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Transcript of Interview of U.S. Ambassador Yuri Kim with Blendi Fevziu, Opinion show, TV Klan
May 19, 2021

A woman and a man sitting at a glass table in a TV studio having a conversation

Blendi Fevziu: Ambassador Kim, welcome to the studio of “Opinion,” welcome again.

Ambassador Kim: Thank you so much, great to be back.

Blendi Fevziu: How are you? You have been very busy in these days, I think?

Ambassador Kim: I think everybody has been busy in Albania, but I’m ok, thank you very much.

Blendi Fevziu: And everybody is asking for your opinion on the elections of April 25. What do you think of the election?

Ambassador Kim: So, I think that ODIHR, who are really the experts on elections, have issued their preliminary findings and we have noted them. For example, they note that the election was orderly and they congratulated the authorities for administering the elections in a very good way. They did, however, note some problems and our expectation, as the United States, is that those problems will also be addressed, but for the most part, as you saw in the statement that we issued from Washington, DC, we congratulate the Albanian people for good elections; we congratulated PM Rama for his victory. We also congratulated the opposition party for running a very strong campaign. So, I think that overall, we are pleased with the way that the elections ran here.

Blendi Fevziu: Yes, it was a very competitive campaign, but it was the same result, more or less for the majority, as in 2017, and there are a lot of comments about the problems in the elections. Sure, ODIHR has a preliminary report, but we still don’t have the final report. You have followed very closely the process and the day of the elections. Your personal opinion, what is it about the elections?

Ambassador Kim: I think it’s not appropriate for me to offer a personal opinion on what I saw. All I can say is that the day was, in my opinion, characterized by hope. On the technical aspects, there are two things that need to happen: first of all…

Blendi Fevziu: You have been in different places on the day of the elections…

Ambassador Kim: I was all over the country…

Blendi Fevziu: …all over the country?

Ambassador Kim: Yes, as you know, we had about 25 teams from the embassy, and we were from Shkodër to Saranda, everywhere…

Blendi Fevziu: …25 teams from the American Embassy?

Ambassador Kim: Just from the American Embassy…

Blendi Fevziu: …with Americans and Albanians?

Ambassador Kim: Correct. Correct. We had somebody who was an American and we had them paired with somebody who had fluent Albanian skills so that we could have as good an understanding of what we were seeing and hearing as possible. So, we had everyone throughout the country and, as you know, the international community had hundreds more. And that includes of course, experts from ODIHR. So, I think we had pretty good eyes on the situation on election day but also afterwards.

Blendi Fevziu: …you have covered almost all the area of Albania with 25 groups from the American Embassy and the others from…

Ambassador Kim: …exactly, combined with everybody who was here for election day, but also before election day, on election day, and then after the election, during the count. We continue to watch this very closely and, so far so good.

Blendi Fevziu: There are two different approaches on the result of the elections. The Socialist Party declared victory. The Democratic Party declared victory in the late night of the day of the election, but the next day, they said they are the worst elections in the history of Albania after 1990. Where is the truth between two different approaches, according to you?

Ambassador Kim: I would refer everybody to the preliminary report of ODIHR. I think that they are really the experts, and the views there are extremely important to note and to take seriously.

Blendi Fevziu: And when will we have the final report of ODIHR?

Ambassador Kim: I don’t know. You’ll have to ask them.

Blendi Fevziu: Normally, it is ODIHR that certifies elections, but we have the internal problems, because everybody knows that the buying or selling of votes, a double-sided process, not only buying, is a phenomenon in Albania. Have you seen signs of this phenomenon or what do you think about this thing?

Ambassador Kim: It’s a problem that was not in ODIHR’s preliminary report, along with some other activities that we hope will be eliminated from elections in Albania. And, I think that will take place, but as I was mentioning earlier, there are now two things that need to happen. First of all, a number of complaints have been filed with SPAK and with prosecutors and with law enforcement. So, they need to take that seriously to investigate all of these cases and…

Blendi Fevziu: …they have started a lot of cases…

Ambassador Kim: …they have started a lot of cases and I follow this very closely. So, my understanding is that so far, 143 complaints have been submitted and out of those, 54 have been registered because the investigators have to decide which ones have merit, which ones don’t; which ones should be investigated by SPAK, which ones should be investigated by district prosecutors, based on competencies. My understanding is that now there are 37 cases that are actively being investigated. We are looking forward to the results of that. As you know, the CEC is also looking at complaints that have been filed, so, there is a process in place.

