U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Albania to fight corruption, improve the rule of law and pursue transparent elections and political cooperation as it seeks accession to the European Union.
Clinton, speaking to the parliament in Tirana today, said that 20 years ago Albania was an economically stunted communist enclave dotted with concrete bunkers. Today it’s a member of NATO, contributes troops to the organization’s efforts in Afghanistan, and is pursuing investment and trade.
“You have come a long way,” Clinton said. “Don’t stop now. There is still a great deal more work left to do to strengthen your young democracy, build your economy, and create a future equal to the aspirations of your people.”
Clinton’s stop in Albania is her last on a swing through the Balkans where she has been emphasizing the need for continued reforms so the region can be better integrated into international institutions like the EU.
Citing her own experience with former political rival President Barack Obama, Clinton urged Albania’s politicians “to build a culture of cooperation that transcends political differences, what Alexis de Tocqueville termed ‘the habits of the heart’ that are the core of every successful democracy.”
Clinton told the legislators that EU membership would not only make Albania stronger, it would also benefit Europe as a whole, making “the continent more stable, more peaceful, and more secure,” she said.
In order for accession to happen, the country will have to undertake “vital” reforms in the next few “critical” months, Clinton said.
Free and fair elections are needed to convince Europe that Albania’s politics can function smoothly, Clinton said, and urged stronger rule of law as essential to the health of the democracy. Clinton also emphasized the need to tackle corruption to build confidence of foreign investors and growing the economy.
“This is a fight you must win, because all over the world, corruption is a cancer that eats away at societies,” Clinton said.
-- Editors: Alan Crosby, Alan Crawford