President Begaj, Prime Minister Rama, Minister Xhacka, former Presidents, former Foreign Ministers, dear friends:
One century ago today – a few years after President Woodrow Wilson declared at the Paris Conference that Albania ought to be an independent and sovereign nation – the American Commissioner in Albania, Maxwell Blake, had the honor of conveying to Prime Minister Xhafer Ypi the United States’ official recognition of Albania as an independent state. In recognizing each other as nations on July 28, 1922, America and Albania lit a sacred torch that has been passed down through the generations. During the darkest days of communism, that sacred torch was safeguarded by Albanians and Americans, hidden but never allowed to be extinguished.
Those of us here today have the great honor of inheriting that torch and holding it higher, enabling it to warm the friendship between the American and Albanian people, and to illuminate the way ahead on our shared path forward as the closest of Allies.
As we mark a century of diplomatic relations, we take the opportunity to honor all the Americans and Albanians who came before us and contributed to the U.S.-Albanian partnership, especially those Albanians who paid the ultimate price of freedom and friendship with their lives.
Much has changed in a hundred years, but here is what remains unchanged and true: The United States have never wavered from believing in an independent and sovereign Albania. We have never wavered from believing in you. We have never wavered from believing in our friendship. We were proud to support you as you broke the chains of communist dictatorship in 1991; proud to support your bid to join NATO in 2009; proud to follow your leadership as the Chair-in-Office of the OSCE in 2020; proud to welcome you as a fellow member of the United Nations Security Council in January this year; and proud to celebrate with you this month as you formally began negotiations to take your rightful place as a prosperous, democratic nation within the European family.
The United States has never wavered – and we never will waver – from supporting the aspiration of the Albanian people for sovereignty, democracy, prosperity, and justice.
As we celebrate 100 years together, I have the honor today to share with you messages from two American Presidents: George W. Bush, the first sitting American President to visit Albania, and President Biden, who has a special place in his heart for the Albanian people.