Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe OSCE Presence in Albania
BY FAX: 3 pages total DATE: 28 October 98
Chairman of the Permanent Council-Vienna
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Warsaw—OSCE Office
Attn: Amb. Nowak
CC: OSCE Embassies in Tirana; CoE, EU Delegation, ECMM, and WEU/MAPE Offices in Tirana; and OSCE Skopje.
From: Daan Everts, Ambassador Head of Presence
SUBJECT: ACCAPP BACKGROUND REPORT ON THE CONSTITUTION DRAFTING PROCESS
On 21 October 1998, the Albanian Parliament finalized a draft constitution for presentation in a national referendum on 22 November 1998. This final draft is the result of an intensive year-long drafting process that included international expertise (from the Venice Commission and bilateral donors) and broad public consultations. The goal of these national consultations was to create an open, transparent drafting process that provided opportunities for all interested parties to participate. The Constitutional Commission of the Albanian Parliament, the Ministry of Legislative Reform, and OSCE-sponsored Administrative Center for the Coordination of Assistance and Public Participation (ACCAPP) worked together with multiple international and domestic organizations to achieve this goal. The success of this effort led the Tri-Parliamentary Delegation in June 1998 to "[c]ommend the Commission for its broad-based consultations."
From December 1997 through September 1998, the Commission, the Ministry, and ACCAPP worked with other interested parties to implement a two-phase consultation plan. In brief, Phase I of the plan consisted of more than a dozen forums and symposia where constitutional issues were discussed and public input gathered. The results of these forums provided Commission Members and Technical Staff with a basic outline of the issues that the public considered important. While Phase I was in progress, the Commission began drafting a text, finishing an initial draft in June of 1998 and approving a revised text in its entirety on August 5th. Phase II was then initiated consisting of a broad-based review of the August 5th text by individuals and organizations within and outside of Albania. In both phases, foreign constitutional experts were consulted for an independent analysis of the technical substance of the draft. Domestically, the Constitutional Drafting Commission, ACCAPP, and international assistance providers organized a series of public hearings, designed to solicit public comments on the proposed draft, involving several hundred participants
. A diverse cross section of Albanian experts, citizens, politicians, and NGOs attended these meetings, and ACCAPP collected suggestions and comments, which were submitted to the Commission for consideration.
ACCAPP indexed and organized all the comments to assist the Commission and Technical Staff in their process of review. Hundreds of suggested changes were considered, and more than 50 proposed changes affecting more than 45 articles were accepted. Altogether, the Commission amended approximately 25% of the draft text on the basis of specific suggestions from the public.
On 30 September 1998, the Commission completed this process, approving the final text.
During the period 5-20 October, the Albanian Parliament conducted a review the text proposed by the Constitutional Commission. This review consisted of an intense mixture of committee review and plenary session debates. In terms of committees, each of the following reviewed the draft: Public Order and National Information Service; Industry, Public Affairs and Trade; Agriculture and Food; Foreign Affairs; Health and Environmental Protection; Economy, Finance and Privatisation; and Human Rights and Minorities. These review sessions were open, with journalists, local experts, and a Representative of the Venice Commission participating freely. At the close of the week of committee reviews, the Venice Commission representative stated unequivocally, "The draft Constitution is in full conformity with European democratic standards."
Throughout the final phase, the Democratic Party (DP) maintained its boycott of the constitution drafting process. The only moment where a change appeared possible was in August. At that time, the DP indicated a willingness to participate in a "roundtable" on the constitution without insisting that the roundtable substitute for the Constitutional Commission. However, the arrest of six former functionaries of the DP sparked the major opposition party to cancel the roundtable. Subsequent overtures from the diplomatic community, particularly the "Friends of Albania", failed to change the resolve of the DP.
Rejecting the successive assessments of the international community that the constitutional drafting process was "open and transparent," the DP maintained its public stand that it had been excluded. Throughout the process, the DP formulated various unrealistic conditions to their participation and then accused the Coalition Government of exclusion when their demands were not met. Initially, the DP rejected the very establishment of the Constitutional Commission, and later, it demanded a "blocking minority" together with changes in the chairmanship. While the international community has consistently called for an unconditional end to boycott tactics, the DP has never acknowledged this direct demand.
During the series of public hearings described above, DP participation was either low or nonexistent, and reports of boycott orders issued from DP Headquarters were received.
Multilateral condemnations of the non-participation strategy have been direct and unequivocal. Lastly, in the 23 September 1998 Joint Declaration of the OSCE, EU, CoE, and WEU, the international community stated that as an opposition party the DP "must show respect for the results of the 1997 elections and participate in constitutional and political institutions."
As the Referendum approaches, it is important to encourage high voter turnout. Public participation in the final approval, or disapproval, of the Constitution is as important as participation in its drafting. In that regard, there remains the possibility that the DP will not participate in the Referendum, reducing voter turnout and possibly hindering administration. While full DP participation could substantially improve administration, a boycott would not render successful administration of the Referendum impossible. The Ministry of Local Government and the Central Election Commission have already begun preparations, and these two organs are prepared to move forward with administration of the Referendum regardless. The OSCE Presence and ACCAPP will provide technical assistance where possible. Furthermore, the Referendum itself will be conducted in the presence of various teams of international observers organized under the auspices of ODIHR, along with additional observers from the Council of Europe.
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