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In search of a rational explanation for Blinken's visit in Albania

In search of a rational explanation for Blinken's visit in Albania

By Frank Shkreli - 19/02/2024

Frank Shkreli, former director of VOA

It was 1975. The president here in America was Gerald Ford, who as vice president took the place of former president Nixon, who had been forced to resign due to the 'Watergate' scandal.

President Ford gave a speech that year denying New York City federal financial aid despite calls for help to stave off the financial bankruptcy the city was facing. The next day, the New York newspaper, 'Daily News', published the article: "Ford To City: Drop Dead" on the front page. Ford says to the city: Go, die!

In fact, President Ford did not utter these words in his speech, but this was the Daily News' interpretation of Ford's refusal to help New York financially.

President Ford later admitted that these words, published in a New York daily newspaper, although he had not said them, cost him the presidency, while Jimmy Carter was elected president.

I remembered this case while I was following the 8-hour visit of the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken in Tirana.

I was disappointed by the lack of meetings of Mr. Blinken with representatives of what is still called the "opposition" in Albania — a subject in itself for its major mistakes — I also tried to find the word democracy in the speeches of the Secretary of State, but I could not find it anywhere

For the Secretary of State, of the most democratic country in the world — our beloved America — where we enjoy freedom and democracy — not to speak about American and universal democratic values ​​in a country like Albania, is a sacrilege. Especially during a friendly visit to Albania, which is gripped by a crisis of internal political strife and corruption at all levels, while the State Department itself and 'Freedom House', among other international entities, in the annual reports of the Rights of People, year after year, have described Albania as a partially free country — even 34 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Most Albanians find it difficult to understand the reality of Albanian-American relations: The annual reports on human rights, or the "Te Deum" that Western representatives often give to the current government in Tirana, while the country is empty of the best and the nation's most educated.

I remembered again the first visit of an American delegation to Tirana in March/April 1991. The delegation had decided to meet with representatives of all the layers of the Albanian society. We also invited the representatives of the three religious communities who came from communist prisons, to the first reception in 50 years at the so-called Dajti "hotel" by an American delegation in Albania. The three desolate clerics, suffering from prison and in poor health, could not even believe the circumstances in which they found themselves that night: Invited to a reception by the first American delegation in Albania, while the representatives of the then communist regime, who objected to invite the clergy and other dignitaries, in addition to the communist authorities, seemed to say to each other, what is wrong with these Americans ?! Why were they invited?

The idea was that different representatives of the Albanian society, not only the high authorities, for the first time in 50 years, would meet each other in the same hall, the persecuted of communism, some released only a few days ago, with some of the persecutors who kept that criminal communist regime in force

I noticed that this time, Mr. Blinken had not found 2 minutes of time to greet even the Albanian clergy, whom the regime often uses as a reflection of religious coexistence. Perhaps there was some shyness that the clergy could have expressed to the high American representative their concerns regarding the recent communist phenomena in Albania, for which the Albanian Catholic Church made a public statement recently. National reconciliation between Albanians, Mr. Blinken is as necessary today for Albanians as it was in 1991. The visit of Secretary of State Blinken to Tirana requires a rational explanation, but I cannot find it. It is difficult to find praise for such a leader and government from an American chief diplomat in the diplomatic communications between the two countries, especially in the face of recent developments in Washington regarding the "McGonigal" corruption case.

This lack, as it seems intentional, to see the current Albanian political reality as it is, does not serve good Albanian-American relations, nor political stability in Albania, nor peace in the region — and democratic processes in Albania, no. Although he did not say so in words in Tirana, some analysts described this absence as if Secretary of State Blinken said "goodbye" to democracy and the Albanian opposition, in favor of monism, a party-state and the so-called "stabilocracy", or in favor of any other internal or external purpose. Completely different from all his predecessors - democrats and republicans - who have visited Tirana during the last three decades and who have never hesitated to speak in support of democracy, reconciliation and cooperation so necessary for Albanians and suffered from communism. For democracy as a preferred system of governance, against corruption, in favor of freedom and equality and human rights for all Albanians without distinction. Especially in support of freedom of speech and a free press, as the basis of all other freedoms and rights

For 2-3 decades of the pseudo-communist transition in Albania, I have tried - modestly - based on my experience, to warn often that democracy there is in danger, that democratic values ​​were being violated openly and deliberately by the Albanian political class, that political disputes are were causing internal and external political risks to the country whose main goal was and is to maintain their power for more than three decades now. That without free elections and without a real opposition in Albania, there could be no democracy, no freedom, no stability in the country or in the region, nor the sharing of "common values", nor "side by side" relations with the United States, as we often hear by certain persons, from both sides, who call white black and black white. American representatives must defend, everywhere in the world, American values ​​and democracy, as a guarantee for the implementation of universal rights in the service of peace and security in the world.

