Wilton: The Connection Between Citizens and MPs the Essence of Democracy
Albanian Daily News
Published July 27, 2016

The connection between citizens and their representatives is the essence of democracy. Precisely, the offices we are opening today will be the connecting meeting place between parliamentarians and citizens. Parliamentarians are expected to listen to their constituents, represent them and respond to their needs in a timely and effective manner. The more parliamentarians know about the needs and concerns of their electorate, the more responsive they can be. In turn, the more citizens know about the activities of the Assembly, the better they can express their preferences and hold their representatives accountable.

At these Assembly outreach points, citizens can not only meet their parliamentarians, but also learn more about how the Assembly works and how they can communicate and interact with it. They can also get assistance and information on the legislative work of their parliamentarians. These offices will provide a space where different members of the population, including youth, women and vulnerable groups, can find information and engage actively in the legislative process. Informing citizens about the work of parliament is not just the job of the media, but is a responsibility of the Assembly itself.

Today's opening of the model constituency office in Shkodra is a tangible example of the OSCE Presence's close partnership with the Albanian Assembly. For over a decade, we have been working together to enhance the professional operation, accountability and transparency of the Assembly.

Our support for these constituency offices is an illustration of our long-term determination to bring citizens and their institutions into a more active and healthy relationship. For this, I want to thank the Austrian Development Agency for their support in all these years, hoping for further cooperation in areas such as public participation in decision-making, enhancing civic accountability, always to the benefit of reinforcing the democracy in Albania. Also, allow me to express our gratitude and appreciation for the cooperation with the Shkodra Municipality, and let me pinpoint the fact that the Shkodra Mayor embarked on the process of opening these constituency offices since she was an MP.

Civil society and the Assembly are starting to extend their hands towards each other and we are determined to help both sides bridge the gap through support for initiative such as this. From direct feedback we have received on the work of the offices in KukŽs, Gjirokastra, Korça and Fier the positive effects have already been noticed by citizens as well as parliamentarians and Assembly staff. Trust and co-operation between the Members of Parliament and the communities they represent is stronger and co-operation between the local and central level is closer.

Today, we have here with us parliamentarians of the Shkodra region from different parties. In the Assembly, they represent not only their party, but also the citizens who voted for them. Being elected a member of parliament is a great honour, but it also entails great responsibility as a representative of the people. I publicly congratulated the Assembly for their unanimous vote in favour of the constitutional package for the justice reform, because it was a reaction to the popular will. Now we hope that the same spirit will prevail in the examination and adoption of the amendments to the accompanying laws, so that real implementation can start. This reform exists only if it is implemented - if Albania's citizens see that the reality of Albanian justice has improved.

Our goal - our shared goal - has always been to strengthen the basic health of Albania's democracy; to reinforce public participation; to reinforce trust. Ultimately, a parliament that operates in a transparent, accessible, accountable and responsive manner is more effective and trusted by its people.

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