Remarks of Ambassador Donald Lu at the Post-Credentials Press Conference

Respected journalists, dear guests,

Welcome.  Today, I presented my credentials to President Nishani.  We had a warm conversation about the challenges facing Albania and the role of the United States in supporting key reforms.

In my months of studying Albanian, I learned that it is important in Albania to know: who are you? Where are you from—which village or town?  So, let me tell you a bit about me and my family; then I’ll talk about Washington’s priorities in Albania.

First, I grew up in Huntington Beach, California.  Huntington Beach is known as Surf City, USA.  California is a wonderfully multi-ethnic place where people from all over the world, including Albania, have come to find new opportunity for themselves and their children.

My dad immigrated from China.  His journey to America by boat with only a few dollars in his pocket was a difficult one.  He is retired now, but was a successful architectural engineer and loved to fix up old cars.

My mother was born in San Francisco to immigrant parents.  She worked in a grocery store to help pay for college.  She went on to be a computer programmer and eventually president of a computer company in Silicon Valley.

My brother, sister and I did not grow up in a wealthy family.  But our parents saved their money to give us good educations.  All of my family still lives in Southern California.  But I am joined in Tirana by my lovely wife, Dr. Ariel Ahart, who is a talented public health specialist.  We have two children: Aliya, age 9, and Kipling age 13.  They are both very smart and very happy to be in Albania.

Now, allow me to say a few words about what I plan to focus on in Albania. I have been given three goals from Washington: (1) support reforms necessary for EU membership, (2) make Albania a stronger NATO ally, and (3) help to build democratic institutions.  But what does this mean?

First, congratulations to all Albanians for receiving EU candidate status.  It is a huge accomplishment for which Albanians should be proud.  America strongly supports Albania’s goal for deeper Euro-Atlantic integration, in NATO and in the EU.  This support includes encouraging Albania’s efforts to fight corruption and organized crime and to improve its business climate.

Second, we want Albania to be a stronger NATO ally.  This means understanding its military role following the drawdown in Afghanistan and refocusing American training and resources to prepare the Albanian military for future NATO missions.
Finally, building democratic institutions means continuing our important cooperation on judicial reform and the development of the NGO sector in Albania.

Relations between our countries and our governments are strong. I will work to advance these relations every day that I am here in Albania. I know that Albanians expect a lot from the U.S. embassy and the U.S. Ambassador because of the enduring friendship and historic ties between our two countries. Be assured that the U.S. embassy and I will continue to be true and sincere friends to all Albanians.

Thank you for coming and I look forward to your questions.

Top Channel: Dear Ambassador, you have been waiting for almost a year the get to your job here in Albania…

Ambassador Lu: … More than a year…

Top Channel: Yes, more than a year. I believe that during this time you have followed the latest developments in our country from a distance.  I would like to know what has impressed you the most? Also, since you come from Washington and it is your second day in Albania, is there a change in the U.S. policy towards Albania? Thank you and much success in your work.

Ambassador Lu: You know that American ambassadors change, normally, but that U.S. policy does not change.  I have great respect for my predecessors – Ambassadors Arvizu, Withers, and Ries.  What has changed and has become more mature is our relationship.  As NATO allies, we are working side by side in Afghanistan and in the global coalition against ISIS in order to prevent foreign fighters from traveling to Syria.  This partnership level was unthinkable only twenty years ago. Thank you.

TV Klan: Hello, Excellency.  First, compliments for the Albanian language!

Ambassador Lu: Thank you.

TV Klan: Mr. Ambassador, you said that during your assignment in Albania you will work to advance the relations between Albania and the United States, but what parts of this relationship require further improvement between the United States and Albania?

Ambassador Lu: One clear area for greater collaboration with partners around the world is anti-terrorism and the fight against extremism.  The attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris was not just an attack on innocent people.  It was an attack against democratic values and the lifestyle that the U.S. and France work together to promote worldwide.  These are values that we share with Albania, and we all share a sense of solidarity with the French people in this time of mourning for them.
The United States is concerned about the foreign fighters taking part in the conflict in Syria and the threat posed when they return to their countries of origin.  We are working with Albania and many other partners with whom we share our strong partnerships in the fight against terrorism to coordinate efforts to mitigate this threat.

Thank you very much and goodbye. See you soon.