The omission of the words "democracy" and "opposition", as well as not meeting with other political factors of the Albanian society by Mr. Blinken during the visit to Tirana is not a good sign for the democratic developments in Albania, nor for the relations between the two countries. With the symbolism during the visit to Tirana, as if he sent the message: "Goodbye democracy" to nearly 50 percent of Albanian voters, ignored and excluded during the past three decades: "Drop dead", we are more interested in stability than in democratic values, your rights and freedoms

As for your knowledge Mr. Secretary of State, there are almost no Albanian families from these 50 percent of Albanians, so that have no relatives in the US. Many of them have suffered badly from communism, but they mentioned the name of America during communism. You rightly mentioned Voice of America as the only contact with Albania and Albanians during the communist regime. Many Albanians, who always look to America for the protection of their democratic rights, have been punished only for listening to the Voice of America during decades of dictatorial communism. The roots of hope, faith and love for America are deep among Albanians without distinction, Mr. Blinken. Let's not let the deserters down more than three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Official Tirana, Mr. Blinken has not yet condemned the crimes of communism, nor has it distanced itself from the barbaric regime of Enver Hoxha, as most former European communist countries have done. We Albanian-Americans, as citizens of this blessed country - voters and tax payers of our beloved America, we are very interested in the fate of our families there, because we have mixed blood with them Mr. Blinken. Many of them have suffered very badly from communism, just because many of us lived and worked in America. For many Albanians, Mr. Blinken, a small wall of Berlin still exists. Therefore, for me and for many of my friends and colleagues in America and Albania, your visit to Tirana needs a rational explanation, but it is difficult to explain the statements or silence on some other issues of importance for that country and for relations Albanian-American.

However, I have often said that American-Albanian relations were and should remain people to people and not favor a person or a political party. This is how Albanians want special relations with the United States.

Unfortunately, Secretary Blinken's visit to Tirana left me with a bad taste that maybe in fact and in reality in the eyes of the current official Washington, a political wing, the descendants of the communist families in Albania are the favorites of the current American policy, some (children) of the mother's and the other (children) of the stepmother's. Your visit Mr. Blinken only strengthened this real feeling in the ranks of the Albanians, in Albania but also in the ranks of the Albanian-American community. This is harmful to the relationship between our two nations.

It is no secret that in Albania they talk about the "favored" of Washington. There would be nothing more dangerous for the good bilateral relations between Washington and Tirana than the support of one or the other Albanian political party by American diplomacy. Albanians need reconciliation and not instigation of divisions, as a result of political inclinations in favor of the power in power, or certain people, by Western diplomacy, especially by official Washington. A very serious mistake that has been repeated and apparently continues to be implemented by the friends of Western Albanians, bringing to that country unpredictable internal risks for the stability of a normal political life in Albania.

Until today I have warned that in Albania "Democracy does not wait". Looking at the recent political developments in that country, including developments in the parliament, it seems to me that the experiment with democracy in Albania has expired. I am afraid that real Democracy in Albania has suffered a severe blow in recent years, with unpredictable consequences for peace and stability in that country and in the region! The country is on the brink of an autocratic monism — more akin to a developing third-world country than a NATO member

I hope that we have not reached a state where instead of celebrating the good Albanian-American relations on the occasion of the visit of Secretary of State Blinken - we console each other for the death of Albanian democracy, as a result of not supporting the Western countries of democratic processes in Albania and as a result of their inadvisable interventions in the internal political developments of relations between and within the Albanian parties. Albania needs a position and opposition!

Despite my and others' serious concerns, I continue to believe that there is no party or any individual, however powerful, that can drive away or distance Albanians of all political currents from their love for America and Americans. Even Enver Hoxha could not do this with all his anti-American propaganda for half a century. The 100-year-old Albanian-American friendship - people to people - will live for centuries! The current politicians and diplomats, from both parties, are temporary, while our two peoples and the relationship between them are permanent.

May the Great God bless our beloved America and the suffering Albanian Nation — in good and difficult days!


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