United States. Congress. Commission on Security an.

Challenges to democracy in Albania : hearing before the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, One Hundred Fourth Congress, second session, March 14, 1996 online

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Y 4. SE 2: 104-2-11

Cfcallenges to Denocracy in Albania/






MARCH 14, 1996

Printed for the use of the
Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

[CSCE 104-2-11]


24-133CC WASHINGTON : 1996

For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office
Superintendent of Documents, Congressional Sales Office. Washington, DC 20402
ISBN 0-16-053563-8


Y 4.SE 2:104-2-11

Clallenges to Denocracy in Albania/...





MARCH 14, 1996

Printed for the use of the
Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

[CSCE 104-2-11]



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For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office
Superintendent of Document.s, Congressional Sales Office. Washington, DC 20402
ISBN 0-16-053563-8


Legislative Branch Commissioners



FRANK R. WOLF, Virginia
STENY H. HOYER, Maryland
EDWARD J. MARKEY, Massachusetts


RICK SANTORUM, Pennsylvania

Executive Branch Commissioners

John ShattuCK, Department of State

ASHTON Carter, Department of Defense

(VACANT), Department of Commerce

Commission Staff

Dorothy Douglas Taft, Chief of Staff

Mike Hathaway, Deputy Chief of Staff

Samuel G. Wise, Director for International Policy

Richard P. Livingston. Senior Advisor

Mike AMITAY, Staff Advisor

Maria V. Coll, OfTice Manager

Orest Deychakiwsky, Staff Advisor

John Finerty, Staff Advisor

CHADWICK R. Gore, Communications Director

Robert Hand, Staff Advisor

Janice HelWIG, Staff Advisor

MarLENE Kaufmann, Counsel for International Trade

Sandy List, GPO Liaison

Karen S. Lord, Counsel for Freedom of Religion, Congressional Fellow

Ronald McNamara, Staff Advisor

Michael Ochs, Staff Advisor

Peter SantighIAN, Staff Assistant / Computer Systems Administrator

ERIKA Schlager, Counsel for International Law





Opening Statement of Chairman Christopher H. Smith 1

Statement of Elez Biberaj, Albanian Service, The Voice of America 2

Statement of Kathleen Imholz, Attorney 8

Statement of Fred Abrahams, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki 13


Written Statement of Chairman Christopher H. Smith 24

Written Statement of Hon. Steny H. Hoyer 26

Written Statement of Elez Biberaj 27

Written Statement of Kathleen Imholz 38

Written Statement of Fred Abrahams 48

Zef Brozi, "The Independence of Judges in Albania During the Period of
Transition: An Ideal and A Bitter Reality,' East European Constitutionalism

Review, December 1995, Submitted for the Record by Kathleen Imholz 55

Law # 8001, September 22, 1995, on Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity
Committed in Albania During Communist Rule for Political , Ideological

and Religious Motives, Submitted for the Record by Kathleen Imholz 98

Law on the Verification of the Moral Character of OfTicials and Other Persons
Connected with the Defense of the State, Submitted for the Record by

Kathleen Imholz ; 100

Law # 8045, December 7, 1995, on the Interruption of Pregnancy, Submitted

for the Record by Kathleen Imholz 107

Excerpted Introduction from Human Rights in Post-Communist Albania,
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki; March 1996, submitted for the Record by

Fred Abrahams 113

Interview with the Very Reverend Arthur E. Liolin, Chancellor of the Alba-
nian Archdiocese in Boston, by Kestrina Budina, January 1995, Cultural
Survival Quarterly, Summer, 1995 116





Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Washington, D.C.

The Commission met, pursuant to adjournment, at 12:14 p.m., in
room 311, Cannon House Office Building, The Honorable Chris-
topher Smith [Commission Chairman] presiding.

Commissioners present: Chairman Christopher H. Smith; Hon.
John Edward Porter.

