Prime Minister of Albania

Speech made to the Assembly

Monday, 25 June 2012

Dear Mr President, Jean-Claude Mignon, Mr Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland, distinguished members of the Parliamentary Assembly, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honour and special pleasure for me to address this Assembly in the Palais de l’Europe on behalf of the first Albanian chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

I would like to start by extending to you, Mr President, my most hearty congratulations on your election 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 words and hospitality that you have offered me and my delegation during our stay in Strasbourg. I avail myself of this opportunity to express my profound appreciation to Secretary General Jagland for the excellent job that he is doing at the helm of the Council of Europe.

Secretary Jagland and his team have been carrying out important reforms that provide this prestigious Organisation with the necessary impetus to move ahead towards its objectives.

“The Council of Europe has always stood by Albania since the fall of Europe’s worst dictatorship”

Ladies and gentlemen, honourable members of the Parliamentary Assembly, 20 years ago, on 6 May 1992, in my first official visit outside my country, as the first President of Albania – it had just come out of the worst dictatorship in Europe after the Second World War – I presented before this honourable Assembly the will of my government and of my nation for Albania’s membership of the Council of Europe. This dream, which Albania has nourished for many decades, came true in May 1995. Today, my country leads the Committee of Ministers for the first time.

(The speaker continued in French)

He was at home within the walls of the Assembly. As a member of the Council of Europe, while opposition leader, he had shared his most exhilarating and important moments as a politician. Today was an historical moment. He was here as Prime Minister of Albania, one of the youngest democracies in Europe, which had assumed the chair after the United Kingdom, the oldest democracy. The UK deserved cordial congratulations on the success of its presidency. This year was the centenary of independence for Albania. After suffering splits, ethnic cleansing, and Orwellian dictatorships, it was now a free nation. To be president of the oldest temple of European democracy was the diamond in the centennial crown of independence.

Only 22 years ago, Albania had prohibited rights and freedoms and enforced atheism. Now, human and minority rights were respected, with religious tolerance for all, Albania was a member of NATO and was aiding the mission in Afghanistan, and its citizens did not require visas to travel in Europe.

While Albania used to be one of the poorest countries in Europe, with per capita income of only $204 per annum, citizens now had medium-high incomes. The country was not developed per se but had the same child, maternal and general mortality rates as well as Internet, education and health access, as many developed countries. In 2001, the number of houses per capita was lower than in any other European nation, but in the last 10 years it had reached the level of developed countries and had surpassed five EU and OECD countries. In fact, despite the crisis, Albania had maintained considerable growth: 22% over five years, four times the average growth rate in the region. With this, Albania was building one of the most modern infrastructures in the region. It was also attracting significant numbers of tourists, with 2 million visitors last year.

(The speaker continued in English)

Albania is fully engaged in the process of integration into the EU as the best project for its future and the future of Albanian citizens. My government has always considered it a merit-based process. Certain internal problems have slowed it down for some time. However, those problems are finally being solved and the country will continue to press ahead vigorously towards the EU. The Presidential Committee of the Council of Europe has brought a real contribution to solving those problems in my country and I am really grateful. We have come a long way and still a bumpy road lies ahead for us, but the truth is that this is the success story of freedom.

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

Distinguished members of the Parliamentary Assembly, it is for me a great occasion to reiterate the full determination of Albania’s chairmanship to work relentlessly in the next six months in close co-operation with the member states, this Assembly and the Secretary General to further promote and enhance the common values and objectives of our Organisation. Those common and universal values of freedom, human rights, democracy, the rule of law and the free market, together with our people’s aspirations for peace and prosperity, are the strong bonds that unite our countries in spite of their unique and distinct historical, cultural, linguistic and religious traditions – hence the motto “United in diversity”, chosen by our chairmanship.

No topic could have been more appropriate at this time of major economic and financial crisis and other challenges than “Democracy at risk: the role of citizens and of the State today”, for these crises are often followed by the emergence of populist and extremist trends, not to mention the reappearance of xenophobia and even renewed racism and nationalism. This 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 democracy must face nowadays 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 its commitment and professionalism in drafting this report.

