President of Albania

Speech made to the Assembly

Wednesday, 28 April 1999

Mr President, Secretary General, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to begin by thanking the organisers for inviting me to speak in this debate on a very significant anniversary for European, Euro-Atlantic and world integration, namely the Council of Europe’s fiftieth anniversary.

The brief recent history of pluralist parliamentary democracy in Albania, since the first pluralist elections on 31 March 1991, marks a step forward – but the same period has also seen setbacks and clear signs of regression in relation to the aspirations of the Albanian people and the standards acceptable for truly democratic institutions.

During the eight to nine years of political pluralism in Albania, and particularly after the severe institutional, political, social and financial crisis the country experienced, Albania’s new democracy has focused its efforts on building a state governed by the rule of law on the basis of a new constitution that clearly enshrines the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary, the depoliticisation of the civil service – especially as regards the maintenance of law and order, the armed forces, the media, the judicial system and the diplomatic and consular service – decentralisation of power to the local level, self-government for universities and other academic institutions, encouragement of private media and the transformation of state television.

In addition, one of our very real concerns has been, and still is, to review and expand civil society, fully supporting its development in order not only to widen the processes of democracy in Albania but also to make a modest contribution to creating a new spirit in the Balkans, through the implementation of human and civil rights and of the rights of individuals and minorities, through respect for cultural diversity and linguistic pluralism and through freedom for, and co-operation among, the various religious communities.

I am speaking in my capacity as head of state on behalf of the people and all the political parties – in government and opposition alike – who are co-operating through institutional channels in building a state governed by the rule of law and contributing to respect for legal procedures, the separation of powers and decentralisation, so as to create clearer conditions for future economic development and large-scale privatisation of the banking system.

Albania was, until last November, the only country in democratic Europe not to have adopted a constitution, and this was a test of the degree of responsibility its political forces showed in respect of the country’s democratic development. My main aim was to transform the process of drafting the constitution into an exercise in education and citizenship to which everyone contributed, by encouraging local and international NGOs, specialised institutions, the press and electronic media, experts, Albanian intellectuals and Albanian public opinion to play their parts, given the moral obligation that existed in this regard.

But what levels of difference of opinion can a democracy tolerate if it is not to dissolve? A minimum consensus ought at least to have been sought in preference to a boycott, and there ought to have been constructive rather than destructive participation. A democratic constitution endorsed by constitutional experts of international renown — and specifically by the Venice Commission – would benefit not only the people but also the political forces themselves, as a constitution embodying modem conceptions of the state is vital to all ongoing legislative improvements and to ensuring that democracy is firmly established in the country.

The people themselves intuitively understood – much better than the political parties – what was at stake and voted “yes” in the referendum on the constitution, which was one of the most important events in post-communist Albania, as it gave legal form to the modem Albanian state.

Ladies and gentlemen, in addition to our efforts to introduce democratic, legislative, institutional, administrative, economic and financial reforms, Albania is determined to go ahead and take its rightful place in European and Euro-Atlantic organisations. To achieve this great political goal, we have given serious undertakings to satisfy democratic standards, which, from a legal standpoint, have now been introduced despite the fragility of Albania’s situation.

I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Council of Europe and certain other European and international organisations for their great contribution not only to drawing up our constitution and modem legislation but also to establishing new institutions of great importance to Albanian democracy and its future, for instance the legal staff college, the office of the judicial budget service, the commission for monitoring the execution of criminal sentences, the ombudsman, the telecommunications regulatory authority, the national broadcasting council, the electronic media and so on.

At the same time, significant progress has been made in decentralising power and granting autonomy or independence to local authorities, higher education establishments, the banking system, the public prosecutor’s office and the supreme state audit office. However, the process still has to be taken further, which will demand more courage and confidence, not only because these measures are necessary in principle but also because of the positive results that should gradually be forthcoming in terms of emancipating Albanian society. There has been plenty of bilateral cooperation in this regard, as well as assistance from the Council of Europe’s office in Tirana, the OSCE’s main office in Tirana and its regional offices, and, lastly, the Friends of Albania group.

