Dear citizens of Albania, dear friends,
It is with great concern that I address you today.
In the course of the past few weeks, several attempts have been made to promote dialogue amongst political parties in Albania, by representatives from the EU, including myself, and by other international partners.
We have carefully listened to concerns and expectations from all sides, while trying to facilitate a solution of the ongoing crisis.
A number of options were offered, with the hope that parties and leaders live up to their responsibility to find a joint solution.
Unfortunately, this was not the case. So today, we are in a situation where the electoral process for the general elections on 18 June has been set in motion. The elections will take place without the participation of the main opposition parties.
It was the deliberate choice by the current opposition not to run for elections. I have to respect, but at the same time deeply regret this decision from a democratic point of view. Albanians request and deserve elections that provide a broad political offer and uphold electoral standards. However, the democratic process must continue, even if some decide to stay behind.
Democracy and democratic standards shall not be held back by boycotting institutions and democratic elections. The elections will be assessed on their own merit, based on international standards.
The most competent European institution for observing elections – ODIHR – has recently launched its election observations activities in Albania. We do not only strongly support ODIHR - we also expect that all relevant institutions in Albania will provide full cooperation and transparency to their mission, both during the weeks ahead of the election and on the Election Day itself. It is in the interest of Albania and its authorities that OSCE/ODIHR and other international observers will be able to perform at best their crucial role and assessment of the elections.
Therefore, let me also be clear on one thing: I strongly condemn any announcements to call for "actions" that would undermine each citizen's right to vote and other fundamental freedoms. Such "actions" cannot be justified and are not compatible with European Union standards.
On the contrary, it is a fundamental European value that political ideas and proposals – no matter whether you like them or not – are being discussed within the democratic institutions, notably the Albanian parliament. This has been stressed in all the meetings with the political leaders of your country, from all sides.
In this regard let me also say one thing. The fact that the by-elections in Kavaja could not take place is not a victory for anyone. It is a clear loss for democracy.
I have full confidence that the people of Albania will demand from their political leaders to demonstrate the restraint and democratic maturity expected in a country that aspires to be a Member of the EU.
Let's be clear: Leaders will be held accountable if they try to derail the legitimate aspirations of the Albanian people for a better future.
The EU will follow and monitor closely the electoral process. And even more fundamentally: we will continue supporting you on the path towards EU membership.