On 29 May 2010, the Socialist International Committee for South Eastern Europe met in Tirana to focus on the current crisis in Albania following the unresolved violations and irregularities of the 28 June 2009 parliamentary elections and on regional developments (list of participants). Strengthening democracy in the region, and advancing stability, fair institutions and regional cooperation and brief reports on the national situation in countries of the region were the main items on the agenda.
Addressing the meeting at its opening, Edi Rama, Leader of the SPA and Co-Chair of the Committee, thanked the Socialist International for the support it had shown to their cause and delegates for their attendance at the meeting, reflecting of the difficult period of the previous 9 months, during which the party exerted an extraordinary effort to protect and defend democracy, which came under threat in Albania. Stressing the need for understanding in the international community of the situation in his country, he described the progressive left as the appropriate force to deal with the challenges of democratisation, modernisation,and European integration, stating that the SPA had never felt alone due to the support of those around the table.
Sergei Stanishev (BSP, Bulgaria), Co-Chair of the Committee, welcomed the responsible behaviour of the SPA, and its willingness to compromise in order to find a constructive and acceptable solution. He expressed his belief that a declaration of the Committee could contribute to resolving the crisis and guarantee a future free of doubts over elections in Albania, He also referred to EU integration, reflecting upon the experience of Bulgaria in this regard, as there the national goal of integration was only achieved through cooperation.
In his opening remarks, SI Secretary General Luis Ayala focussed upon the democratic values of social democracy, and on both the achievements and challenges of the International in advancing those values. Presenting democracy as the most fundamental pillar of society, he reflected upon the essence of democracy and the current crisis in Albania. There, he continued, legitimacy needs to be regained, with the steps taken by Edi Rama and the SPA needing to be replicated by other political actors in the country, in particular those responsible within the Democratic Party. Though the current situation in Albania is a time of great challenges, he added, meeting these challenges can provide openings for better times, as would be the case if the electoral transparency demanded by the SPA were achieved.
This was followed by interventions from a large number of the participants in the meeting, which formed the basis for a Resolution later adopted by the Committee, reiterating the call of the International for an investigation of the electoral violations to bring and end to the current political crisis. In particular, delegates expressed concerns about the impact of the political crisis on the ability of Albania to deal with the issues arising from the global financial crisis and the pursuit of European integration.
The Resolution, which was adopted at the close of the meeting. took into account the deadlock that Albania had faced for over 9 months, stressing that reforms were essential to guarantee fundamental democratic principles there and ensure equal rights and opportunities for citizens, businesses and NGOs. In light of the gratitude expressed by the SPA for the support received from the SI and its members parties, and the importance of solidarity within the global social democratic movement, the Resolution also pledged the support of the International to any other member party that found itself in a similar situation in the future. The text recognised the challenges of European integration, but also the hope this offers to countries of the Western Balkans, taking note of SI President George Papandreou's vision for European integration by 2014, which was cited by Edi Rama during the meeting.
The current unresolved electoral crisis in Albania was also of relevance during discussions on advancing stability, fair institutions and regional cooperation, with members of the Committee acknowledging the need for stronger collaboration between social democrats of the region, and the important role the SI has to play in fostering this cooperation. Many delegates expressed a desire to see better cooperation in the form of member parties observing elections and monitoring the general situation in other countries of the region.
In the afternoon session, delegates gave reports on the national situation in their own country, leading to a strong common appreciation of the similarities and differences in the issues faced by parties across South Eastern Europe. The reports, though individual in nature, covered many common themes, reinforcing the sentiment that the development of just institutions, the consolidation of democracy and European integration remain the principal issues of concern for social democrats of the region.