Witnesses present: Elez Biberaj, chief of the Albanian Service at
the Voice of America; Kathleen Imholz, attorn ey-at-law who has
traveled frequently to Albania observing developments relating to
the legal system; and Fred Abrahams, consultant for Human
Rights Watch/Helsinki.

Mr. Smith. The Commission will come to order. Let me say at
the outset I deeply apologize for being late in starting this hearing.
I also serve as chairman of the International Operations and
Human Rights Committee, and a markup scheduled for today that
was supposed to take 15 minutes ended up taking over an hour.

And then, regrettably, the immigration bill is up next week. I
have two amendments, of which I am the prime sponsor and two
that I am the co-sponsor dealing with refugees and asylum, and I
had to testify before the Rules Committee on those amendments.
There were a number of questions about the intricacies of those
amendments. So I apologize to our witnesses first for being late
and to all of you for the tardiness.

Today's hearing focuses on the challenges to democracy in Alba-
nia. This hearing is unlike most that we have had in the past year,
which have focused mainly on the incredible human rights trage-
dies associated with conflicts like those in Chechnya or Bosnia and
what we should do about them. Given the urgency of those situa-
tions, countries still in the phases of democratic transition, like Al-
bania, do not always receive the attention that they deserve.

While this hearing has not been scheduled in response to any
specific event, it is timely nonetheless. First and foremost, Albania
is preparing for parliamentary elections in May or June, the results
of which will have important ramifications for the future course of
the country.

Second, tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of U.S. -Albanian
bilateral relations, and the development of close ties between the
two countries requires a better understanding of what is actually
happening in Albania.


Third, reports of backsliding or resistance to democratization in
Albania and human rights violations are increasingly coming to the
attention of the Helsinki Commission. While these reports vary and
even contradict each other at times, we are concerned that respect
for human rights in Albania may not be improving.

Finally, for all the faults that can be found with the details of
the Dayton Agreement for Bosnia, it has potentially opened the
door for achieving progress in meeting the challenges to democracy
in all the countries of the region, for the sake of peace, stability,
and the well being of the people who live there.

Our witnesses today will look at the challenges to democracy in
Albania from different perspectives.

Our first witness is Dr. Elez Biberaj, chief of the Albanian Serv-
ice of the Voice of America. VOA broadcasts, I understand, played
a critical role in bringing an end to Albania's self-imposed isolation
and one-party rule a few years ago. Dr. Biberaj has written many
books and articles on Albania and the Balkans and will give a gen-
eral overview of political developments in Albania and a flavor for
what the election period may be like.

Next we have Kathleen Imholz, an attorney from New York who
is a specialist on the Albanian legal system. She traveled to Alba-
nia on many occasions since first being able to do so in 1991, and
was there just a few weeks ago. Ms. Imholz will focus a bit more
narrowly on the legal reforms in Albania and the degree to which
the judiciary is, or is not, independent from government control or

Then we will hear the testimony of Fred Abrahams, a consultant
for Human Rights Watch/Helsinki in New York. He is the principal
author of a comprehensive report on human rights in Albania that
will be released next week. Mr. Abrahams will take our examina-
tion of the challenges to democracy down to the grass-roots level,
focusing primarily on the rights or national minorities in Albania,
especially the large Greek community there, religious liberty, and
free media.

We look forward to hearing the views of this panel, and the Com-
mission has taken an interest in Albania even before that country
decided to open its borders and permit political pluralism. We con-
sider Albania a friend, and today we hope not only to learn more
about what is happening in that country at this hearing, but also
to encourage and perhaps even urge Albania to move forward in its
democratization and, of course, respect for human rights.

Doctor, if you could begin the testimony.


Mr. Biberaj. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate
your kind invitation to appear before this distinguished panel. The
Helsinki Commission has played a significant role in inducing Al-
bania's last communist leader, Ramiz Alia, to permit the establish-
ment of opposition parties back in 1990 and in facilitating a peace-
ful regime change.