However, we are aware that Albania’s democratic, economic and social prosperity is closely bound up with the development of the region as a whole, and more specifically with stability and closer relations with neighbouring countries.

Apart from the continued development of co-operation with Italy and Greece, relations with all of the countries in the region, including the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, are developing along the right lines. I am convinced that development, prosperity and integration for our societies and for all of south-eastern Europe will remain empty words unless we all make efforts to apply liberal, European integrative concepts to emancipating our multi-ethnic societies, which are threatened to the core by the Belgrade regime, which is now an explosive island of ethnic hatred, ethnic cleansing and genocide in the heart of Europe.

At the same time, we must not allow the criteria and principles that are adopted to be interpreted to the detriment of small peoples, as has been the case with the Albanians of Kosovo, who nourish powerful democratic aspirations and are imbued with liberty and justice. We should condemn outright the monstrous human scandal of ethnic cleansing which is occurring in the former Yugoslavia and we must co-operate with all those who are in a position to put an end to this abomination and to the shameful indifference it has met with throughout the world.

As President Chirac has stated very clearly, the waves of refugees, the destruction of villages, the assassinations and the massacres bear ample witness to what is taking place. It is intolerable, he says. What is at stake today is peace on our soil, peace in our continent of Europe, as well as human rights.

While the Serbian delegation at Rambouillet, and then in Paris, from 15 to 19 March, pretended to be negotiating, the Serbian forces were continuing their operations against the civilian population. Milosevic never really had any intention of negotiating seriously, and this is set to continue because there is no longer any way back.

The current situation in Kosovo is the result of a strategic plan, which, according to recent information, was already being deliberately prepared at the end of last year by Milosevic’s entourage, under the code name “horseshoe” (potkova in Serbian), with the aim of using violence to bring about demographic change in the province. This shows the real nature of the regime and the conflict.

It is clear that we have here a conflict between dictatorship and medieval barbarity on the one hand and modem democracy and human civilisation on the other, between the past and the future, but I am convinced that the democratic future will win in the end. Many sections of the Rambouillet agreements have now been overtaken by events, according to Ms Albright, who was talking about the peace agreement proposed to the belligerents by the international community and accepted by the Kosovar Albanian side but rejected by the Serbs. This is particularly true in the light of the repression that the Serbian soldiers, police and paramilitary forces are inflicting on the population of Albanian origin in the province.

The crimes, the genocide, the ethnic cleansing and the deportations can no longer be tolerated. The Kosovo Albanians cannot return to their homes and their land without the withdrawal of the forces of the Serbian war machine and without being placed under Nato-led international military protection. There can be no satisfactory solution for international democratic public opinion and the democratic future of the entire world unless the return of the Albanians to the whole of Kosovo is guaranteed.

The efforts of Serbian propaganda to encourage the notion of the partitioning of Kosovo are very dangerous and are an attempt to destabilise the whole region. In contrast, multi-ethnic democracies are the best solution for peace and stability in the Balkan region.

After the emphasis placed on the return of the refugees under the protection of an international military presence in Kosovo, consideration should also be given to a civilian presence with a political, institutional and social component (the OSCE, the Council of Europe, Unesco) to supervise the rebuilding of institutions and the administration and to organise local and general elections, a humanitarian component (UNHCR, the Red Cross, Unicef) to begin to stabilise Albanian family life, and an economic component (the European Union, the United States, the G7 and so on) to deal with the economic reconstruction of the country.

Only when this multiple international presence – this “international authority” or “international protectorate”, depending on the development of political, institutional, social and economic life in Kosovo – has been guaranteed will we be able to talk about a stable political solution, in accordance with the principles of international conventions and the processes of European integration and interdependence.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Albanian nation attaches great importance to respect for the ideas and values of every nationality, peaceful coexistence, mutually beneficial co-operation, the concepts which strengthen the family, respect for the environment, the economy, culture and freedom of thought. However, the efforts to ensure enjoyment of a normal life and human freedom, to protect nature and the environment, to eliminate spiritual pollution and to defend sound family units, which are the very basis of society, must be properly organised at national, regional and international level and demand strong, unprejudiced collaboration and – in the Balkans, more than anywhere else – greater economic, political and cultural co-operation.

