partnership for Peace and better relations with your neighbors. With stunning speed, Albania went from being a mystery to most in my country to becoming a welcome new friend.

So it came as no surprise to us when your country responded so courageously and compassionately to the humanitarian needs that arose during the tragic Kosovo conflict. You took nearly 500,000 refugees into your homes, not grudgingly but with open arms. You shared everything you had, providing shelter and food and hope to people in desperate need. At the same time, you tenaciously endured cross-border bombardment and incursions and other provocations. You displayed a generous willingness to host NATO soldiers with all their equipment.

I know that the people of Albania endured many hardships during all of this. So I salute your admirable commitment and your outstanding example. You demonstrated during this crisis that a nationís standing in the world should be measured not just by its power or size, but also by the principles it upholds and the responsibilities it is willing to assume. As President Clinton put it, "no country bore a greater burden than Albania, and no nation did more to help humanity prevail."

So as we look ahead to a new and brighter future for southeast Europe, we look to Albania to help lead the way.

The Stability Pact for Southeast Europe offers a historic opportunity. By working with the European Union and other partners, we can create a rising tide of democracy and prosperity that will lift the lives of all. We can help you and your neighbors to integrate -- not just as a region but as a full participant and partner in the new Europe.

The Pact is a mutual endeavor. The United States will do its part, and so must the European Union. In turn, we expect the countries of the region, including Albania, to step up and play their role.

Here in Albania that means developing modern democratic institutions and making progress in the fight against crime and corruption. We can help, but these are serious challenges that are your responsibility to meet.

I congratulate the achievements of the Meta government and its predecessor in clamping down on nearly 40 organized crime rings during the last four months of 1999. And this legislature can be proud of passing a state police law that provides a good basis for increasing professionalism and protecting human rights. These were real steps forward, and I applaud you for them.

A major focus of U.S. assistance to Albania is for the rule of law. We want to support your efforts to build a professional and accountable police; an efficient and effective customs service; and an impartial judiciary that defends the rights of citizens and upholds your laws.

We seek to complement the substantial amounts provided by European countries individually and through the European Commission and the Council of Europe. But our assistance will not be effective without the combined efforts of all of you here today. Albania needs concerted non-partisan action to send the message that the old ways of doing business are no longer acceptable.

To join Europeís mainstream, Albania needs to adopt the patterns of transparency, accountability and responsibility that are the guideposts of Europe in the new century. Each Albanian leader must contribute to this effort - whether you are in the government or outside it, in the ruling coalition or the opposition.

We all know that further progress is needed. Albania cannot develop without investment, and neither foreign nor domestic investors will put money into a country without the assurances provided by fair, transparent and effective rule of law.

Another key test for Albania will be the arriving at a political consensus for an equitable electoral framework. It will take your combined, coordinated effort to ensure that this yearís local elections are judged free and fair, not only by international observers, but also, and perhaps most importantly, by the Albanian people.

Here, too, you must be willing to overcome political divisions. Competition over political campaigns is a good thing, but only within a framework that enables democracy to triumph even if your own party must wait until another day.

The United States supports the excellent work of OSCE Ambassador Ahrens and his staff to start the search for common ground on this issue and I urge all those involved to move this process along to fruition in the next six to eight weeks, so that a dependable and durable framework can be put in place to set the stage for autumn elections.

Reaching common ground is also the key to regional peace and stability. The future of Southeast Europe will depend on the commitment of you and your neighbors to mutual tolerance and cooperation.

There are those who believe that people in this part of the world cannot make such a commitment. To them, I would say: look at the new government in Zagreb and what progress they made.

The parliamentary and presidential elections in Croatia this winter were won by candidates who spoke out against ethnic hatred and in favor of modern democratic values; pledged to return ethnic Serbs to their homes and restore their civil rights; and vowed to normalize relations with neighboring states and keep international commitments.

These are the kinds of goals that the United States and its Allies have been working hard to encourage and sustain. We want a Europe where democratic practices and respect for human rights are deeply-rooted in every nation and wars simply donít happen.

In Kosovo, there is now a great struggle between those who want a peaceful and democratic multi-ethnic society, and those who would drag their nation back into a cycle of hatred, violence and retribution.

I urge Kosovars to rise above the temptation of retribution - for reasons both moral and practical. In todayís world -- and certainly in todayís Europe - a society and a people are judged by how well they respect the rights of religious and ethnic minority groups.

Kosovo never has been -- and should never be -- a mono-ethnic entity. I urge you to use your influence to help the people of Kosovo be guided by an attitude of tolerance and make the right choices in the weeks and months ahead.

I want to make the same point about the desire on the part of some to redraw the map of Southeast Europe. Albania must not allow itself to be used by those who would create conflict in the region. Attempts to expand boundaries are an invitation to violence, not peace and stability. And certainly, the international community would no sooner accept a Greater Albania than it would a Greater Serbia or Croatia.

What the international community wants now for this region is, in essence, what the vast majority of Albanians want: a more secure and prosperous future, in which every law-abiding person is safe, and has an opportunity to build a better life for themselves and their families.

Last year, NATO and its partners --- including Albania -- did the right thing by acting to stop and reverse Milosevicís campaign of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Now we must all do the right thing again and work together to win the peace. This is a noble endeavor, and an essential one, and I am proud that the United States is working with you to accomplish it.

Let me thank you for allowing me to speak to you today. I consider it a great honor to be able to address the Parliament of Albania, and I am grateful to the President for the wonderful award that he gave me. I feel very welcome here and I thank you all very, very much for allowing me to speak to you and to visit Tirana today.

[End of Document]
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