In particular, I would like to pay tribute to the former Chairman
of the Helsinki Commission, Senator Dennis DeConcini. In 1990, at
a time when few people here in Washington or in other Western
capitals devoted any attention to Albania, or even knew that it ex-

isted on the international map, the Helsinki Commission embarked
on a policy of constructive engagement with Albania's communist
leadership, welcoming Tirana's efforts to end its self-imposed isola-
tion yet bluntly laying out the conditions that Albania had to meet
if it wanted to join the community of nations.

While there is no question that domestic developments were the
primary factor that led to the disintegration of the communist re-
gime there, pressures exerted by the Commission on the Albanian
Government especially during the later part of 1990 and during
1991 reinforced domestic democratic tendencies in that country.
The situation in Albania has changed dramatically, I would say,
since the early 1990's. Nevertheless, the Commission's continued
observance of developments in Albania will have a profound impact
on that country's further democratization.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to say at the outset that I am ap-
pearing here today in a purely personal capacity, and my views and
opinions should not be attributed to the Voice of America or the
U.S. Government.

I approach the subject of today's hearings with several basic as-
sumptions. First, I strongly believe that the full consolidation of de-
mocracy in Albania will probably take several elections. Albania's
political tradition has not been conducive to a democratic order.

Second, Albania had the misfortune of being ruled by one of the
most repressive communist regimes in the world and for a period
longer than any other Eastern European state. De-Stalinization in
the 1950's and subsequent reformist trends in the 1970's and the
1980's, which changed the face of communism in the Soviet bloc,
bypassed Tirana. In fact, Stalin's statue in Tirana was removed
only in December 1990.

Third, of all former East European communist countries, Albania
appeared least prepared for the transition because of the very unfa-
vorable initial conditions. In early 1992, the government had, in
fact, lost the capacity to carry out its basic functions. Anarchy pre-
vailed in many parts of the country, and the economy was on the
brink of collapse. Between 1989 and 1992, GDP had fallen by more
than 50 percent. At this period, in early 1992, Albania had become
totally dependent on foreign assistance to feed its three million

And fourth, Albanian leaders have found themselves guiding the
transition to democracy with the ever present threat of being en-
gulfed in the Yugoslav wars of succession, as Serbia continues to
gursue a highly repressive policy toward the two million ethnic Al-
anians in Kosova. In fact, Albania, one could say, is in the eye of
the Balkan storm.

Post-communist Albania has undergone rapid and significant po-
litical, economic, and social transformations. Today it has a vibrant
opposition and an outspoken press. The legal framework for a mar-
ket economy has been put into place. Within 4 years, Albania has
moved from the ruins of a totally state-controlled economy to a
market economy, with the private sector now accounting for more
than 65 percent of the GDP and about 70 percent of the national
wealth in private hands. Albania has achieved one of the highest
growth rates in Eastern Europe. Last year, in 1995, the economy
grew by 6 percent according to the European Bank in London. The

World Bank here says the figure was 8.6, while the Albanian Grov-
ernment says about 11 percent. Nevertheless, it is still very im-
pressive. A new middle class is emerging which has benefited from
and supports market-oriented reforms.

Albania has witnessed profound legislative transformations. The
communist-era constitution has been thoroughly revised, and a new
institutional architecture is largely in place. The relationship be-
tween the state and the citizen has undergone fundamental
change, and civil liberties mostly are now respected. While lack of
consensus between the country's main political forces has pre-
vented the adoption of a new constitution and Albanian voters re-
jected a draft submitted by the ruling party back in November
1994, the provisional constitution approved in 1991 has been
amended several times, and one could say that Albania has created
a new constitutional system.

The parliament has come to play a significant role, and today it
is the most important forum for deliberations about the country's
politics. Political struggles between the executive and the legisla-
ture have been less pronounced than in other countries of the re-
gion. Nevertheless, here I would like to emphasize that this is due
more to the Democratic Party's ability to preserve its comfortable
majority in the parliament rather than to the practice of accommo-
dation and compromise between the ruling party and the opposi-

President Sali Berisha, in my opinion, is an effective president,
shaping the nation's agenda during a period of momentous politi-
cal, economic, and social changes. He has been the moving force be-
hind the government's efforts at reform. He has displayed extraor-
dinary persistence in the face of daunting challenges and a willing-
ness to make unpopular and politically risky decisions to further
the country's political and economic revival.