The rapid changes likely in the international climate, the development of financial/political instruments and the guarantees established for political and human rights, in particular the right to security, mean that it is essential to adapt and reform the structures that will have to deal both with the world’s present-day challenges and with those of the coming decades in terms of terrorism, organised crime, ethnic and religious genocide, and so on.

It is true that a certain lack of efficiency in procedures and actions is part of the price that must be paid for democracy if authoritarianism, unfettered power and arbitrariness are to be avoided. Nevertheless, it is possible to give concrete expression to democratic principles and laws through practical and dynamic action designed to prevent abuses of fundamental human rights fuelled by unreasonable attitudes, personal or national /nationalistic interests, archaic ideas inherited from the cold war or traditional spheres of influence.

Such action would help to increase public confidence in international and European institutions, while also strengthening these bodies’ authority, which is so important to the peaceful future of humanity.

I think Albert Camus was right to stress that, when there are no principles, rules should be established, but I have the impression that the reverse should have been applied to the main European and international institutions, given the changes that have occurred over the last ten years and those which are likely to take place in the years ahead. Most European and international institutions must therefore proceed in the opposite manner: they are overloaded and suffocated by rules, and they must get back to or renew their principles.

In the final analysis, what matters is what works, as no lesson in perfect democracy can be given and we have to weigh up the extreme difficulties that European institutions have in adapting to the demands of efficiency, accountability and démocratisation. To this end, it is essential to develop a new policy to give fresh momentum to structures that have often become unwieldy and bogged down in protracted procedures, superfluous in certain of their stances and impotent in terms of defence and security.

I also believe that the institutions, the policies and the budgetary resources have not been properly adapted for the planned eastward enlargement. There is, therefore, an urgent need for reforms to make sure that inertia does not gain the upper hand over dynamism. Of course, the “clean sweep” approach has been dropped, but the slow and complex approach with its ambiguous and tortuous results based on the lowest common denominator offers very little hope of real success or of better reconciling two complementary but contradictory objectives, namely démocratisation and effectiveness.

In my opinion, it is necessary to improve the decision-making process and to do more to guarantee democratic methods of action and efficiency, which should primarily be sought in the simplification of procedures and in clear and concrete positions. The example of Kosovo clearly illustrates this. Honourable members, all of our efforts to achieve democracy and progress have consistently received – and will continue to receive – assistance from our foreign partners, including the Council of Europe.

In connection with this co-operation and its aspects, I would stress that, on our path forward, the criteria of democracy must not and, indeed, cannot be built on individual, spontaneous or accidental interpretations nor on local parameters, but should be based on analytical and universal parameters that are not only national but also international in nature. Indeed, it would be no exaggeration to say that bringing about an unbalanced “equilibrium”, which might undermine the great foundations of democracy – namely respect for the law and institutions, the independence of the latter, and the principles embodied in international charters – would be fraught with consequences both for the present and for the future.

In their essence, these foundations are imbued with the principle of liberty for all. Neither the Albanians of Albania, Kosovo or other countries nor any other people in the world should be excluded from these great general principles of human society. Mechanical borrowing of other countries’ models cannot be assured of success if it does not allow for local conditions or is not founded on specific political, social or economic principles. We must therefore try not to undermine other major principles, but to leave the latitude needed for progress, thereby contributing to local and regional stability and normality.

Moreover, while it may prove to be a solution of the moment, the policy or, more exactly, the diplomatic approach of equal responsibility – the striking of an unjustified balance – even in its “democratic” form, only serves to keep conflicts alive, either in the open or in latent form, and revives – or delays settlement of – the problems, making the human and material costs all the greater. I think that the example of Kosovo speaks volumes in this regard.

