Schumer supports Albanian-Americans’ right to vote in Albania

Ruben Avxhiu

US Senator Charles Schumer added his weight behind the efforts to include the expatriates’ right to vote in the ongoing electoral reform in Albania.
In a letter to Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, he supports the recent agreement among Albania’s political parties to improve substantially the electoral process in Albania. In addition, he argued that Albania should follow the example of over 150 countries around the world which have various forms of diaspora participation in national elections.
“I encourage you to publicly support further reforms that will enfranchise over one million Albanians living abroad, including those here in the United States. The Albanian diaspora community is a considerable source of strength to Albania, and nurturing that relationship is mutually beneficial to Albania and its citizens overseas,” Schumer wrote.
The letter which was sent also to Philip T. Reeker, Acting Assistant Secretary (European and Eurasian Affairs) and Yuri Kim, the new U.S. Ambassador to Albania, praise the contribution of the Albanian-American community in New York and the United States.
“Albanian-Americans greatly enrich the cultural fabric of American society, perhaps most notably in my hometown of New York City, where they form a vibrant community in the Bronx, Staten Island, and elsewhere across the five boroughs and beyond”, the senior US Senator from New York wrote. “These expatriates are rightly proud of their rich heritage, and they should have the opportunity to express their opinion on matters in their homeland through the electoral process.”
Schumer who has spoken in several events of the Albanian community over the years was the keynote speaker during the 15th anniversary Dinner of the Albanian American Civic League and has been recognized with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Albanian American Council. He was interviewed by our Illyria newspaper, 10 years ago, during a fundraising event in Yonkers, for the Mother Teresa Cathedral in Prishtina, Kosova.
He has remained close to the Albanian community and has recently endorsed congressman Eliot Engel in his reelection bid.
The United States has played an important role in bringing together the main political parties in Albania, after a year of political crisis which saw most of the opposition boycott the local election and abandon the parliament. A major agreement on electoral reform was achieved this month paving the way for changes that will bring greater trust, transparency, and accountability in the electoral process.
A much-debated proposal however – the right of vote for the diaspora – has been sidestepped to the frustration of many immigrants, including Albanian-Americans, whose remittances and contributions in tourism and investments are a determining factor of the nation’s economy.
You can read below the full text of his letter to Secretary Pompeo.

The Honorable Mike Pompeo Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State 2201 C Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Secretary Pompeo:
WASHINGTON, DC 20510-3203
June 19, 2020
As the senior senator from New York, which is home to a large community of Albanian- Americans, and as a long supporter of democracy and self-determination in Albania and the Balkan region, I write to express support for recent efforts to improve the electoral process in Albania, which is one of Europe’s youngest democracies. The broad agreement among Albania’s major political parties to improve transparency around election administration, depoliticize vote tallying, and increase unfettered choice in the electoral process is an important step forward on the country’s path to becoming a more fully integrated democracy in the European Union, a goal that the United States of America should have every interest in supporting.
The U.S. State Department and Bureau for European and Eurasian Affairs must do everything possible to ensure that this agreement is upheld and enacted in measurable ways that support the democratic freedoms to which Albanians, like all other people of good faith across the world, are naturally entitled. Additionally, I encourage you to publicly support further reforms that will enfranchise over one million Albanians living abroad, including those here in the United States. The Albanian diaspora community is a considerable source of strength to Albania, and nurturing that relationship is mutually beneficial to Albania and its citizens overseas. Accordingly, in keeping with the practices of over 150 countries around the world, including nearly all of Europe, Albanian-Americans ought to have the right to vote in elections from abroad.
Albanian-Americans greatly enrich the cultural fabric of American society, perhaps most notably in my hometown of New York City, where they form a vibrant community in the Bronx, Staten Island, and elsewhere across the five boroughs and beyond. These expatriates are rightly proud of their rich heritage, and they should have the opportunity to express their opinion on matters in their homeland through the electoral process.
On behalf of my Albanian-American constituents, I encourage you to support these important and much needed reforms to Albania’s democracy.
Sincerely,
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator

cc
Philip T. Reeker, Acting Assistant Secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs
Yuri Kim, U.S. Ambassador to Albania

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