President Meta, Speaker Ruci, Esteemed Ministers, Members of Parliament, Distinguished Guests,
Thank you all for joining me tonight. I have been overwhelmed by the warm welcome I have received in Albania. I can see that the legend of Albania’s hospitality is simply a statement of fact!
Before departing Washington for Tirana, I took the opportunity to consult with many of the past American Ambassadors to Albania. From Bill Ryerson to Jim Jeffrey to Don Lu, they all had one thing in common: deep affection – I would say love, in fact – for Albania and profound faith in the U.S.-Albanian relationship. I have only been in Albania for eight days, but I already share that sentiment. I also share their enduring sense of hope and determination.
It is apparent that 2020 will be an important year for Albania, full of challenges as well as opportunities. The promise of progress and growth is before us, if Albania’s leaders can muster the will and wile to do the right thing.
As I noted in my Senate confirmation hearing, and many times in between, I have three priorities as America’s Ambassador to Albania:
My first priority is to help Albania become a more capable NATO Ally and a stronger bastion of security. Albania is also working to be a leader in the Balkans on counterterrorism and countering violent extremism. From civil society to religious communities, and from the local and international law enforcement bodies to schools and educators, we are united in assisting Albania’s efforts to eradicate both domestic and transnational threats.
Second, we will continue to strongly support Albania’s democratic development. Strengthening democratic institutions and practices will strengthen Albania’s candidacy for the European Union. We want to see Albania playing a stronger role in the European family of democracies.
Third, we want to increase business opportunities for both American and Albanian companies. There is much untapped potential in Albania, as a producer, consumer, and innovator.
While these three priorities may seem discreet, they are inextricably connected.
What is the connection? All three require Albania to root out corruption, prosecute organized crime, and firmly establishing the rule of law. The passage of justice reform was a major milestone, but much will depend on its full and proper implementation.
This is not the sole responsibility of just the government or the business community alone. To our friends in the business community: I encourage you to lead the way by conducting your work with integrity and advocating for sound government policies and practices. To our partners in the government: I reiterate the importance of transparency and the rule of law. Whether it be in practice or in perception, corruption hurts Albania and holds the country back from reaching its true potential.
So that is what connects the three priorities of the U.S. Embassy in Albania.
Allow me now to say a few words about what connects – in fact, UNITES – all of us in this room.
What unites all of us in this room is our shared determination that Albania can and must root out corruption and establish the rule of law in Albania.
This room holds a dazzling array of luminaries. But whether you are a politician, diplomat, imam, nun, journalist, soldier, mother or daughter, we are all partners in a common effort to propel Albania forward. We all have a role in ensuring Albania’s security, prosperity, and European integration.
Albania has the opportunity to make astonishing transformations in 2020. I urge Albanian leaders – whether you are in the ruling or in opposition, whether you are in Parliament or not – to demonstrate true leadership by making the tough decisions necessary to move the country forward on its European path. This will require compromise, but a temporary sacrifice of personal pride is surely worth your country’s future.
I commend the opposition parties out of Parliament for finding a way to move forward on electoral reform, and I applaud those in Parliament for ensuring there will always be space at the table for open dialogue. I hope there will be many more examples of this kind of collaboration throughout the year.
The United States stands ready to work with all of you here this evening, and I thank all of you in advance for your partnership and friendship.