A preventive, pragmatic and transparent policy concentrating on detail, which ensures clarity with regard to responsibility, better serves the future of cohesion, integrity and development with no backsliding, while also countering and unmasking any speculation or demagogy in politics, consolidating the values of civilisation and boosting fruitful co-operation with regional, European and international institutions, including, in particular, the Council of Europe. The effects produced to date have been encouraging, and for this reason, I should like once again to express the thanks and gratitude of the people and State of Albania to the Council of Europe.


Thank you Mr President.

President Mejdani has agreed to answer questions. As twenty-two questions have been tabled, that leaves less than two minutes per question, so I beg members to keep to the thirty second time limit. I am sure that President Mejdani will forgive you if you do not prefix your question with well-meant but time-consuming phrases of welcome. Just ask a question. That would be helpful for all concerned. We have grouped the questions, and the first group concerns the humanitarian crisis in Kosovo. To ask the first question, I call Mr Diaz de Mera of Spain, speaking for the Christian Democratic Group.

Mr DIAZ DE MERA (Spain) (interpretation)

thanked President Mejdani for his kind reception in Tirana. He asked what aid was being asked for and about the priorities for Albania.

Mr Mejdani, President of Albania

The situation in Albania is critical. The state of emergency is caused by the fact that the number of deported Kosovo Albanians is rising every day. We have more than 360 000 deported Albanians in Albania. That is a large number and our means are limited. However, I stress again the great solidarity between the Albanian people and the deported Albanians from Kosovo. A large proportion of those people is living with Albanian families.

The international machinery is working well in Albania. Many international organisations and countries are contributing through humanitarian and medical agencies. To understand the scale of the problem, let us consider the expenses for food alone. Assuming that it costs US$ 3 per person per day, we need more than US$ 33 million a month just to feed those people. The dimensions of the problem are huge. It is as though 7 or 8 million refugees entered Spain within the space of two or three weeks. Imagine the problem that would be created. Although I did not emphasise this in my speech, we need international contributions. The problem, which needs to be resolved, is not simply Albanian but international. A policy of “ethnic cleansing”, genocide and deportation is being carried out in the heart of Europe. For that reason, any democratic country or institution must make its contribution:


There are another five questions on the same subject. I call Lord Judd, who I ask to take account of what the Assembly has been told: he should remember that he has thirty seconds.

Lord JUDD (United Kingdom)

When you received us last week, Mr Mejdani, it was clear that you were carrying an immense burden. Are you confident that your country can carry this number of refugees through the coming summer and, indeed, into next winter?

Mr Mejdani, President of Albania

I can say a strong yes about the summer, but people cannot live in tents in camps during the winter. That will not be possible. A solution would be to build new prefabricated structures or repair old buildings, for which we need money. I am persuaded of the fact that if this conflict is to end after, let us say, two months, the deported Albanians will not be able to return quickly. We must be prepared for that. It will not be like their arrival, which took place over a period of two or three weeks. Since some of them at least will pass the winter in Albania, I am thinking of, and asking for, some contribution in order to repair old buildings and to build new, light structures.


I highly respect what your country has done for the refugees from Kosovo. What do you specifically expect different European countries to do to solve the refugee problem?

Mr Mejdani, President of Albania

Our focus is on humanitarian matters, but we have to realise that we must change the economic situation not only in Albania but in the region. I am optimistic that, through rapid economic development, all the nationalist feelings that are still alive in the Balkans will become less important and weaken. The European Union and all developed countries must work together in order to realise a kind of Marshall Plan for the Balkans and to accelerate the integration of the region in the EU and other democratic and economic structures. It is only in that way that matters will be less expensive in Europe and in the world in the future.

Mr DINÇER (Turkey)

First, let me express my genuine pleasure at seeing you here in our Assembly, Mr President. You are a very well respected politician in Turkey. We especially appreciate your personal intervention, effort and contribution in overcoming the recent political crisis in Albania...


Ask a question please, Mr Dinner.

