President of Albania

Speech made to the Assembly

Wednesday, 6 May 1992

Mr President, Madam Secretary General, ladies and gentlemen, may I take this opportunity to express my immense gratification at the signal honour you have conferred on me by inviting me to visit Strasbourg, the city of freedom which stands for European union, and by asking me to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which represents and symbolises the future political union of our community of nations. I am also very pleased and honoured to be addressing you, distinguished members, as the representative of one of Europe’s oldest peoples which a month ago freely voted to set an irreversible course towards democracy.

I would also take the opportunity to thank the Parliamentary Assembly, the Secretary General, Mrs Lalumière, and the Council of Europe as a whole for their attention and highly effective assistance to democracy in Albania from the outset.

In the arduous history of the Albanian nation, the 1990s will be remembered as the years of transformations, upheavals, suffering and great victories. On 22 March the Albanians, by overcoming the communist government in Albania, scored one of the greatest victories in their painful history; because communism has indubitably been the most tragic political, social and economic experiment undergone by mankind.

It is a system wholly founded on oppression, violence and untruth. It promised to free mankind but denied the basic personal freedoms, bringing oppression and poverty in their stead. The system had more tragic consequences for the Albanians than did the communist system for all the other peoples of eastern Europe, and a renowned political figure of our time was quite right in saying that it takes an Albanian to understand the nature of communism. The reason is that the communist system displaced the Albanian people and isolated Albania from Europe.

I would point out at this juncture that Albania’s self-isolation, as other countries called it, was actually enforced isolation because it went against the free will and aspirations of the Albanians. The system gravely impaired the country’s culture and ruined its economy. Once a favoured land, Albania became the country of bunkers and starving children, untended sickness, mass expatriation and confusion, anarchy and organised crime. Communism was a merciless system.

I mention all this in order to remind you that our relative triumph with regard to the recovery of freedom and the establishment of democracy presupposes two phases coinciding in a single process, one destructive and the other constructive.

We have destroyed communism after being tormented beyond endurance; this is the destructive phase. We now have to build up our democracy and give it substance; this is the constructive phase. The success of this undertaking is crucial to our future.

As I hope and believe, the Albanians have understood that their effort, commitment and resolve are vital prerequisites for building a democratic state and system of government. Yet when I reflect that in everything we must go back to the beginning and start from scratch, the image of the phoenix reborn serves only to gratify poetic imagination. In the political sphere, in the formation and administration of the state, matters have a different complexion. This is why today we again appeal to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and to all democracies in Europe and throughout the world to assist and encourage Albania on its chosen path of freedom and democracy.

The establishment of democratic institutions and the operation of a state system founded on the rule of law currently represent the top priority for the democratic government. The new democratic parliamentary chambers and Government of Albania have committed themselves to an unrelenting effort to prepare a body of democratic legislation fully in keeping with the principles of the Helsinki Final Act, the Copenhagen Document and the Paris Charter. Our goal is to build a democratic state principally scaled to the human dimension, that is, fully observing the rights and freedoms of individuals whether Albanians or members of minorities, in respect of whom we shall also observe all the established international rules.

We are resolved to turn Albania into a country of free citizens, a democratic state whose policy of integration with Europe will further peace and stability in the region. The Parliamentary Assembly and the Council of Europe assisted the democratic elements at the transitional stage, but at present their help is vital to us and we trust that it will be increased. The foundation of a democratic state is without doubt in all Europe’s interest.

On 22 March the communist central power was indeed buried for good, but the chief enemy of democracy in Albania is the legacy of the dictatorship which we knew. Today this legacy is manifest in the deprivation, the poverty and the bunker landscape.

The state-controlled economy has been destroyed but not yet replaced by the market economy. Industrial output has been reduced by 50%, oil production by 45% and the mining of copper and chromium by 70% and 65% respectively. We have succeeded in privatising the ownership of land, but 40% of the area lies waste. The farmers are short of agricultural machinery, pesticides and so on.