To raise awareness of the significant findings of the report, the Albanian chairmanship is organising a high-level conference at 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; and the role of education and the contribution of young people towards promoting mutual understanding, tolerance and better integration into society.

In this context, we hope to strengthen the dialogue and co-operation with the countries of north Africa and the Mediterranean. The so-called Arab Spring is also a field where the Albanian chairmanship and my country intend to offer their modest contribution. We strongly support the democratic aspirations of those nations. We believe that they can find in the abundant experience of the Council of Europe and its related organisations helpful models for their historic undertaking of transforming their countries and 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 General Jagland’s initiative for more democracy and stable societies in the region neighbouring Europe. In close co-operation with key partners and through well-designed practical co-operation, 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 note that this part-session will discuss the report on the political transition in Tunisia, the cradle of the Arab Spring. We commend the Secretariat for preparing the Neighbourhood Co-operation Priorities 2012-14, especially with Morocco and Tunisia. We strongly appreciate the role of the Venice Commission and its valuable advice on 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 into 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 Civilisations and has established an intergovernmental 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 we are bearers of a great message – the message of exemplary inter-religious respect and tolerance par excellence, which is a centuries-old tradition of our nation. By presenting this valuable tradition of Albanian society, we aim to raise awareness of 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 former chairmanships, we will continue to press ahead with the political reform of the Organisation and the Interlaken/Izmir/Brighton agenda for a more efficient system of protection of human rights, in particular with regard to reducing the burden on the Court.

Promoting closer dialogue with international organisations, particularly with the EU and supporting its enlargement in the western Balkans, is another important priority of our chairmanship.

The Albanian chairmanship will pay close attention to issues pertaining to young people and their education with respect to the values of the Council of Europe. To this end, a special event with youngsters has been planned to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and those who put their lives, and the lives of their families, at risk to save Jews. As you know, Albania is probably the only country in Europe that sheltered, protected and saved its Jews during the Second World War and the dark years of the Holocaust. The number of Jews in Albania was many times higher at the end of the war than it was at the war’s beginning. You will become more familiar with those priorities when Albanian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Haxhinasto speaks to you tomorrow.

Despite the devastating wars and painful dramas that the Balkan peninsula has lived through, nowadays it is experiencing a time of great effort among its peoples to achieve closer co-operation with each other and regional and European integration. Those integration processes have been proved the main driving force for our countries as they pursue the path ahead. Albania maintains friendly relations with all its neighbours and other countries in the region. We believe that full respect for current international borders, regional co-operation and integration, and consolidation of the rule of law and democratic institutions represent the most secure path for building the European future that our countries deserve.

Albania has firmly supported the dialogue between the Republic of Kosovo and Serbia, and welcomed the EU-facilitated agreement between those two countries. We consider their full implementation an important factor not only for good bilateral relations between those two countries, but for the region as a whole.

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

On 2 July 2012, the international community will officially withdraw from the process of observing Kosovo’s independence. This is 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 valuable help. I hope and wish for further strengthening of that co-operation, which will result in bringing Kosovo even closer to the Council of Europe and in gaining soon its rightful place within this institution of the democratic nations of Europe.

The Balkan peninsula is one of the richest with regard to minorities. Therefore, expanding and strengthening their rights will continue to remain a 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 and problems is full implementation of the documents and conventions of the Council of Europe on the rights of minorities.

To conclude, I wholeheartedly invite you all to co-operate closely in the months ahead to give life to all those priorities, while assuring you that the Albanian chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers is fully committed to work hard to promote the values of this prestigious Organisation, with the aim further to consolidate the democratic spirit and institutions in our societies and the rule of law, and to enhance democratic institutions at the regional and local levels, while continuing political reform with the intention of achieving a more efficient political organisation and a Court that fully guarantees the highest level of human rights protection everywhere on the continent. Let us work together to turn the Albanian chairmanship into a success story for my country, for your countries and for the Council of Europe. Thank you very much for your attention.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Thank you very much, Mr Berisha, for your very interesting address.