Mr DINÇER (Turkey)

Your country, Mr Mejdani, has been going through a difficult period. What role do you think the Balkans can play in solving their own problems and the refugee crisis? What significance do you attach to regional co-operation in crisis management in the Balkans?

Mr Mejdani, President of Albania

Any regional initiative is welcome. Over the past few years we have tried to co-operate with each other, but I do not think that we can overcome this critical situation by taking a regional initiative. We now need more space in the Balkans; we need a European initiative. I am thinking of rapid economic development or perhaps an international initiative, such as the one taken by the G7 leading industrialised nations, to accelerate the process of development in the Balkans and to prevent the development of the concept of south-east Europe as a “third Europe”, although this idea has unfortunately already begun to take root. South-east Europe is part of Europe, and we must accelerate its integration. For that reason, it is important at the moment that an international or European initiative be taken and that matters do not stay inside our region.


To what extent has the present crisis in the region and the massive displacement of people influenced the implementation of your government’s plans in respect of, first, the stabilisation of the economy, secondly, adherence to the rule of law and, thirdly, unity and reconciliation between the political forces inside the country?

Mr Mejdani, President of Albania

I mentioned that simply to feed the people for a month costs US$ 33 million, which is a lot for us given that we were quite pleased when we received support for our budget of US$ 1.2 million. There is an economic risk but, at the same time, we are following the economic situation closely in order to avoid an economic crisis in Albania. During my meeting with the Director-General of the International Monetary Fund in Washington, there was a clear commitment on the part of all economic and international structures to prevent an economic crisis in Albania and the region. At the same time, we must consider the future and how to realise different projects. With international support, such consideration will go on.

Mrs SQUARCIALUPI (Italy) (translation)

I wish to put a specific question to die President of Albania, Mr Mejdani, concerning the young people in the refugee camps. I have visited these camps and have seen that, unfortunately, many children and young people spend hours doing nothing. What are the possibilities for schooling? What possibilities are there for giving these children and young people some kind of education? Thank you, Mr President.

Mr Mejdani, President of Albania

We have decided on, and will begin, education in summer schools at the end of May and the beginning of June. The schools will run for three months. We shall, of course, involve the Albanian teachers in Kosovo in that process, while at the same time we are trying to organise different activities in different camps. The latest initiative involved travelling through different camps, with children expressing their sentiments, feelings and memories through different designs and drawings. Those are examples of activities which aim to achieve contact between different children.

There are also different cultural activities. At the same time, we are trying to assist psychologically those children who are or have been traumatised. We are co-operating with different national organisations such as Unicef.


Thank you. We now have two questions on the impact of the conflict in Yugoslavia. The first is from Mrs Faldet.

Mrs FALDET (Norway)

During the past few years Albania has suffered economic, social and political problems. How does the President assess the influence of the current conflict in Yugoslavia on the ambitions to unite and to modernise Albania and to integrate the country more closely into organisations that co-operate internationally?

Mr Mejdani, President of Albania

My answer will be brief. The integration of Albania into the European Union and Nato is a dream. It is not only my dream but that of the Albanian people. Let us hope tiiat it will be realised. In fact, we have two dreams, both of which we can put under the umbrella of integration. The second is integration into Nato. We are working on the realisation of our dreams, following the will of the Albanian people.

Mr CARVALHO (Portugal) (interpretation)

mentioned the activities of international crime and the Mafia in Albania and asked how Albania would tackle the problems this caused.

Mr Mejdani, President of Albania

I did not follow you completely. We have kept the door open to all deported Albanians. I have mentioned the figure of 350 000. All those people have been without documents or licences. Among them are people who have been infiltrated into the country by Belgrade or by others. We are working on that. You have to understand Albanian solidarity. I am sorry to repeat this. You could find criminals anywhere. My advice is to emphasise Albanian solidarity.