The total volume of transport has fallen by 50%. Inflation is rising by 15 % per month and unemployment affects half the active workforce. The annual income of wage-earners ranges from 150 to 200 dollars. A ridiculous law which guarantees workers 80% of their wage without working is ruining the economy and we are determined to repeal it.

In view of these enormous problems, we are convinced that only drastic remedies can restore the financial stability and effect the radical liberalisation of our economy. We are working in close co-operation with the International Monetary Fund to finalise our programme. Our strategy is principally based on a rationale whereby unprofitable state enterprises are to be closed down while at the same time the private sector is to be encouraged by lifting price controls.

All these measures will make the people’s very difficult living conditions even worse. This is why we request the assistance of the Group of Twenty-four in maintaining and granting us humanitarian aid with foodstuffs until our production is adequate. Technical and financial assistance under a lease arrangement (the guest-worker programme) will reduce unemployment and at the same time increase the skills of the workforce. Stimulus to European investment in Albania will be greatly appreciated on our side.

We have plentiful natural resources and a workforce which represent a promising market. We intend to simplify foreign investment by means of laws to be passed shortly. The European countries must accept our products if we are to have any prospect of honouring our debts.

The whole bitter legacy of the past is such a serious threat to democracy in Albania that the case would not be overstated by saying that it confronts Albania with the dismal alternative of “to be or not to be” because, as history has repeatedly proved, a democracy which does not succeed in securing prosperity for its citizens is doomed to failure. We therefore consider that action by the Council of Europe and the European Communities will be required to rescue Albania and the new Albanian democracy from this dreadful legacy.

The Albanians currently form a nation which is split in two: some 3 million live in their age-old homeland in Yugoslavia, deprived of human and national rights. They are the only citizens on this continent who have never known free voting. They are being subjected to apartheid by the communist dictator Milosevic, whose policy of violence has made contention degenerate into warfare, causing great bloodshed and claiming countless victims in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and who has concentrated large armed forces in Kosovo, threatening the Albanian population with an absolute massacre.

The new Republic of Yugoslavia, a communist-type structure, cannot incorporate or be recognised by the Albanians. We hold that the recognition of a right to self-determination for the Albanians in Kosovo is a prerequisite for fair settlement of the crisis in the region. The Yugoslav crisis cannot be resolved without recognising the rights of the Albanians. Settlements imposed without regard to the free will of the people are unstable and artificial.

Furthermore, a large number of Albanians live in Macedonia. There are no exact figures, but they are believed to number between 700 000 and 900 000 people. We are in favour of the independence of the Republic of Macedonia, but it must respect all the individual and national rights and freedoms of the Albanians. The history of Europe has proved that a democratic country divided into self-governing districts is several times more stable than a country unified by pressure and dictatorship.

The new Albanian state is resolved to apply the policy of open doors and free movement for people, goods and ideas. The chief aim of this policy is Albania’s integration with Europe. This is also the greatest dream of the Albanians who, although they are among the oldest inhabitants of this continent, feel they are in a “to be or not to be” situation.

With their culture, one of the oldest, they have an undeniable contribution to make to present-day European civilisation.

Unfortunately, the communist occupation and the extreme isolation which it imposed have estranged Albania from Europe. This is why the watchword of the Albanians in carrying out their democratic revolution was “We want Albania to be like Europe”. This is why they are knocking at the gates of Strasbourg today. I hope and I am convinced that Europe will assist and encourage even the poorer peoples to direct their thoughts, faith and endeavours towards a life in a united Europe because, as the great historical figure Sir Winston Churchill stressed, “Thus and thus only will the glory of Europe rise again”. (Applause)

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Thank you, Mr President, for your very frank and sincere statement, which will undoubtedly find a favourable response in our Assembly.

I will repeat what I have already told you in my office, since I am anxious for this to be shared by my colleagues: we are all ready, in our hearts and in our intentions, to welcome your people and your institutions among us. We are happy to have heard, in your statement, how far your promises coincide with our expressed desire that Albania will, as soon as possible, join us not only in upholding all the values that the Council of Europe stands for, but also in cooperative undertakings and projects for the future.