Blendi Fevziu: You said that there were some small problems, what were, according to you, the problems of the elections?

Ambassador Kim: You know, I would refer you to the ODIHR report. And you know what that report says as well as I do.

Blendi Fevziu: And, the other problem is that most of the people from the opposition are saying that the majority changed the rules of the game during the game. They refer to the June 5 agreement, in parliament, and in July, which changed the coalitions and the others. Was this…?

Ambassador Kim: I think…

Blendi Fevziu: You made a statement on this…

Ambassador Kim: I think I have spoken clearly about this. I think that the way in which the June 5 agreement was reached should have been the model for all other changes. At the same time, parliament has its competencies. So, I’d like to leave it there.

Blendi Fevziu: Ambassador Kim, the DP is asking now for a full investigation and, on the other hand, they are asking for repeating voting in nine districts in Albania. What do you think about that?

Ambassador Kim: I think that there is a process that is established. So, the CEC will have to investigate and make some decisions. And, I think everybody is within their right to bring complaints to the prosecutors and to the CEC, if they have evidence of it.

Blendi Fevziu: And, Ambassador, the DP has also said it will never accept the results of the April 25 elections. They say they were an electoral massacre. What does this mean for Albania, for our integration, and also for you personally?

Ambassador Kim: I think for the United States, our view is very clear. In the statement that we issued out of Washington, we noted that it is important for all parties to recognize the results of elections, and to the extent possible, for parties to now think about how they serve the Albanian people, all of the Albanian people. So, we are looking forward to working with all sides, to see what we can do together as the United States and Albania, and I have to say that the most important part for us is that Albania has been too long without a full opposition in parliament.

Blendi Fevziu: Two years, almost two years.

Ambassador Kim: …almost two years. Now, some opposition parliamentarians stayed behind and they did the right thing. And our view is that everybody should have stayed in parliament, but that’s the past. Now, as we look forward to September, we are looking forward to the Democratic Party, which is an important party, which has made very important historic contributions to the development of Albania. We need to see them back in parliament and we are very happy to see their statements making clear that when September comes, they will be back in parliament.

Blendi Fevziu: Do you think that the DP will participate in the parliament?

Ambassador Kim: Yes.

Blendi Fevziu: Even if they do not accept the results?

Ambassador Kim: I think that whatever else they may be saying, if you look at the statements made by Lulzim Basha and everybody else in the DP, they make very clear that whatever objections they have, they will be in parliament in September. And that is really important.

Blendi Fevziu: But there are a lot of comments saying to Basha to divorce from the Ambassadors of the EU, of the US, and ambassadors of other European countries, because they said, the ambassadors are supporting Rama. What do you think about that?

Ambassador Kim: I know what my job is.

Blendi Fevziu: They are asking for a radical way, a new radical way from the DP.

Ambassador Kim: You know, people are free to express their opinions and I think that when elections take place, there is celebration, there’s also disappointment, and it’s very important to have open discussions about what happened and what the way forward is. I know for my part what my job is. My job is to represent the United States of America, it’s to represent the position of my country. And when it comes to that, we want a close relationship with Albania. We want it to be even closer. And it doesn’t matter who is in power. We have worked extremely well with whoever happens to be elected by the Albanian people and we will continue that.

Blendi Fevziu: But your statement on a TV show before the elections has been discussed, or has been interpreted as support for one party or the other.

Ambassador Kim: I know.

Blendi Fevziu: And what do you think now?

Ambassador Kim: I think people are sometimes looking for secret meanings when I think that I’m actually pretty blunt and pretty clear. When I say something, sometimes people interpret it as support for one side; when I say another thing, they say, oh well, maybe she is actually on the other side. Neither of those is true. I’m very blunt Blendi, as you know, and if I want to say something on behalf of the United States, I think I’m pretty clear.