I was impressed when I went to Washington by a meeting with school pupils aged 14 and 15 years. The meeting was at a Michigan high-school. They expressed a desire to meet me and to give me a message. At the same time they made a contribution of US$ 7 000 for deported Albanians. What was important was not the sum but the message: a message of human solidarity. I appreciated that very much. At the same time in Colorado, criminals were killing their friends, so it is important to emphasise that the group of criminals is small and the spirit of the population is great. It is the spirit that is important. That is the spirit of Albanian solidarity.

That spirit was also clearly shown during the second world war. Albanian families did not permit Italian soldiers to be handed over to or captured by the Germans. They hid them in their homes. That was after the Italian occupation and capitulation. No Jews were captured in Albania. All were hidden by Albanian families. That period is more important than a group of criminals, whom we can find anywhere in any country.


The next question is on political parties in Albania, Mr Sold Tura, you have the floor.

Mr SOLÉ TURA (Spain)

As Rapporteur of the Monitoring Committee let me welcome you again, Mr President. Do you think that in the present situation there is a possibility of the main political forces in Albania co-operating and making joint efforts?

Mr Mejdani, President of Albania

In fact, co-operation is quite widespread at the local level. The local authorities do everything. As you will know, for the most part they are under the control of the opposition, so co-operation is quite good. It is the right time to strengthen that cooperation. I hope that it will emerge in the parliament and at central level. Unfortunately until now some parts of the opposition have not been in parliament and were not there when we approved the law on the presence of Nato in Albania. In any case I hope that that will happen quite soon. Perhaps not all the opposition groups, but some of them, will participate in parliamentary life. That is our desire. At the moment we need to be together and to work together to pass through this critical crisis for the benefit of the people of Albania and of Kosovo.


You have spoken about the new Constitution of Albania. To what extent will having a new constitution improve the dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition? What are the obstacles, legal or political? On Protocol No. 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights and on the death penalty issue, you have some obligations as a member of the Council of Europe. Would you like to present the opinion of your government?

Mr Mejdani, President of Albania

You have asked two questions. I cannot answer the first because I can see no reason to prevent co-operation in political life.

On the second issue, until now I have blocked decisions on the death penalty. A political game was being played on the issue, with various signatures being collected. The Albanian people are aware of the problem. We had planned to work with the Council of Europe on the issue, but that has been postponed because the situation has changed. Fortunately, there has been no criticism. We have to inform public opinion and persuade the people that the mechanisms that I have blocked are not the way to solve problems. This is not a constitutional problem. Perhaps it is too early to change civil law and the penal code, but we have to reduce the articles relating to the death penalty. I think that we can work on my proposals.

Perhaps today is not the time to deal with the issue. The death penalty is being carried out with no legal basis every day in Kosovo, where many thousands of people are massacred and burned. There are 100 000 missing Kosovo Albanian men. We do not know whether they are alive. Perhaps we shall find out in due course. Prosecutors from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia are working in Albania. Our prosecutors are collecting information about the genocide. Perhaps we should postpone talking about the issue. We want to work with the Council of Europe to mobilise public opinion against the death penalty. There have been no executions for the past four or five years.

Mr ZHEBROVSKY (Russian Federation) (interpretation)

said that the Kosovo Liberation Army had received money, weapons and special advisers from abroad via Albania. He asked whether Albania was deliberately violating the United Nations resolution or whether it was simply unable to prevent this assistance passing through its territory.

Mr Mejdani, President of Albania

I do not know where you got that information from. Some free people are coming from abroad. Perhaps they are finding some way into Kosovo through the mountains, but they do not have money. Anyone who goes into Kosovo with money will be a victim of the Serbs. The Serbs have collected money from simple people. All the Albanians who were directed to the border have been stopped by soldiers or police who took their money or killed them. Documentation has been collected on thousands of cases. No one can enter Kosovo with money. We have not broken any agreements in that respect.

We are talking about a human reaction. We have seen on television that these people have lost their family – they have lost everything. More than 400 000 villages have been burned. Perhaps up to 50 000 people have been killed or burned. I do not know how many people are entering Kosovo – perhaps a few hundred. All the borders have been mined and 200 mines are now also being planted in our territory, using special shells that are highly dangerous, particularly to children.

