TIRANA, 14 July 2003 - On his first visit to Albania as Director of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), Ambassador Christian Strohal welcomed the agreement reached by the bi-partisan committee on reforms to the country's election law. At the same time, he urged political parties and the electoral administration to ensure that this leads to substantial improvement in the conduct of the upcoming local government elections, which the ODIHR plans to observe.
"The political will shown to reform the electoral law is an important achievement for Albania," said Ambassador Strohal. "It is now essential that the upcoming local government elections make substantial progress towards full compliance with OSCE commitments for democratic elections."
The bi-partisan committee was established by the Albanian parliament in line with a recommendation made by the ODIHR following the 2001 parliamentary elections. The ODIHR and the OSCE Presence in Albania actively assisted the committee in its work. An electoral reform package agreed by the committee, including further amendments drafted by the two largest parties, was adopted by parliament in June.
During his visit, Ambassador Strohal met with the Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament, leader of the Democratic Party and other political parties as well as the Central Election Commission. Additionally, he met with the co-chairs of the bi-partisan committee and congratulated them on their efforts.
The ODIHR Director also met with government ministers to discuss anti-trafficking issues. He commended the Albanian government for its pro-active approach in combating trafficking in human beings, emphasized the need for effective prosecution and called for the further development of comprehensive human-rights based victim protection measures. Ambassador Strohal and Albanian government representatives agreed that an improvement in gender equality and economic development were key to long-term success in the fight against trafficking.
The ODIHR is carrying out human rights and democratization projects in Albania, and has observed all major electoral events in the country since 1996.