Members of the Assembly have questions to put to you now.

I remind them that questions must be limited to 30 seconds. Colleagues should be asking questions and not making speeches.

The first question is from Mr Volontè, on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.

Mr VOLONTÈ (Italy) (interpretation)

thanked Mr Berisha for his speech and said that he had evoked the Arab Spring and the Balkans with reference to religious freedom. He asked how the Mr Berisha saw his role regarding these turbulent areas.

Mr Berisha, Prime Minister of Albania (interpretation)

thanked Mr Volontè for his question and said that he was concentrating on the human rights of minorities. Albania was a genuine contributor to the rights of minorities in Kosovo. There was a tradition of mutual respect of minorities and the experience in Kosovo after the war had been positive. Albania had a tradition of respect of minorities which could be offered to other countries, including those of the Arab Spring. He had encountered representatives of Libya and other Arab countries and they had expressed interest in Albania. Albania was a majority Islamic multi-religious country and had demonstrated that Islam was compatible with democracy. Islam did not have to be associated with oppressive, theocratic regimes. Within a month, he would set-up a conference for dialogue on this issue.

Mr SCHENNACH (Austria) (interpretation)

said that Albania was a modern, dynamic and pleasant country which had undergone huge reform. In the context of Albania’s centenary and its chairmanship, he asked what was the Prime Minister’s position on the problem of blood feuds and revenge, which were contrary to human rights and the rule of law.

Mr Berisha, Prime Minister of Albania

Thank you for your question. I definitely have to accept that vendetta was a tradition in the old codes of my nation, but it has almost been archived into the past. There are still cases; they have not been reduced to zero, but they are very few. Last year, the chairman of the United Nations human rights body investigated the matter and found that the phenomenon did exist, but that it was much smaller than had been proclaimed. If you ask me what the remedy should be, I would say that it is to strengthen the rule of law. Allow me to give you a statistic. When I came to power in 2005, the population of our prisons was 1 800; it is now around 5 000. Criminality in our country is lower than the average for the European Union, but the law is enforced. The best way to prevent crime is to enforce the law. I am happy that we do not have the death penalty, but we have other sentences that will help to make this unhelpful old habit disappear.

EARL OF DUNDEE (United Kingdom)

Prime Minister, you have already referred to the problems of the western Balkans. During your country’s chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, what plans do you have further to assist stability in the region of south-east Europe?

Mr Berisha, Prime Minister of Albania

The greatest leverage for our nation and our countries is EU integration. When I look at the situation 12 to 15 years ago, I see a tragic recent past, but today all those nations are seeking to work with each other and to have a common future. In my humble opinion, that is because all those nations see EU integration as the best way forward. That is why it will be crucial for those nations to join the EU. The last agreement between Serbia and Kosovo was a great success. It is going to be implemented, and it will provide a solution – not a total solution, but an important one none the less – with big consequences for a small region. In my opinion, EU integration is the best way to consolidate peace and stability in the western Balkans and in the Balkans as a whole.

Mr XUCLÀ (Spain) (interpretation)

said that he had twice visited Albania and appreciated the democratic process that was going on there. The opposition had not played its full part for some months. He asked when this situation would be normalised and about representation in the Assembly.

Mr Berisha, Prime Minister of Albania

Thank you for your question. It is true that after the 2009 elections the opposition adopted a boycott – or half-boycott – because they were very disheartened about the results of those elections, even though international observers stated that the elections met most OSCE standards and that there was no evidence of the results being manipulated or irregular counting. It took some time, because the Albanian opposition is pro-European Union – it is not at all anti-European. The problem was that the leader of the opposition thought that blocking the government would increase the opposition’s political capital. Local elections were held, in which the Council of Europe was deeply involved in helping – as a matter of fact, the Presidential Committee and the resolution drafted in this place were very helpful. The opposition is now in parliament. Last October, we reached an agreement, and it is almost entirely honoured by both sides. We are finalising electoral reform in a very consensual spirit. I am happy to inform you that this reform started in December, and until now the committee concerned has discussed only those amendments proposed by the opposition, because the opposition asked for this initiative and we agreed to it. Indeed, we will never tire of offering the opposition this consensual spirit.