As you mentioned, Mr. Chairman, Albania is today a staunch
U.S. ally and has come to play an important role in the American
strategy of preventing the expansion of the Yugoslav conflict. It has
forged close bilateral military ties with the United States and has
placed at NATO's disposal its air and port facilities. Albania has
also emerged as a responsible regional player; American, West Eu-
ropean, and NATO leaders have expressed respect for its construc-
tive role. While relations with rump Yugoslavia remain tense be-
cause of the Kosova issue, relations between Albania and its two
other neighbors — Macedonia and Greece — have expanded signifi-

While Albania had made impressive progress since 1992, it still
faces immense difficulties. The optimism and hope that greeted the
1992 democratic victory have mostly faded away. The implementa-
tion of radical economic reforms has led to great social dislocations.
Albania has yet to achieve full economic recovery. Real GDP
growth in 1995 remained at 25 percent below the 1989 level.

There is widespread recognition, Mr. Chairman, that the Alba-
nian Government has made tremendous strides in respecting the
human rights of its citizens. However, there are still significant
abuses of human rights and a judiciary that remains weak and not
wholly independent.

The press has gained authority and power to influence change
and has managed to exercise practically unlimited freedom in both
reporting and editorial comment. Nevertheless, the necessary re-
sponsibility and accountability have not accompanied the media's
new authority and power. The communist legacy is evident in the
low level of professionalism and party influence. The country's
leading journalists were trained under communism, are highly ide-
ological, and display poor professional judgment. They see their
role more as advocates of a particular point of view than as simple
reporters. Almost without exception, the ostensibly independent pa-
pers are closely affiliated with, or financed by, different political
parties and groups.

The relationship between the government and the media has
been adversarial. The press law, approved by parliament in Octo-
ber 1993, was seen by both domestic and foreign observers as too
restrictive. Officials failed to realize that the law is not likely to de-
termine media behavior, and that professionalism is not something
that can be ensured through government restrictions. Often, the
authorities have shown striking ineptitude in their treatment of op-
position journalists. The arrest and sentencing of journalists had a
damaging impact on Albania's image abroad.

While the institutional features of a democratic government are
largely in place, civil society as a political force, unfortunately has
yet to emerge. The delay in adopting a new constitution has con-
tributed to some confusion over personal and institutional roles and
responsibilities. Moreover, current constitutional laws lack the le-
gitimacy that a new single charter, even without significant modi-
fications from current documents, would have if it were adopted by
the parliament, an assembly, or through a popular referendum.
Therefore, the speedy adoption of a new constitution has become
indispensable. Albania's long-term interests dictate that the coun-
try's major political forces put aside their narrow political consider-
ations and engage in serious bargaining and compromise aimed at
giving the emerging order a solid constitutional underpinning.

The concentration of power in the presidency has had both posi-
tive and negative impact. Berisha continues to be viewed as an in-
dispensable guarantor of Albania's transition to democracy and a
market economy. However, his domination of the executive branch
has complicated the decisionmaking process, at times undermining
good and effective administration, causing unnecessary delays in
making decisions on major issues.

The extent to which the new governing elite has been able to pro-
vide transparent and accountable governance remains debatable.
The government often failed, in my opinion, to draw the par-
liament, the opposition, and the Albanian population into a full and
frank discussion and debate of the pros and cons of major decisions
before announcing them. Accountability remains largely an alien
concept. Corruption, nepotism, and the use of official position for
private gain are said to be widespread.

