Remarks by Ambassador Donald Lu at the Judicial Reform Reception

The honorable Prime Minister Rama, Mr. Xhafaj, Mr. Bylykbashi, dear friends,

Whose victory was the vote last Friday?  This is the question everyone is asking in Tirana.  Was it the victory of the political party leaders?  The media?  The international community?  Or the individual members of parliament?

I know who deserves the credit.  And it’s a group of people not here tonight.  It’s your friends, your neighbors and your family members.  It’s the Albanian people.

I spoke to dozens of deputies from the Kuvendi over the last month.  Each of them told me the same story.  They desperately wanted to vote for this reform because if they did not, they would be afraid to go home to their wives, husbands and children — all of whom were expecting them to pass this reform.

How many of us have been stopped by regular people on the street to tell us that they demand this reform?  How many of us have been approached by complete strangers to hear their stories about how a corrupt judge or prosecutor took from them their land, their children or their freedom?

History will record many heroes and villains from the past weeks of debate on judicial reform.  No single hero is as powerful as the voice of the Albanian public.

Over the past year, thousands of people from all over the country have demanded judicial reform.  Hundreds of everyday citizens gathered last week in Tirana with simple placards in the searing heat of summer.  They gathered again in the direct sunlight cheering for the reform in front of Parliament as the black air-conditioned Mercedes and BMWs of the politicians drove past them.  They were pensioners, students, and housewives.  They were professionals, the unemployed, and the optimists who still believe in this country.

They demanded something very simple – justice.   I am pleased that the political leaders listened to them and passed this reform.  The resistance to this reform was real.  It took courage to listen to the Albanian people and pass this reform.  I hope that Albania’s leaders will fulfill their commitment to the people by fully implementing this important reform.  A real democracy is a democracy in which leaders listen to the will of the people.

Congratulations to the Albanian people.  This is their success.