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Open lecture on “Direct Democracy in Practice – a Swiss Perspective”

The Ambassador of Switzerland in Albania, H.E. Dr. Christoph Graf was invited at the "Marin Barleti University" under the tradition of open lectures. After the official reception by the Rector of the University, Prof. Dr. Marenglen Spiro and other leaders of the institution, Dr. Christoph Graf, delivered an open lecture on "Direct Democracy in Practice - a Swiss Perspective" for the students and professors of "Marin Barleti University". Dr. Graf spoke of the usefulness of referendums in democracy, bringing his country's example where people are free to propose referendums on any issues they care about, and He believes that direct democracy can be a good prospect for Albania as well.

Referring to Albanian experience there are not many examples to show the power of people in decision making. "You know better than me after having had some stories with referendums. I learned that in 1998 you had the first referendum, after the opening of the country and this referendum was about the changes in the Constitution. This referendum apparently was a vote of the people, but was requested by the parliament and the citizens were not the ones who asked for the vote, so the political elite did not have to take responsibility and this is a special kind of referendum, not it with which we have been taught in Switzerland. In 2012 was a different case, it seems to me that there were collected 64,000 signatures because many citizens disagreed about the law on waste import, which is still under debate.

It has its impact. Finally I participated in a conference where was analyzed this law and I think it is a review because in my view it is too complicated. You need to have 50,000 signatures and Switzerland needs 60,000 signatures for a referendum, but we have a three times higher electorate and for this I think the barrier is quite high here.

I think you need a long period of all the pro-votes and sometimes I'm not sure whether this law is the one you want to hear in the voice of people, or it is not a kind of political elite support to rule the country. I think that an interesting debate can be launched now that this law can be simplified and being more practical. Perhaps a kind of inspiration from our country can contribute to enriching the debate on a more practical law on the referendums in Albania, "-said among the others Ambassador Graf.

He praised the Swiss referendum model as a way of empowering people's thinking in sensitive issues for them. Participants attended to the word of His Excellency and learned about Swiss institutions and democracy. The lecture was concluded with an open discussion during which questions were raised about the democracy, institutions, and key components of direct democracy.