Albania has yet to see the emergence of viable political parties
that articulate competing interests and preferences of individuals.
Probably several rounds of elections will be necessary before a sta-
ble system of relatively disciplined and responsible parties can
emerge. Many parties overlap ideologically and in their social ap-

peal, which makes it difficult to describe their stand in terms of the
Western traditional left/right continuum. Moreover, Albania has
witnessed a tendency toward increasing fragmentation of the larg-
est parties.

Parliamentary elections will be held at the end of May or the be-
ginning of June. More than a dozen parties are expected to appear
on the ballot. Although according to two recent polls sponsored by
the U.S. International Republican Institute and European Commis-
sion's Eurobarometer, the ruling Democratic Party is likely to win
the largest bloc of seats, I think the situation in the country is fluid
and unpredictable; it is impossible, at least for me from this end,
to gauge the relative strength of the parties that will be competing.
I think the economy will very likely be the dominant issue, but re-
lations with the United States are also likely to have a great sa-
liency. While it is important not to take sides — after all, it is up
to the Albanian people to elect whom they choose to — I think the
United States should not remain indifferent. We have a stake in
the outcome of these elections. Washington should not hesitate to
assert its preference for a result that will advance democracy, a
free market economy, and regional cooperation.

Despite the significant institutional and political changes and
splits within the ruling party, the Albanian political scene contin-
ues to be dominated bv two main actors: the ruling party, the
Democratic Party; and the opposition Socialist — former Com-
munist — Party. Tne Democratic Party remains the only party with
a clear political and economic program. It has retained a wide base
of support that cuts across all segments of the society.

The perils and pitfalls of governing the country during a crisis
period, however, have taken a significant toll, and the Democratic
Party faces an uphill battle. Nevertheless, even if it were to win
the largest block of seats in the parliament, I think the Democratic
Party must do lots of adjusting. It is not likely to get the simple
majority that they had, like 60 percent or something like that, but
even if it wins the largest block of seats, the Democratic Party will
no longer have its accustomed parliamentary majority and will
need to learn to consult with the opposition and to reach political
consensus on critical issues, such as drafting and approving a new

The Socialist Party is the most cohesive and powerful opposition
force in the country. It rejects Berisha's policy of shock therapy and
massive privatization. The Socialists are also critical of Albania's
growing military relationship with the United States and with
NATO. The party leadership continues to be heavily dominated by
the conservative communists. Since its humiliating defeat in 1992,
the Socialist Party has displayed little commitment to democratic
values and practices and has attempted to block the process of
transition every step of the way.

In recent months, in a bid to prove that they are a moderate
force, the Socialists have toned down their anti-Western, and par-
ticularly anti-American rhetoric. But there should be no doubt that
an election victory by the former communists will pose a significant
threat to Albania's democratic future. The Socialists are very re-
sentful of changes since 1992 and the imprisonment of their chair-
man, Fatos Nano, and if they return to power, I think the tempta-

tion to seek revenge against the Democratic Party will be great.
Cohabitation between a democratic president who was elected for
a 5-year term — and his term expires in 1997 — and a socialist-con-
trolled parliament would be very difficult. While there is no chance
of going back — and I strongly believe this — to Hoxha's dictatorship
and centralized economy, I think the Socialists' mere attempt to
roll back or retard such moves as mass privatization and repeal a
large degree of legislation enacted since 1992 would be fraught
with great instability.

There are two other significant actors: the Social Democratic
Party and the Democratic Alliance. The Social Democratic Party is
currently the third-largest bloc in parliament. It has its roots in the
reformist wing of the Albanian Party of Labor, or the Communist
Party. Some of its leaders have a distinctly communist background;
they were quick-change artists who had faithfully served Alia's re-
gime. [Party Chairman Skender Gjinushi, a former member of the
Central Committee, served as minister of education in the last
communist government.] But what is more significant is that he
represented the communist government in negotiations with dem-
onstrating students in December 1990 and hunger strikers in Feb-

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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. Commission on Security anChallenges to democracy in Albania : hearing before the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, One Hundred Fourth Congress, second session, March 14, 1996 → online text (page 1 of 11)