Ladies and gentlemen, President Berisha has informed us that he is willing to answer spontaneous questions from the floor. I thank him warmly. As numerous members have informed me of their intention to ask a question, it will not be possible to use the supplementary questions procedure. Otherwise a number of members would not be able to ask their first question.

President Berisha will answer questions in the order we have set so as to cover as many subjects as possible and give all our colleagues an opportunity to take the floor. I call Mr Muehlemann to ask the first question.

Mr MUEHLEMANN (Switzerland) (translation)

President Berisha, you have replaced the darkness of communism by the freedom and light of democracy! Where do you feel that the emphasis of cooperation with the states of Europe should be placed? On short-term measures such as emergency food aid, medical assistance or efforts to overcome unemployment? On medium-term measures such as privatising agriculture, boosting industrial production and introducing services? Or will you have to give priority to improving transport infrastructure? Perhaps exchanging ideas and pooling experience is more important? The doors are now open, and you can move forward as you see fit.

Mr Berisha, President of Albania

One starts from zero. There is not one priority; there are many. That is why Albania is a very special case. At one and the same time it is both inside and outside Europe. Albania needs humanitarian assistance.

Next year wheat production will decrease by at least 50% because about 40% of agricultural land has not been planted. Technical assistance is a very important priority for Albania. We need specialist help with our legal system, economics and banking. Technical assistance is vital if we are to build up such new institutions.

Another priority of the democratic government of Albania is the infrastructure. Without a proper infrastructure we cannot develop tourism and thereby profit from our very good climate. Agriculture, however, remains the greatest priority for the time being. Over two-thirds of the population live in villages. The Bolshevik military system has been destroyed and the land has been privatised but without agricultural machinery, fertiliser and seed Albania’s agricultural system will remain primitive and the market economy ineffective.

Albania’s unemployment is the highest in Europe. We need to create new employment. I ask the other countries of Europe to recognise that Albanians were not allowed to leave their country for half a century. During that time, however, millions of Italians, Greeks, Spanish and Portuguese left their homeland for a better life. A guest-worker programme is needed for Albania. That would diminish the burden of unemployment and allow the people of Albania to build up a better future.

Mr ROMAN (Spain) (interpretation)

asked whether the Albanian Government intended to enact laws that would encourage national reconciliation.

Mr Berisha, President of Albania (translation)

Albania was not the only subject of dictatorship. Many other countries have had them. In our opinion, the Spanish policy is the best one to adopt. There is no other way, because a society which has lived under a dictatorship needs justice but also charity, which is important if human beings are to be developed. We are trying to apply the Spanish experience. I think that your country should assist all eastern European countries in that direction.

Mr PANGALOS (Greece) (translation)

Mr President, allow me first of all to say how happy I am to see you here. We met in Tirana in much more difficult circumstances at a time when freedom was fragile and the future of Albania uncertain.

I have also a very personal reason to be happy to see you in our midst: many centuries ago my ancestors left Albania to go to the south of Greece. I therefore feel myself to be in some small degree Albanian.

My question is straightforward.

You have set certain priorities, but I believe it will be necessary to begin by introducing a work ethic. To do this, would it not be appropriate to complete the distribution of land as quickly as possible, that is, before the next harvest? How is the distribution of land progressing? What stage have you reached in the process?

Mr Berisha, President of Albania (translation)

The redistribution of land had been slowed down considerably. To speed it up a governmental committee and local committees were established. The principle is fair and we respect it. I hope that, within one and a half months the redistribution of land will have been completed except for the so-called state farms, which will have to be transformed into agricultural companies or something similar.

At present more than 68% of the land has already been handed over to peasants. There therefore remains about 30% to be redistributed.