Let us consider the reality. I find it strange. I have read the declaration of the Russian Parliament and have met Russian parliamentarians in Albania. People can have different opinions, but the declaration did not mention “ethnic cleansing”, killing, genocide or deportation. That is not normal. Albanians are human beings like everybody else.

Mr DOMLJAN (Croatia)

You may recall a recent visit to Albania by a Croatian parliamentary delegation. We were very impressed by what we saw and heard. The issue of Kosovo was raised many times. Bearing in mind the tragic events in Kosovo in the past month or so, do you think that the Rambouillet Agreement is still valid as a long-term solution for Kosovo? If not, do you think that Nato ground troops should be deployed in Kosovo, even without the agreement of the Serbian authorities?

Mr Mejdani, President of Albania

It is important to maintain the geographical nature of the agreement. We should not permit a partition of Kosovo, which would be dangerous for the region. We live in a multi-ethnic region with multi-ethnic states. We must not develop Milosevic’s dogma of statehood based on ethnic groups. We have to work for an intermediate solution involving an international protectorate and leave the eventual solution until later. We want a new, multi-ethnic society and democracy to evolve. A multi-ethnic state is not a strange concept.

The first requirement for the return of deported Albanians is the presence of an international force led by Nato, or at least including Nato. That is the most important instrument for peace, stability and security. I do not know whether it will be implemented in a permissive or a non-permissive environment, but such a force is vital. We must guarantee ethnic Albanians the chance to return home. We must stop the policy of “ethnic cleansing” and give the victory to the future of the Balkans, Europe and the whole world.

Mr BEHRENDT (Germany) (translation)

Mr President, there are many Kosovo Albanians, especially among the KLA, who want an independent Kosovo. Do you share the view, which is also the basis of the Rambouillet Agreement, that any border change would seriously jeopardise political stability in this region, and are you of the opinion that a final solution must ultimately also take account of Serbian interests to the extent of Kosovo remaining within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, albeit with a high degree of autonomy, after the return of the refugees?

Mr Mejdani, President of Albania

I will answer the last part of the question first. We must rebuild a multi-ethnic democracy under the international authorities within the region, based on the Rambouillet Agreement. The end solution could be different, and the people there must decide on whether to apply the formulae. They may choose to become an international protectorate or to try to achieve a kind of equilibrium within the region. Later, we can think about the final political solution, which I think will be based on the will of the people and respect for international conventions. I see no risk of a new, independent state being created, but rather a multi-ethnic democracy. I believe also that that will be the case in Serbia later. Now, it is a dictatorship.

On the first part of the question, we must consider the liberation army as a positive factor because it is on the same side as Nato. It is made up of young people – the average age is 22. We have no contact with its leaders as it is impossible to contact them. We are not prevaricating – it is simply not possible because they are fighting within Kosovo and sacrificing themselves to save lives as they defend people in the mountains and the forests.

We are keeping in contact with the provisional government, which is based on the agreement reached by all concerned at Rambouillet, where it was agreed to create a new, provisional government – a coalition of Rugova, Qosja and the KLA. It was decided that the

Prime Minister would be from the KLA. It is composed of three factors. Now there is a kind of executive or representative body. It has not fulfilled its task because the candidates of the Democratic League are not represented yet. Five seats are vacant. However, we are keeping in contact with some of those concerned. It is not easy to have contact, because members of the provisional government are spread out around different zones of Kosovo where they are trying to defend Albanians. The agreement was signed by them and they have decided to create that new executive body.

Mr IWINSKI (Poland)

I wish to raise an issue that is seldom discussed. There has been a significant Albanian diaspora throughout Europe and the world, leaving aside Kosovo. Would you comment briefly on that matter, the links of those people with the motherland and their view of the Balkan conflict?