Blendi Fevziu: Ambassador, before the elections you asked parties to not have people with criminal records run in the elections. Do you think they accepted your advice?

Ambassador Kim: I think they accepted it partly.

Blendi Fevziu: What do you mean partly?

Ambassador Kim: I think that the candidate lists this year, generally speaking, were better than in previous years, in the sense that…

Blendi Fevziu: Much better…

Ambassador Kim: …I agree with you… I think some of the most obvious criminals were not put on the list or were removed from the lists before they became final. On the other hand, there are other people of concern, who made it to the list, for various reasons that are a mystery to me. But all I know is that party leaders have a responsibility to be genuine and serious about removing criminals and preventing criminals from representing their parties and also from sitting in parliament. So, I think it’s extremely significant and very good that the person who was designated by the United States for significant corruption is no longer in parliament. That’s appropriate and that’s the right direction to go in.

Blendi Fevziu: Do you think that the omission of Tom Doshi from parliament has been a result of your statements?

Ambassador Kim: I think that it’s the result of a lot of demand from the public actually, but of course. But, also our position as the United States has been very clear.

Blendi Fevziu: The General Prosecution Office asked you for some information about Doshi and his involvements. Have you sent such information to this office?

Ambassador Kim: Yes, we have provided that information.

Blendi Fevziu: Before the elections?

Ambassador Kim: Yes.

Blendi Fevziu: And was there any reaction from the General Prosecution Office?

Ambassador Kim: I think they’re taking a look at it. I think one of the issues is that, for these cases in designations, some of it or a lot of it may be based on classified information, which we cannot share with others.

Blendi Fevziu: Thank you and now, after the elections, I have seen PM Rama or SP Chief Rama asking for collaboration with the DP. He is inviting the DP to a big collaboration, without limits, as he said. I think including here, a big government, a government with the participation of the SP and DP. What do you think about that idea?

Ambassador Kim: I think that’s for the two parties to discuss amongst themselves and decide.

Blendi Fevziu: And for the international community, a big government, how will it be seen?

Ambassador Kim: I think that’s for the parties to decide.

Blendi Fevziu: It’s not a change in the image of Albania?

Ambassador Kim: I think that’s for the parties to decide.

Blendi Fevziu: And, what are your expectations from the next parliament?

Ambassador Kim: The expectation from the next parliament is…

Blendi Fevziu: …it’s much more balanced now…

Ambassador Kim: It is balanced and it is complete and that’s the part that’s really important. Look, Albania has a lot of important things that are on the horizon. There are developments, there are steps that need to be taken. The Socialist Party as well as the Democratic Party have been important. They have played a crucial role at some of the most historic moments for Albania…

Blendi Fevziu: Some of the most important…

Ambassador Kim: …right, some of the most important…

Blendi Fevziu: …falling of communism, membership in NATO…

Ambassador Kim: …that’s right…

Blendi Fevziu: …removal of visas…

Ambassador Kim: So, when I look at, for example the Democratic Party, the reason that I celebrate their return is that they represent an important constituency. But more than that, they represent an important part of Albania’s history. And, even more important than that, they represent an important part of Albania’s future. So, in the same way that the DP was at the forefront of Albania’s transition from a dictatorship to a democracy; they were at the forefront of taking Albania from communism into becoming a member of NATO, they are now poised to play an important role in taking Albania fully into the European family, so that’s good news.

Blendi Fevziu: Ambassador Kim, if I ask you for advice for Rama and for Basha, what will be your advice? First, Rama.

Ambassador Kim: I don’t have advice.

Blendi Fevziu: No?

Ambassador Kim: Nooo…

Blendi Fevziu: Even for Basha?

Ambassador Kim: Nooo… I know you keep wanting me to give personal advice but my job is to represent the views of my country and of my president.

Blendi Fevziu: Any statement you make is the view of the United States, official policy?