Mr BENDER (Poland)

A few months ago you liquidated your communist government. It was a very strong government. Albania was one of the hardest communist countries in the world. Now you have democracy. The communist government liquidated all churches and religions. I should like to ask you about the religious situation in Albania now.

Mr Berisha, President of Albania

We are trying to assure all human rights, including the religious rights of Albanians. Of course, being the poorest country, Albania is in a difficult position to assure the right to practise a religion, but we are co-operating with different religious institutions to assist them and to build cult institutions as soon as possible. We have three religions because God wanted three religions and we respect all of them. Wherever there are three or four Catholics we would like to have a church for them, and we would like to have a mosque wherever there are three or four Muslims. That is our policy.

Tomorrow I shall have the great pleasure of paying an official visit to the Pope. I am leaving Strasbourg to see him.


You may tell the Pope that you have received questions from his fellow countrymen about the religious situation in Albania. I call Mr Poças Santos.

Mr POÇAS SANTOS (Portugal) (interpretation)

said that President Berisha had already covered the point he wished to raise.

Mr ROWE (United Kingdom)

You pointed out the very real fact that there are a large number of Albanians living outside the present frontiers of Albania. An integral part of the Council of Europe philosophy is that the integrity of existing boundaries should be observed. Could you explain a little more your policy towards those Albanians who do not live within the boundaries of Albania?

Mr Berisha, President of Albania

First, we shall insist that the rights of Albanians in Yugoslavia be respected – both human and national rights, including the right to self-determination – which are foreseen in the Helsinki agreements. Secondly, we have said that dual citizenship will apply to all Albanians. I know that I have been unfairly criticised, but I feel that it is a feature of integration. I am ready to apply dual citizenship, not only to Albanians but to other people in Europe and in the world. You gentlemen also have two passports in your pockets. You did not destabilise Europe – in contrast, you stabilised it.

Mr LIAPIS (Greece)

We should like to know how satisfactory you think it is for your democratic ideals to have excluded the Greek minority party Omonia from the last elections by an amendment – which I am afraid had your strong support – forbidding the creation of political parties with an ethnic or religious basis. Do you think that those practices promote human rights standards – something that we regard as the Council of Europe’s cornerstone – or do you think that such policies improve good relations with neighbouring countries?

Mr Berisha, President of Albania

As regards the Omonia case, I must explain that I have not agreed and never supported that idea. It was a wrong decision. Two days before the decision by our parliament not to allow Omonia to present deputies in their areas, I said in a press conference that the Democratic Party would be in favour. But, ladies and gentlemen, you should take into account the fact that fledgling democracies are always in more difficulties than a consolidated democracy. The next day, I went to see the President of the Republic. I asked him to adopt the Bulgarian solution for that case. I explained what the Bulgarian solution meant. He promised to do something, but he did not adopt that solution. I should like to assure you that all the human and national rights of the Greek minority will be respected. However, you should also recognise that some circles are not in favour of good relations. I do not believe that they are related to the Greek Government. We are working for better relations and I am hopeful of better relations between the two countries.

Mr Friedrich PROBST (Austria) (translation)

Mr President, I am very pleased to see you here. I was a member of the delegation which observed the elections in Albania and found them to be fair. When we were in Albania, we made very strong appeals to you on behalf of the Greek minority and Omonia. I now have in my possession a detailed map printed in Greek. It shows slightly more than half of Albanian territory as belonging to Greece – which would reduce Albania to one-third of its present extent, with the remaining two-thirds going to Greece. Your view and assessment of these problems, and the way you mean to deal with them, are all directly relevant to the question raised by my colleague from Greece. I believe that we, too, should bring a little discipline into our thinking here. We should consider what maps of this kind would mean for tomorrow’s Europe!

Mr Berisha, President of Albania

That map represents the debris of an ancient mentality and ancient policy to me, but I hope that the Greek Government will have nothing to do with the map, which shows half of Albanian territory as belonging to Greece. Three days ago I received Mr Mitsotakis as a guest and he openly declared that Greece has no territorial pretensions to Albania. As for these documents, I am sorry to say that they were distributed by some priests, who did this rather than serving religion and God. We discussed this with a bishop, who condemned these cases.

