From: Alice Taylor
US Ambassador to Albania: The US Wants a Partner, Not a Problem

Ambassador of the United States in Albania, Yuri Kim has penned an open letter of sorts to Prime Minister Edi Rama and leader of the Democratic Party Lulzim Basha, reminding them that the US wants a partner in Albania “not a problem.”

In one of her more measured comments, she called on “leaders to reflect and take courageous action.” She added that they should “show who you are and what you think this country deserves.”

On the topic of the recent general election, Kim referred to them as “good but not perfect”. She chose not to mention the fact that further electoral reforms are needed, as is attention on party financing, data security, media freedom, and depoliticizing the administration. It also didn’t mention recommendations to investigate and prevent vote-buying, and the way the government weaponized state resources to aid them in their campaign.

On the topic of justice reform, she claimed, “five years after laws were passed, justice reform is delivering real results that will help end impunity.”

She also noted achievements such as hosting the “largest US-led military exercise in the Balkans since WWII”, signing a Memorandum on Economic Agreement, the Skavica hydropower plant, bringing Liquid Natural Gas through Vlora, Albania’s EU accession journey, and Rama’s “successful” Chair-in-Office of the OSCE, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite this, the Ambassador noted that they should not just look back in satisfaction, but rather forward with hope and determination “to make even more progress in democracy, defense, and business.”

As for the future, she noted that on January 1st, 2022, Albania will take on the “most significant role ever on the world stage, sitting on the UN Security Councill alongside the UK, China, Russia, and France.

She also spoke of the expectation that more US investment will come to the country. However, “much will depend on the demands of the Albanian people and the choices of Albanian leaders.”

The most recent State Department report on investments and business in Albania found that it is a “difficult place to do business”, due to “corruption, particularly in the judiciary, a lack of transparency in public procurement, and poor enforcement of contracts”.

Overall, US investors find corruption and the perpetuation of informal business practices as a barrier. In fact, several US investors have faced commercial disputes in the country, including some that went to international arbitration. 

Kim faced controversy last week when she alluded to a famous quote by former dictator  Enver Hoxha and used it against the Albanian opposition.

Last week, after a meeting at the PD headquarters with Basha, Kim told journalists that the opposition leader is responsible for making sure the party will enter parliament “accompanied by members [of parliament] who are worthy of representing Albania.”  

She had asked Basha to dismiss Sali Berisha from the parliamentary group before parliament convenes in September. Berisha was elected by voters in the general election.

“It would be a historic irony but also a tragedy for this country, not just the party if the party were to eat grass for the sake of one man’s personal interest,” Kim stated, after praising the PD’s role in taking down the communist regime in Albania in the early ‘90s.

The “grass-eating” metaphor mirrors a statement made by Albania’s former communist dictator Enver Hoxha in 1961, at a time when the Soviet Union was cutting economic aid to his regime and Albania fell into isolation.

For decades, under the communist dictatorship, the statement was used as a propaganda tool to express Albanians’ blind trust in the dictatorship and their loyalty to its principles, but after the fall of the regime, it was used to ridicule the communist system and as a warning against self-destruction.