Ambassador Kim: I make it very clear when I’m speaking in a casual or personal capacity, but yes, my job is to speak on behalf of the United States.

Blendi Fevziu: I have seen a few days ago, let’s say two days before the election campaign, a speech made by Elez Biberaj, one of the senior officials of VOA. He said that if Rama will win the election, the relation between the United States and Albania would be in a gap. Is it true or not?

Ambassador Kim: I think anybody is entitled to their opinions. He was speaking in his capacity as…

Blendi Fevziu: It is an official view of the United States?

Ambassador Kim: Nooo…

Blendi Fevziu: No?

Ambassador Kim: Come on! You know the reality here. The only entity that speaks on behalf of the United States Government in Albania is the U.S. Embassy. That’s it.

Blendi Fevziu: Ambassador, you had a very strong debate with the President of the Republic, Ilir Meta. What happened between you and the President of the Republic?

Ambassador Kim: So, I know people like to have a little bit of drama and excitement, but what I will repeat again is that when I speak, I speak on behalf of the United States Government and we do so with seriousness. When we come to a position and my job is to make sure that our position is as clear as possible. And we try to make that very clear, first of all for the Albanian Government and we do that through our discussions with senior officials, including the Prime Minister, the President, the Ministers, and we try to make the U.S. position as clear as possible to the Albanian people. So, that’s what I’ll continue to do.

Blendi Fevziu: And even your tweet, commenting on the statement of the President of the Republic, which were two days before the elections, it was an official one?

Ambassador Kim: Absolutely.

Blendi Fevziu: Let’s say, discussed with Washington?

Ambassador Kim: Absolutely.

Blendi Fevziu: Not a personal statement?

Ambassador Kim: Of course not.

Blendi Fevziu: But the President has accused you that you have been involved in the internal affairs of Albania.

Ambassador Kim: I think he’s entitled to his opinions, but once again, I can only do my job, which is to express the views and clarify the position of the United States Government.

Blendi Fevziu: Ambassador, the old parliament has created a commission for investigating the President of the Republic, possibly for removing him from office. What do you think of this commission?

Ambassador Kim: That’s an internal affair and I’m not going to comment on internal affairs.

Blendi Fevziu: There are always problems between Meta and American Ambassadors. Is there something concrete between the United States and the President or are there only problems of the day?

Ambassador Kim: I’m not going to comment on internal affairs.

Blendi Fevziu: Internal affairs? That’s between the United States and the President, not internal affairs.

Ambassador Kim: I think the United States has always had a productive and strong relationship with the leaders of this country. There are going to be times when we may have some disagreements, but what remains, beginning and end, is that the United States has a strong interest in having a good relationship with Albania, and I will do my very best to make sure that that remains the case.

Blendi Fevziu: What was your personal feeling after the…

Ambassador Kim: …It’s not personal…

Blendi Fevziu: …President…

Ambassador Kim: …It’s not personal. None of it is personal.

Blendi Fevziu: And there are a lot of people in Albania still, the citizens, waiting for the concrete results of judicial reform. But I think we are still very very late, eight years after the voting of let’s say the reform, we still don’t have concrete results. What do you think about that?

Ambassador Kim: Eight years?

Blendi Fevziu: Five years.

Ambassador Kim: Okay.

Blendi Fevziu: 2016.

Ambassador Kim: So, I think this is an issue of perception, at this point.

Blendi Fevziu: Why is it an issue of perception?

Ambassador Kim: Because I think that SPAK has made a lot of progress. It’s been in operation for a little bit over a year. And I think that SPAK Chief Arben Kraja has given multiple interviews about the actions that SPAK has taken. They issued their annual report for the calendar year 2020, in which they talked about the 746 individuals that were under investigation and what has happened, the amount of assets that have been seized. So, as you know, I keep very careful track of that as well because the United States has invested tremendously in the success of SPAK. Now…

Blendi Fevziu: What does it mean tremendously? How much have you invested?

Ambassador Kim: Well, in terms of providing material support but also advice and other support.

Blendi Fevziu: Even people who advise SPAK?

