By Edison Kurani
IBNA Special Report/ Political forces in Albania discuss on the need of constitutional changes, calling for them to be made in a careful way and to have a wide political support.
The governing majority must be united in the need for wide consensus, but the main ally of the Socialist Party, Ilir Meta, speaker of parliament believes that “constitutional changes cannot be made over night”. This is a critic that Meta launches recalling the amendments made 5 years ago and which penalized small parties by restricting their chances to win seats in parliament
When was the Albanian Constitution born
The Constitution is a fundamental act, a basis for the entire process of cohabitation between the people of a country and its functioning.
For the first time in Albania, a Constitution has started to be applied in 1913, when 6 Large Powers recognized Albania and along with a Leader, also provided an organic statute, a document which acted as the Constitution of that time.
This was a document which aimed to make Albania not only a country governed by rules, but through these rules, a country which joined European contemporary developments.
The history of the Constitution of Albania, or to be precise, Albanians living under a Constitution, is a history in itself which deserves studies, but which are not many around.
In 1946, communist dictator Enver Hoxha declared a Constitution which was the dictatorship of proletariat.
In 1994, a referendum was called by the president of that time, Sali Berisha, for a new constitution. The referendum failed as Albanians said “no” to the government’s draft.
Until 1998, several constitutional provisions were applied.
In 1998, the new Constitution was voted through a people’s referendum.
The new constitution, bearing in mind the specific characteristics of Albania, dictated the need of the cooperation of political forces, which bore a lot of grudges against each other.
This constitution has dictated an entirely European and modern approach toward universal human rights.
On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of this constitution, the Constitutional Court, in cooperation with the Venice Commission, held on Friday the “Constitution as an Instrument of Stability and Development” conference.
Changes made to the Constitution
Many constitutionalists in Albania have appealed for the Constitution not to undergo constant changes. As an example, they refer to the American case, where the Constitution of USA is older than that of Albania and has been amended lest frequently.
During these 15 years, the Constitution has been amended three times. On January 13, 2007, the term in office of local government representatives who were elected changed from 3 to 4 years and the number of the members of the Central Election Commission changed from 7 to 9 members.
In March 2008, there was a constitutional reform. The procedure for the election of the President changes, the mandate of the General Prosecutor was restricted to 5 years and motion of confidence and the motion of no confidence for the Prime Minister was changed.
A mixed majority proportional electoral system was also changed into a regional proportional system.
Head of Constitutional Court” The amendments in the Constitution are necessary
The head of the Constitutional Court, Mr. Bashkim Dedja says that changes in the Constitution are necessary for the state to function.
According to him, the debates and discussions serve to the improvement of the constitutional justice. A balance between the stability of the Constitution and its elasticity, along with the orientating models for the system of constitutional justice remain part of the open and ongoing discussions.
President Nishani: When must the amendments in the Constitution be made
President of the Republic, Bujar Nishani says that the Constitution is the “Foundation stone of the state” and says that the Constitution must offer guarantees for stability and the long term.
Nishani said that the revision of the Constitution, “must be accompanied by maturity and care to highlight the fundamental aspect of the constitutional pact”.
The president outlines the points which may be reviewed in the Constitution of Albania, like it has happened with all member countries of the European Union:
According to him, they would consist on:
-a restriction of the national sovereignty through the recognition of European Institutions in adopting normative acts for member countries. Therefore, Albanian Parliament would not be the only lawmaking institution.
-a provision in the Constitution for the right for participation of EU citizens in the local government elections of Albania and the right of ownership over lands or properties for foreign citizens.
-a provision of the right for Albanian citizens to participate as voters or elected in the European Parliament elections.
“Thus, the revision of the Constitution must be seen as an improvement, when it’s a social necessity, but without affecting the core of principles and constitutional values which would consider it as a super constitution”, said the President.
Speaker of Parliament: No overnight amendments
Speaker of parliament, Mr. Ilir Meta says that 15 years after the voting of the new constitution, “we have more reason to applaud this Constitution and more reasons to criticize ourselves as to how we have behaved with it”.
Mr. Meta recalls the constitutional amendments made in 2008 and said that they were sudden amendments which produced “a spirit against the general spirit of this document”.
“The amendments threatened the relations between powers, they damaged the principle of control and balance between them and above all they issued the wrong message: a Constitution can be amended overnight”, said Mr. Meta.
The Speaker of Parliament says that the constitutional changes can be made if necessary, but “through a wide, trusted, transparent and public process with the best domestic and foreign expertise”
Premier Rama: New amendments through comprehensiveness
Every intervention in the Constitution imposes the necessity for comprehensiveness to be the fundamental and initial principle of the stability of the Constitution and the strengthening of constitutional order.
This was said by premier Edi Rama. He said that the stability of the Constitution is a precondition for the stability of the constitutional order in the country.
Mr. Rama says that constitutional amendments “cannot be a political process, even less, a biased political process”.
Edi Rama was the initiator of the constitutional amendments taken place in 2008 which were accepted by the prime minister of that time, Sali Berisha. The amendments related to the Electoral Code which restricted small political parties and enabled the election of the president with a simple majority in Parliament, in case in the three first rounds, it was impossible to elect him with 84 votes out of 140 votes in parliament.
Speaking on Friday on the 15th anniversary of the Constitution, premier Rama stressed “the determined will of the Government to respect the Constitution in every step that it makes and to guarantee constitutionality in every act that it carries out”.
Constitutionalist Anastasi: The new Constitution changed the pillars of monism
Prof. Dr. Aurela Anastasi is a professor of Constitutional Law and renowned constitutionalist in Albania. She says that the Constitution is the foundation of the political and social cohabitation.
But, in order to be like that, there must be a constitutionality of the decisions that are taken. Stopping on the current constitution, Dr. Anastasi says that it came into effect to eliminate the inheritance of the monist system and to give way to the European integration of Albania.
“The 1998 Constitution was a new one and it overthrew all the main pillars which supported the constitution of 1976. Thus, the principle of the unity of power was replaced by the principle of the division of powers; the principle of being supported in our forces and deprival of private property was replaced by the principle of free economic incentive. It also overthrew the one party system by replacing it by the principle of political and ideological pluralism”, says Prof. Anastasi.
Ambassador Sequi: EU pays a lot of attention to the constitution
The head of the European Union Delegation to Tirana, Ettore Sequi says that as far as European integration is concerned, the Constitution needs a strong structure and stresses that the European Union pays a lot of attention to the Constitution.
“The decisions are important in these times, sometimes activities on field are as such that the foundations must be strengthened in order for the tower, which in this case is the state, to stand in a perfect way”, says Mr. Sequi.
Speaking on the Constitutional Court, Mr. Sequi said that in the recent years, it has faced different challenges and stressed that the objective is to achieve efficiency according to European standards in the court.
The 2013 progress Report underlines that the legislation for the Constitutional Court must be approved. EU has offered technical assistance and important projects such as EURALIUS. This reform is part of the current debate and Mr. Sequi suggests talks for this reform must be carried out with maximum consensus.
In law, the process is often as important as the final product. Therefore, the process of approaching the Constitution must be at the same time political, comprehensive, transparent and mature. Constitutional changes must reflect the level of the maturity of today’s and tomorrow’s Albanian society.
If until today, constitutional changes have been used for political gains by Albanian political parties, it’s time for these changes to benefit the Albanian people. Future amendments must be maybe focused only in the harmonization of the Albanian legislation with that of the European Union, while the primary objective of Albania is its accession in the European family. /ibna/