Mr PETRENCO (Republic of Moldova)

Prime Minister, thank you for your address. On behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left, but also as the co-rapporteur on Albania, I would like to ask you a question. Your speech was quite optimistic. Indeed, many things have been done in Albania to secure EU candidate status. At the same time, there are a lot of problems that need to be solved, such as the high level of corruption, and electoral reform. However, we would like to remind you of our colleague Dick Marty’s report on the trafficking of human organs from Kosovo during the conflict. What is your position on this issue nowadays and how will you co-operate with the investigation into those events?

Mr Berisha, Prime Minister of Albania

Thank you for your question. First, corruption is definitely the “mater and matrix” of all wrongs in a free country. That is why we are committed to fighting against it. We have achieved some very important results in fighting against corruption, and although we have not eradicated it, my government has improved procurement and collected more taxes – around $8 billion – even though we have decreased taxes by a half.

With regard to Dick Marty’s report, officially, I am very interested in investigating every single accusation involving crimes against humanity or war crimes. No national difference should exist. Saying that, however, I regretted what were some genuinely racist nuances in that report – and when I learnt that it was largely written by Vukcevic, I regretted it even more. However, this has not blocked at all what I have said to the investigation, and our parliament has put in place a special law from your colleagues that gives all authority to the EULEX investigating team in my country. They drafted the law and we voted for it as it was. This matter must be thoroughly investigated. That is my stand on this issue.

Mr TOSHEV (Bulgaria)

Mr Prime Minister, welcome back to our Assembly. If you remember, when you came to address us in 1993 in your capacity as President of Albania, I raised with you the issue of Bulgarians traditionally living in your country. Now when you come here as Prime Minister of Albania, I would like to raise the same issue with you. What progress has Albania made in respect of protecting the human and minority rights of Bulgarians traditionally living in Albania?

Mr Berisha, Prime Minister of Albania

Dear friend, I assure you that I remain – we remain – very committed to fully respecting the Council of Europe Convention on Minorities. In my country, we do our very best to support them – to strengthen their identity and their ties and relations with their own nations. We are very happy to have a number of small but shining minorities in different areas of the country.

Mr FOURNIER (France) (interpretation)

said that he had chaired the group on friendship with Europe, but he had concerns about Albania in the context of European integration. Reforms were expected in the judiciary and the media and he asked for details of the timetable for expected reforms.

Mr Berisha, Prime Minister of Albania (interpretation)

said that he wished to re-assure Mr Fournier. He was proud of his friendship. There were arguments about the electoral code, but the current code was the result of a consensus. He hoped that electoral reforms would be finished soon. Since last October, there had been constructive co-operation between the majority party and the opposition. Several laws had been passed. The opposition had submitted some amendments.

Mr DÍAZ TEJERA (Spain) (interpretation)

said that he wished Albania good luck in its chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. He wanted to ask about combating corruption: what could be done about this canker on democracy?

At the same time, hundreds and hundreds of officials are paralysed by corruption. Corruption remains a problem to be fought, but there is a strong fight against it. We work very closely with the GRECO unit here, which is, in my view, the best unit in Europe. As a country, we have met almost all but two recommendations, and I think that one of them is very important: the removal of immunity in Albania, which is something that must soon happen in Albania. We continue this struggle – it is a crucial interest – but I stress that, even through the current climate, we have managed to have around $8 billion more in our budget than the previous government did in the same period of time.

Mr DE BRUYN (Belgium)

I would like to mention an incident that took place last month, when the Albanian vice-minister of defence commented on the first ever Albanian gay parade by stating that people taking part in the parade “should be beaten with truncheons”. The prime minister rejected this statement as unacceptable and excessive, but I would like to learn from Mr Berisha what exactly his government plans to do in order to avoid homophobic remarks or even actions by members of his government and administration. Could Mr Berisha please tell us what will be done so that high-ranking officials respect LGBT rights? Thank you.