Mr SAHIN (Turkey) (interpretation)

asked what were Mr Berisha’s aspirations for Albania.

Mr Berisha, President of Albania

One of our main aspirations is to be a full member of this Council, and to build up a democratic state with free democratic institutions. We shall ask for, and I am sure that we shall have, the assistance of the Council of Europe in building up those new institutions. We shall adopt an open-door policy, allowing the free movement of people, merchandise and ideas.

Mr BORDERAS (Spain) (interpretation)

asked whether the school books had been changed to reflect the new philosophy, and whether teachers had been retrained.

Mr Berisha, President of Albania

Education is one of our main priorities. We have already changed some texts and are proceeding with the complete change of textbooks for schools. As for teachers, I can assure you that Albanian teachers, the very poorest of our people, were never indoctrinated by communists. What they did they did out of fear and, from the first, they strongly supported democracy.

Of course, we need the assistance of other countries through, for example, scholarships and exchanges, because we intend to give full and deep meaning to our universities and to have many ties and contacts with your universities. We are working with Unesco to accelerate change in our education system.

Mr COX (United Kingdom)

Many of us have seen on our television screens the sad conditions in which young children and adults suffering from physical and mental illness are kept in your country. What progress is being made in improving conditions, facilities and living opportunities for such people?

Mr Berisha, President of Albania

The situation of Albanian children is still very difficult. We are trying to improve health care for children through a World Bank programme. I know that the United Kingdom is assisting and we appreciate any intervention, from anywhere in Europe, to assist us in improving the health care for, and education of, our children. We have already started a project, which has been presented to the World Health Organisation, which will apply a new demographic policy in our country.

Mr ROKOFYLLOS (Greece) (translation)

Mr President, as I come from a country that has not the slightest territorial claim on Albania and belong to a party, the Greek Socialist Party, which has long made every effort to promote warmer relations between the Albanian and Greek peoples, I venture to salute your presence here as a premonitory sign that Albania will shortly become a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

My question concerns the democratisation process in the new Albania. You have very pertinently stressed that there are two phases in democracy, one destructive and the other constructive. You have succeeded in destroying the former regime. Do you expect to organise, in a thoroughly democratic way excluding all discrimination, the constructive phase of the new Albania?

Mr Berisha, President of Albania (translation)

First of all, I should like to thank the team that is no longer in power, the team of Mr Papandreou, which demonstrated a sympathetic attitude towards the Albanians. Their receptiveness towards Albania was towards its citizens and intellectuals and not at all towards its regime.

Secondly, I assure you that there will be no discrimination. If, in your question, you are thinking of the participation of the Greek committee, I am able to inform you that two ministers in the Cabinet and several senior officials belong to that minority. We judge people only according to their worth, their capacities and their support for the reforms.

Mr PARISI (Italy) (translation)

Mr President, may I convey to President Sali Berisha my warmest congratulations and wholehearted appreciation, not least for the clarity and simplicity with which he opened this morning’s dialogue, one which we trust may develop further in the time ahead when Albania becomes a fully-fledged member of this Assembly.

The specific question which I wanted to ask has already been put and so I need not reiterate it. However, I should like to take the opportunity to draw attention to the problem of food aid, one which has priority not for strategic reasons but because of its urgency, and one with which progress has lately been made. In particular, I would mention Albania’s dealings and relationship with Italy: there have been moments of serious trouble between the two countries, but the Italian Government, actuated by a keen sense of responsibility, has nonetheless dealt with them constructively. I accordingly ask what the Albanian President thinks of the food aid programme carried out so far and how he considers it might be enhanced and amplified, so that it moves from the emergency phase to a phase of more structured and thus more effective intervention.

Mr Berisha, President of Albania (translation)

Without the assistance and intervention of the European committee, and especially of Italy, democracy could not have won. This aid was vital to avoid total chaos and even social conflict among Albanians.