Mr Mejdani, President of Albania

We keep in contact with those people. During my short visit I have met groups in Washington and Paris. I work with them, and they are contributing morally and financially. At the same time, we want them to keep together like a community, and without the splits that could be created by different political influences. There is a positive evolution. In Paris, I met intellectuals with great personalities. They can contribute not only financially, but also morally to Albania and to its people – as well as to Albanians in Kosovo.

Mr SILAY (Turkey)

The crisis in the Balkans has clearly underlined once again the need to enhance economic co-operation in the region. A number of initiatives and programmes have been launched by many regional organisations, aimed at increasing economic interaction among the Balkan states. The South-eastern European Co-operation process should be mentioned at this point. What do you think should be done to enhance economic co-operation among the Balkan countries, particularly as it relates to the possible contribution to peace and stability in the region?

Mr Mejdani, President of Albania

There are a lot of different initiatives in the countries, including the Black Sea initiative and other economic and cultural initiatives. I may be wrong, but I believe that for the rapid economic development of our region we must reduce nationalist feelings. That is needed just now. For that, we need an international initiative to add to our regional initiatives. We need the umbrella to be more international, and we need in particular European initiatives. We must integrate that part of Europe into the EU rapidly. Through economic development, our borders will become less important and will be geographical symbols. Hopefully, the problems of trying to create multi-ethnic societies will be resolved. We are seeking to develop regional initiatives, but for rapid economic development we need a Marshall Plan – or perhaps a general plan – in our region. We need a European or international programme.

Mr COX (United Kingdom)

The Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee greatly values the contacts that we are building with your colleagues in Albania. We had a debate in January in the Assembly about Albanian children. What structures is your government building for the protection and welfare of children?

Mr Mejdani, President of Albania

It is too soon to give a definitive answer. There are various institutions but there is no umbrella organisation. Action has been based more on non-governmental organisations and the structures of civil society. We have problems because some children have abandoned their schools because of the economic situation of their families. There is a great deal to be done because education is in trouble in Albania, not only in the countryside, where children have to work for their families, but in the towns.

There are serious problems, but some programmes are in place to try to deal with them. There is a new American-Albani an programme and Albanian NGOs are working towards a solution, but a great deal remains to be done, and in fact we have regressed.

Mr POPOVSKI (“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”)

Mr Mejdani, I come from Macedonia, so I think that you will understand this question. The so-called KLA announced that its aim is an independent Kosovo and, a week after the start of the Nato bombing of Serbia, the Prime Minister of Albania, Mr Majko, said that no one should be afraid of a greater Albania. Do you agree with that?

Mr Mejdani, President of Albania

The Albanian delegation in Rambouillet signed the agreement, which does not call for independence. The delegation was headed by the political branch of the KLA and a third of the delegation were members of the KLA, but they all signed the agreement, which does not call for either independence or a referendum. You have ignored those facts, which are quite important. The Albanians have chosen a peaceful solution.

It is not true that the Prime Minister made such a declaration, and that idea was not in the mind of the political class in Albania. It has never been discussed by Albanians, and the idea is a product of the sick mentality of Belgrade and, perhaps, of another place in the former Yugoslavia.

I spoke in favour of an intermediate solution, and I hope that there can be a multi-ethnic state, directly integrated into the European Union. That is a wholly different concept. We must look reality in the face and open our eyes. The argument that the presence of Albanians in Macedonia will change the ethnic balance is completely wrong. All we want to do is to send those people home. Otherwise, the policy of “ethnic cleansing” will win.

It is not positive to speak about the corridors of deportation. This is not the first time that such a theory has been developed. Unfortunately, it was developed a year ago by my counterpart in your country. It does not promote the healthy development of our region; nor does the fact that twenty people died near your border. Do not be afraid about the future for Kosovo or about a greater Albania, because there is no such tendency in the political class in Albania. The idea is propaganda from Belgrade.

The political class in Macedonia should think about the development of a civil rather than a national state, to destroy definitively this period of chauvinism, which is not good for our region. We want to work with the Macedonian Government and people for the stability of Macedonia and the region and for our common future.


Thank you very much for answering our questions so clearly and forthrightly, Mr President.