Mr Berisha, Prime Minister of Albania

Thank you for your question. I believe that every citizen has the right to have his or her sexual orientation respected. We have introduced a very good law in this respect. We have also a commissioner’s office to deal especially with this law. For the first time in history, these people asked to have their parade, which was their right. Definitely, my government stood in full support of them and called for full tolerance. It is true that an official made a very unhelpful statement, but there were no consequences because the parade went very well. A very important conference against homophobia was held two weeks ago to support anti-discrimination measures, and it went very well. In my view, it is also very important that if this was a taboo several years ago, it is no longer one at all. In the media and everywhere else, these people are present, claiming their rights and making their presence felt. So there is a positive change, and I was really happy that the parade was peaceful, quiet and took place without incident.

Ms ZOHRABYAN (Armenia) (interpretation)

said that Serbia had not recognised Kosovo’s independence and asked what Mr Berisha’s stance was on the measures taken in relation to Azerbaijan, in connection with Nagorno-Karabakh.

Mr Berisha, Prime Minister of Albania

Our stance towards this region is the same as the Committee of Ministers’ stance. We are looking at what kind of contribution we can make, and the Council of Europe has offered its assistance to build democratic institutions there and engage more in fulfilling the commitments there.

Mr GAUDI NAGY (Hungary)

Your excellency, since 2008, 93 states have recognised Kosovo as an independent state, and my country – Hungary – is among them. We are firm advocates of Albania being in the EU as well. According to the principles of the UN and the Council of Europe, the humanitarian rights of all traditional, national communities should be ensured. Do you agree with the view that territorial autonomy should be ensured for the Serb community living in Kosovo, although twice as many Hungarians live in the northern part of Serbia and Vojvodina?

Mr Berisha, Prime Minister of Albania

The Council of Europe has very much helped Kosovo in building its own institutions and consolidating human and minority rights. I fully support the Secretary General’s initiative and agree that getting closer to the Kosovan authority is crucial and vital. As you know, they are frequently talking to and working with the EU Commission, the EU Parliament and the Secretary General of the United Nations, and they have many reasons to work more closely with the Council of Europe. It is fundamental that all countries accept the irreversibility of the realities of the situation. This is crucial. Once we accept the irreversibility of the situation, we definitely have no choice but to talk, to hold a dialogue and to accept better standards because of what is happening in north Mitrovica, where three Serbian communities – there are no Albanians there – do not have peace and stability. Serbs form the majority south of the Ibar, and live in full peace and harmony with Albania. I believe that their rights should be fully observed. I believe that the integrity and sovereignty of Kosovo should not be put in question. I am optimistic, after the important agreement that was signed between Pristina and Belgrade, that another agreement about the whole situation will be reached. I fully agree that it is not in the interests of Serbia or any other country in the region to ask more than is provided by the European Convention on Minorities, which should be the basis for the minorities in our countries.

Mr Renato FARINA (Italy) (interpretation)

said that he was very happy that young and dynamic Albanians were at the forefront of developments. He was interested in the strengthening of relations between Albania and Turkey, and wanted to know what implications this had. The Turkish Foreign Minister had said that there might be the possibility of a bloc against the Greek and Bulgarian bloc.

Mr Berisha, Prime Minister of Albania (interpretation)

said that Albania was traditionally friendly with Turkey, but this was also true for Greece and Bulgaria. The contribution of all of those countries to co-operation was appreciated. The best project to pursue from Albania’s point of view was integration with the European Union and he hoped that this would happen and that Turkey would also become a member.

Mr MICHEL (France) (interpretation)

said that Albania played a very important role in the western Balkans and he asked whether Albania’s chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers would be used to promote appeasement both with respect to Kosovo and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Mr Berisha, Prime Minister of Albania (interpretation)

said that inter-ethnic problems in Macedonia were the result of other causes. Nevertheless, peace and stability were of vital importance to the region. It was therefore necessary to promote co-operation and mutual respect, and for the relevant accords to be underscored.