As regards humanitarian aid for next year – which I hope, as I have said, will not be reduced but on the contrary increased – it should be concentrated on basic products. What Albania now needs most of all is genuine economic co-operation. Albanians must be given the opportunity to work because they are both creative and productive.


The next question is from Mr Berg whose name was not given to the Chair as one of those who wished to put a question. However no Scandinavian has asked a question, so you are most welcome to do so.

Mr BERG (Norway)

When I was travelling in your country, Mr President, I was struck by its beauty and its many undeveloped resources, which give hope for the future. For instance, you have unrestored Roman colosseums in Durrës and in other places as well as a fantastic museum in Durrës which is full of ancient treasures which are insufficiently guarded. Could you elaborate on the prospects of attracting tourists to Albania, given that the tourist industry will be the largest in the world by the end of this century? Will you give due consideration to your environmental responsibilities for the longest unspoilt beaches in Europe, which may also be the last?

Mr Berisha, President of Albania (translation)

One of our priorities is tourism, but in order to develop it it is necessary to have an infrastructure. We are concentrating our efforts on developing that infrastructure and the development of tourism will come later. On items of cultural value, we are strengthening our ties with different international institutions in order to save and restore them.

Mr MIKAN (Czech and Slovak Federal Republic)

The Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee of the Council of Europe is aware of the problems facing hospitals in Albania. Does your government, Mr President, intend to change the system of health care? What measures would improve that health care immediately?

Mr Berisha, President of Albania

We will change the legislation on health care so that we have private and public sector health care. At the moment one of our main difficulties is a lack of equipment and that brings into doubt the quality of care given. We are working with the World Bank to equip our hospitals and we will also favour the private sector, which is necessary to assure the quality of care. There should be competition in all things.


The next question comes from Mrs Lentz-Cornette who, as you know, Mr President, has been one of the big advocates of Albania’s case in our Assembly.

Mrs LENTZ-CORNETTE (Luxembourg) (translation)

Mr President, I am particularly happy to see you among us today because nothing justified such hopes at the time of the elections in March 1991. So miracles do still happen!

The previous government had decided to pay workers 80% of their wages when they were not working. Former political prisoners were naturally excluded from this measure since they had not had any work before. What have you decided to do about this measure and how are you intending to urge your workers to go back to work?

Mr Berisha, President of Albania (translation)

The 80% law was very communistic in that it tended to strengthen the authority in power and ended up by ruining the economy. We are going to repeal it. Negotiations have been embarked on with the European committee which, I hope, will lend us funds to purchase raw materials. When this has been done, we shall repeal the law. Albania cannot progress with such a law in place for it is a gangrene in our economy.

As for the situation of former political prisoners, it is deplorable. Though they have been freed, they have not recovered all their rights. Owing to the lack of housing, thousands of them are still living in their concentration camps. We have set up a Ministry of Labour which will look into their case. We are going to adopt an accelerated programme to reintegrate them and return them to a normal life as soon as possible, but here again the assistance of the international community will be vital to us.

Mr GÜNER (Turkey)

As someone who comes from a family of Albanian origin and as a member of this Assembly, let me express the wish that your visit to the Council of Europe will help to improve your country’s relationship with this Organisation. As you know, my country is trying to contribute to the economic development of your country, but we all know that that aid is not sufficient and that your country needs much more. President Walesa said at the Council that, in Europe, all European countries share common values, but that there is a risk that, in future, poverty might divide Europe. Do you agree? If so, what measures do you believe should be taken to overcome that risk? What do you expect from other European countries to improve your balance of payments?

Mr Berisha, President of Albania

For many years Europe seemed to me like the full moon, with a bright face which was the West and a concealed, dark one which was the East. I know that the political differences are disappearing and I hope that that process will favour the disappearance of the economic differences. It will be a long process and the differences are a reality. I agree with Mr Walesa.

