In an interview with ABC News on 19 June, Eduard Kukan, the head of the European Parliament delegation that will closely monitor the elections in Albania, underscored the importance of the June 23 elections, and the issue of filling the vacancies in the CEC. “I am encouraged from the information that I have, that this year’s election campaign was not negative, but was more civilized and had no aggressive personal attacks between political leaders. I hope this will follow into Election Day and after the vote. It is very important that the loser accepts defeat and not create problems for the functioning of the next Parliament. So, elections should be seen as an opportunity for the country to advance towards the European Union.”
Some other excerpts from the interview follow. For the entire interview, click here.
You will lead the European Parliament’s delegation that will to come to Tirana to observe the general elections. When do you arrive in Tirana and what is the mandate of the delegation?
Eduard Kukan: I am glad that you asked this question. The mandate of the delegation is determined by the Conference of Presidents of political groups in the European Parliament. This is an ad hoc delegation that will be in Tirana for the elections. We are not proper observers in Albania. We will not go through the various voting centers in the country, or make statements for the appraisal of the election. We’ll be there to see the atmosphere of the elections and will meet with various political representatives to show the support for the European Parliament for the importance of the electoral process in Albania and the country’s progress towards the European integration. We will arrive on Friday evening in Tirana and meet with many political representatives, like the President of Albania, and the Speaker of the Parliament. The meeting format in Parliament is interesting and encouraging because of the presence of Mr. Beja, but also of Mr. Bushati, so representatives from the majority and the opposition. We will meet with foreign observers; OSCE / ODIHR, Council of Europe member states ambassadors and NGOs. The meeting with the Prime Minister of the country has also been confirmed, but I also hope to meet with the opposition leader.
We have a joint statement by Stefan Füle and Catherine Ashton expressing concern for the CEC. In fact, what is the genuine concern in Brussels, that the CEC as an institution is not optimal or that it can be used by the loser to contest elections?
Eduard Kukan: Your question spurs comments. In the statement of Stefan Füle and Catherine Ashton, and the statement of the U.S. Ambassador, or even mine, it is clearly stated that the CEC is a problem. We call upon the political leaders of Albania to find consensus on CEC. We are aware that time is running out and know that it is a complicated issue, because it needs the Parliament’s vote if CEC members do come back to the Commission. But even if this happens in the last hours and minutes, everyone will appreciate this. If this does not happen, as you said in your question, conditions may be created to question the outcome of the election. This is because the CEC cannot take those decisions, which require a qualified majority. Even OSCE has clearly expressed this in its report. If this doesn’t happen, it will be an unnecessary minus for the country. Regardless how peaceful and honest the election may be, there will be criticism for the functioning of the CEC. That is why I underline how important it is for both parties to avoid this negative point for CEC.
Will this affect Albania’s European integration? In fact, in December, elections were seen as a condition for opening negotiations for membership and not for the status, but as Albania missed the deadline of meeting the three conditions, were the elections made a condition for obtaining the candidate status?
Eduard Kukan: Exactly. Elections relate to the functioning of democratic institutions, to which Albania has been criticized in previous years. It is not that the freedom and fairness of elections is a direct condition for the advancement of European integration, but it is related to the functioning of democratic institutions in the country. The Central Election Commission is an institution. By not resolving the issue of the CEC, this may have a negative effect on the overall assessment of Albania regarding the elections. I am encouraged from the information that I have, that this year’s election campaign was not negative, but was more civilized and had no aggressive personal attacks between political leaders. I hope this will follow into Election Day and after the vote. It is very important that the loser accepts defeat and not create problems for the functioning of the next Parliament. So, elections should be seen as an opportunity for the country to advance towards the European Union.