Durban, August 31- September 7, 2001


Mr. President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Please allow me to express my distinct pleasure for the opportunity to participate and give my contribution to this important Conference. I would like as well to express my gratitude for the hospitality and excellent organization of this event to the Government of South Africa, this country that became a symbol of fight against apartheid and protection of human rights.

Mr. President,

I would like to emphasize that one of main priorities of Albanian State is to guarantee equality for its citizens, thus joining with the efforts being made by the international community in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related. intolerance. Albanian Constitution of 1998, provides that no one can injustly be discriminated based on the gender, race, religion, ethnicity, language, political, religious and philosophical beliefs, economical, educational and social status or parental background. Beside that, Albanian Criminal Code sanctions as a crime discrimination committed by officials of public administration on the basis of origin, sex, religious and political beliefs, ethnic background, race, etc. Furthermore, it prohibits the incitement of racial, national or religious quarrel and calls for hatred against other parts of population, as well.

Albanian State respects and protects by law religious freedoms of the individuals. It has created all conditions for the individuals to freely exercise religious belief without any kind of discrimination. At the same time, the religious institutions have the right to fully
exercise their activity and receive assistance from the Government. Such a situation in my country originates from religious tolerance that traditionally has characterized the Albanian society, where a peaceful coexistence among three religious communities in Albania, Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics, is a reality.

Apart of modern legislation and democratic institutions, the institution of Ombudsman is created and exercises its full activity in Albania, be this an institution that protects the rights, freedoms and legal interests of the individuals against illegal and irregular actions and non-actions of public administration. In this sense, each social group or individual have the legal and practical remedy, through this institution, to be protected from abuses and violations including those that are based on racial discrimination, intolerance and xenophobia.

Mr. President,

Today, national minorities are the most threatened communities by racism, intolerance and xenophobia throughout the world. Republic of Albania protects and promotes respect of human rights for national minorities by considering them an inseparable part of the Albanian society. It is a fact that historically, we never experienced an interethnic conflict. On the contrary, my country is characterized by a friendly coexistence between the Albanian population and other national minorities. Many experts consider the Albanian legislation on national minorities as one of the best legislations in the region. This legislation has not remained an abstract notion but it has been implemented properly.

National minorities are really integrated in the Albanian society and enjoy all freedoms and rights provided by international documents derived from Albania's membership in U. N., the Council of Europe, OSCE and they preserve and protect their national identity, traditions, customs, religious belief and their own language, as well. They enjoy the right to express their political will, to be organized in associations and political parties, and to take part in the country's government, too. Of course, there are still unresolved problems, which are linked to real capacities of Albanian Government to deal with them, such as the issue of improving position of Roma population. Nevertheless I should underline that they face the same problems they face in the other countries of our region.

Mr. President,

Souteast Europe has recently been involved in a number of positive developments in the field of human rights, as a result of consolidation of democratic process, liberalization of economy and society and, most importantly, the integrating processes towards the European Union.
Despite these developments, the Balkan region suffered tragic events during the last decade where as a result of interethnic intolerant, nationalistic, racist and xenophobic policies, hundreds and thousands of innocent victims were caused. Every day, the International Criminal Tribunal for crimes against humanity in the former Yugoslavia gives more evidence of monstrous crimes committed in the name of blind nationalism, crimes that must be strongly punished. In this context, we commend the hand over of Milosevic to the Hague Tribunal by the new authorities of Belgrade and believe that this process will go on until the very end.

Today, Kosova is enjoying the results of freedom and democracy. After the efforts undertaken by UNMIK, OSCE and international community, Kosova is moving towards prosperity and is consolidating its multi-ethnic society that is based on tolerance and good understanding among its citizens. A clear testimony to this, is, reduction of the number of interethnic violence and the increase of confidence and mutual cooperation among ethnic communities in Kosova. We believe that the central institutions of Kosova that will result from the general elections of 17 November 2001 will further strengthen the spirit of interethnic cooperation through the protection of human rights for all citizens of Kosova.

The events in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia represent another disturbing situation in our region. The ethnic Albanians and the definition of their official status in this state are at the center of the Macedonian problem. Republic of Albania as a neighboring country that works for strengthening of peace and stability in the Balkans, has not supported extremist actions that have been undertaken in the name of respect for human rights but at the same time has strongly condemned the acts of violence and intolerance against Albanians committed by some certain circles. We salute the signing, some time ago, of the Peace Agreement in Skopie. We are convinced that this Agreement will consolidate the democratic process and further improve the interethnic relations in FYROM. What it is needed now is its immediate implementation, by both sides, in compliance with the conditions put forward by the international factor.

Mr. President,

At the end of my speech, I would like to touch upon an issue, quite critical nowadays, the issue of treatment of immigrants. Immigrants are another component of our societies that are threatened by the phenomena of racism, intolerance and xenophobia. Albania faced massive immigrations of population towards developed countries during the years of democratic transition. Despite the ways these people immigrate or the status they enjoy in the receiving countries, they should be treated correctly in order not to allow them to become the game of intolerance and xenophobia.
In front of such a situation, the governmental authorities should not allow extablishmet of policies on immigrants, based on negative ideas or opinions propmoted by certain political groupings that base their ideologies upon the implementation of already failed theories and condemned practices. They should fight against the negative image on immigrants produced by certain media, as well.

Thank you