Mr LAAKSO (Finland)

Mr President, you spoke very warmly of the construction of the new state according to the principle of democracy. We in the Council of Europe have noticed that new political leaders of some former socialist countries have built or plan to build into their legislation the notorious concept of collective punishment against hundreds of thousands of members of communist par ties. Are you in Albania going to follow the same line as, for example, Czechoslovakia, or will your country follow the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights which rejects collective punishment?

Mr Berisha, President of Albania

We are wholly against collective punishment. We shall respect and sign all conventions. In any dictatorship society I think that responsibility is vertical and no one could say that I myself do not feel a little responsible. We are against collective punishment: it will not apply.

Mr RUFFY (Switzerland) (translation)

Mr President, the abandonment of communism and the installation of new regimes in countries which have had little previous experience of democracy with its full recognition of individual rights do not always result in all the improvements hoped for.

What will happen about equality of rights between men and women in future Albanian society? Is there danger of the resurgence of discriminatory treatment which would make it difficult or even impossible for Albanian women to have access to administrative or political activities and responsibilities?

Mr Berisha, President of Albania (translation)

I should first of all like to draw your attention to the fact that Albanian women played a crucial rule in the victory of democracy. I recognise that they have not been properly rewarded for the role they played.

We are going to do our utmost to ensure genuine emancipation, but you have to understand that, in the aftermath of a dictatorship, we are confronted each hour of each day with old anti-democratic ideas.

Democracy cannot be established in a few days or a few months. We have to fight for it. It might take an entire generation. I have no idea.

Mr PAHTAS (Greece) (translation)

Mr President, I am truly delighted to see you in our midst, representing your country and the Albanian people in our forum which lies at the crossroads of democracy and represents human rights. I sincerely wish you every success.

Mr President, on 11 and 12 January last the Albanians of the Republic of Skopje took part in a referendum which was declared illegal by the authorities of that republic.

In the course of an exchange of views that we had yesterday with a delegation from that Republic, the number of Albanians living there was estimated at about 400 000. This morning you spoke of 700 000 to 900 000 of them and of the need to establish a canton.

It would be most interesting for our Assembly if you could be more explicit on the subject of creating this canton and more precise as to the exact number of Albanians living in the Republic of Skopje.

Mr Berisha, President of Albania (translation)

I should first of all inform you that there are no exact figures for the number of Albanians, Turks or Macedonians in that republic, which explains the differences in the figures.

We support the independence of Macedonia because it is a trouble spot that could spark a Balkan conflict. Yet I am unable to imagine such a state without an assurance that the human rights of other nationalities which, according to unconfirmed data, together represent the majority, will be respected. The Macedonians are not in the majority in that republic.

For my part, I am in favour of territorial and political autonomy for the Albanians. In Titograd and in several municipalities they do in fact represent more than 90 % of the population.

In my opinion, a democratic state divided into cantons is much more stable than a unified state under a dictatorship. Now, the present Constitution of Macedonia says that there exists a single Macedonian state, thus excluding any other citizenship. I consider it necessary to adopt a cantonal system or to draft another constitution more in keeping with the interests of all the citizens.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Thank you, Mr President. You have replied to about twenty questions and I am sure that my fellow members in the Assembly are highly satisfied, as I am myself.

We should like to thank you for your sincerity and your spontaneity. Be assured that we are all content and that we shall preserve an excellent memory of your visit to us.

I think too that I can speak for all of us in welcoming your affirmation of Albanian’s formal desire to become a full member of the Council of Europe. We take note of this; we shall all support your wish and the strenuous efforts it will be necessary for you to make to obtain satisfaction.

You have certainly noticed that some members who put questions to you proudly laid claim to their Albanian origins. As I listened to them, I was reminded of President Kennedy’s cry in Berlin: “Ich bin ein Berliner”. I also thought how many people used to say: “We are all German Jews”.

I think that I may speak for my friends in asserting that the time has come to proclaim here that “We are all Albanians”. Mr President, we salute you and wish you every success in your action.