Ambassador Donald Lu will be leaving Albania in mid July, after three years and a half of serving as the U.S. Ambassador in Tirana.
Exit’s inquiry regarding the appointment of a new ambassador was answered by a Department of State official who stated that “Donald Lu continues to serve as the U.S.A. Ambassador in Albania.” However, Exit learned from sources within the Department of State that Lu will finish his mission in Tirana, to return to Washington during the summer.
Lu has not received any ambassadorial nominations from U.S. President Donald Trump, and has not yet been appointed any office within the Department of State. It is very likely that like his predecessors Withers and Arvizu, Lu will remain without any significant position in the Department following his return to Washington.
Meanwhile, there is no clarity when President Trump will appoint the new ambassador to Albania. Exit inquired at the White House Press Office, but no has received no response at the time of the publication of this piece. However, taking into account the time it takes the U.S. Congress to confirm an ambassador’s appointment, acompounded by the August recess, one can surmise that the new U.S. ambassador isn’t likely to take office before the end of the year.
To fill the vacuum, the Department of State has decided that the new deputy chief of mission, who has been appointed and is expected to arrive in Albania at the beginning of August, will act as the head of the U.S. Embassy until the arrival of the new U.S. ambassador.
This summer marks the end of all the terms of the U.S. Embassy’s high officials. Deputy chief of mission David Muniz will leave Albania by the end of August. Public Affairs Officer Ryan Roberts will leave at the end of July.
Jon Smibert, Resident Legal Advisor for OPDAT, will be leaving at the end of July, while USAID Country Representative Catherine Johnson will also be leaving in the summer.
The sole leading officials that will remain after August 2018 will be Political and Economic Officer Carson Relitz Rocker and head of the Consulate Office Daniel Koski, both appointed in the previous year.
The departure of Ambassador Lu is expected to bring about a stark change in the stance held by the U.S. Embassy. Particularly, it will bring about the end of Lu’s often personally motivated policies that unconditionally supported Prime Minister Edi Rama and the Socialist majority.
In the last few months there has been a distancing and indifference on the part of the Department of State with respect to Albania, seeing as the new Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Wess Mitchell, had decided to avoid visiting it during his trip in all the other countries in the region a few months ago.
Unusually, and in contrast to his predecessor Victoria Nuland, Mitchell has not commented nor made clear his position on Albania, in spite of all the important recent political upheaval.
Exit’s source at the Department of State said that Mitchell has chosen not to get involved with ambassador Lu, as the latter is at the end of his term, and is planning to implement the Department of State’s new policies following the ambassador’s departure.