As regards Kosovo, huge progress had been made with respect to minorities. In the north, there was a homogeneous Serbian community, which made the instability difficult to understand – it was clear that nationalism was not the only factor. The Ahtisaari plan laid out a legal framework for progress and that it should be applied to three municipalities in northern Mitrovica, so long as manipulation by Serbian nationalist forces could be avoided. Above all, the Kosovan Government had a serious vision, which it was looking to implement with the help of the European Union, the United States and the P5.

Mr AGRAMUNT (Spain) (interpretation)

said that he remembered meeting Mr Berisha at an EU meeting in Valencia. Though the viability of Kosovo was the primary question, he asked what was Mr Berisha’s view of the self-proclaimed independence formula that Kosovo had used.

Mr Berisha, Prime Minister of Albania

Thank you for your question. In 1993, the former President of the former Yugoslavia, Dobrica Cosic, who was also the founder of modern Serbian nationalism, wrote a book in which he stated that the only way for Serbia to get its place among the civilised and developed nations was to get rid of Kosovo. That is very true, because if we look at the history, we see that Kosovo was never part of Serbia. The historic reality is different from the myth. It was given as a punishment to the Ottoman Empire – a process that started with San Stefano and the Berlin Congress and ended with the London Conference.

The late Robin Cook said in 1999, in the House of Commons, when European nations sent their air forces to free Kosovo, that they were doing nothing other than undoing what they had done wrong. I have been in power twice, and I can assure you that in 1997 the authorities in Belgrade had not a single project other than the partition of Kosovo.

Rambouillet was a great effort to find a solution, but Belgrade rejected it. As a matter of fact, Belgrade wanted partition, so the independence of Kosovo is genuine. When Montenegro proclaimed independence, many European friends asked me how that small country could survive, but I said that it had survived centuries as an autonomous nation. Now it is bringing a great contribution to peace and stability in the region.

If we look at the history of the Balkans, we see 100 years of efforts, uprisings, fighting and demonstrations for freedom in Kosovo. Since it became independent, the region has got quieter and quieter. All but a few free nations have recognised its independence, and the court in The Hague ruled in favour of its independence.

If we look back at the former Yugoslavia, we see that the province of Kosovo had cultural accord and veto rights. It twice chaired the rotating presidency of the former Yugoslavia. It had no reason not to be independent, and I hope that, as a great friendly country, Spain will send missions. You are making a great contribution there, but more missions are necessary to look at the new reality that is growing there.

Mr NAGY (Hungary)

Dear Prime Minister, I congratulate you on the enormous progress that Albania has achieved, both politically and economically, in the last two decades. It is remarkable that the Albanian economy has not ceased to grow even during recent years, thus presenting an interesting example for many European countries. Could you give us a brief summary of the sources of Albania’s impressive economic performance? How does your government handle the impact of the international financial crisis?

Mr Berisha, Prime Minister of Albania

I am a low-tax man. When I started politics, I knew nothing about the economy, but I was a staunch believer in and follower of Ronald Reagan. He inspired me. He wrote that the money in the accounts of private people is worth as much as the money in the accounts of the government. Therefore, I gave a low fiscal burden to my citizens – and it worked. My country soon became a two-digit growth country. Later, once back in power, I went back to low taxes. We implemented 10% profits tax, 10% corporate tax, 15% social security contributions and so on. That great relief doubled and tripled business activity in my country. I also worked hard to free business from bureaucratic burdens. First, we are one of the 10 smallest administrations in the world per capita. Secondly, we are one of the 10 most short-handed governments with regard to businesses. We try. When I look at this crisis, I believe that the private sector will drive countries out of it, and it is vital to find a way to help it because the public sector is very modest.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Thank you. We must now conclude the questions to Mr Berisha. On behalf of the Assembly, I thank you most warmly for your address and for the answers you have given to questions.