Ambassador Kim: Yes. So, in 2020, there were 746 persons that were investigated. And those cases are being looked at right now. For the first third of this calendar year, 2021, the latest information I have is that 264 people are being investigated. You can’t pursue every case that comes to you, but what’s important to note is that of those cases that SPAK has taken to trial, they have succeeded in 90% of the cases that they have…

Blendi Fevziu: …of the cases that they have taken…

Ambassador Kim: …pursued. That’s pretty impressive. Now, once again, I will repeat, justice reform is not going to be easy, quick, or perfect. So, if that’s your expectation, you are setting up for failure. But what I will say is that there is real progress taking place and progress, as we go forward, is not going to be a straight line. It doesn’t go from here to there. What happens is you will go forward, you will go backwards, but over time, what you want is the broad pattern of moving forward and I think that’s what you’re seeing.

Blendi Fevziu: Ambassador, numbers are numbers, I’m not saying anything about the numbers, but the problem is the concrete cases, the big examples that are not yet seen by the public. Let’s say the big persons, the important persons, the people with power, they are not still under investigation.

Ambassador Kim: Look, I can’t…

Blendi Fevziu: …because the people, about justice reform, they were thinking the big fishes, I’m using the old name, will be investigated. Still, now, we don’t have the big names under investigation, powerful…

Ambassador Kim: I’m going to be blunt as I usually am. I think that you’re misinformed…

Blendi Fevziu: Why…

Ambassador Kim: …and I think that you are repeating something that is false. There have been big cases that have been announced…

Blendi Fevziu: For example?

Ambassador Kim: …and you guys don’t talk about them. I won’t name them because I don’t want to interfere in an ongoing case…

Blendi Fevziu: Big cases about which the media is not talking?

Ambassador Kim: Yes. But, for example, last summer, there was a big case that was announced, involving drug trafficking that has a nexus with media and with business. You guys don’t talk about it and then you all pretend that nothing is happening. There are prosecutors, there are doctors, there are others who are being investigated. Now, if what you’re telling me is that no one will believe it until your biggest politician or, you know, whoever, is in jail, I think that you are ignoring the facts and perpetuating propaganda. It’s simply not true that there’s no progress. In fact, there has been tremendous progress. So, you can’t tell me on the one hand, you accept my numbers, but you don’t accept the truth of what I’m telling you.

Blendi Fevziu: No, no, I’m talking about the big examples…

Ambassador Kim: So, if I were you, I would encourage you to do more research and to be braver in reporting the facts of who isn’t being investigated and for what. Don’t pretend that nothing is happening because that is a disservice to the Albanian people.

Blendi Fevziu: I will ask officially the head of SPAK to see what will happen.

Ambassador Kim: Please do.

Blendi Fevziu: There are a lot of claims, especially by the opposition, that justice reform is captured by Rama and has been used by him, even SPAK. Do you have any comment on that?

Ambassador Kim: I have no comment on that.

Blendi Fevziu: And what do you think about the big cases that SPAK will have in the future. You said in your statements that they are investigating in three or four big cases. What do you think, they will have concrete results for the big cases in the future?

Ambassador Kim: I believe that they will. Look, whether it is judicial reform and the activities of SPAK and others, whether it’s election crimes, whether it’s just conduct in general, no one is above the law. The time of impunity is coming to an end.

Blendi Fevziu: Let’s hope.

Ambassador Kim: Let’s see. And, here is the truth also: media, reporters, you, have to be braver in reporting what’s going on. I notice when certain cases go to court, but nobody will talk about them. I notice, when people…

Blendi Fevziu: Yes, it’s a little bit strange…

Ambassador Kim: …are under suspicion, but nobody will talk about them. Why, tell me why?

Blendi Fevziu: It depends on the case. Usually the studio is always open and…

Ambassador Kim: …I hear about the phone calls that are made to studio chiefs. I hear about them.

Blendi Fevziu: …for stopping the…

Ambassador Kim: So, here’s the problem. For not talking about certain cases. So, this is a problem. It’s a propaganda problem. It’s a perception problem.

Blendi Fevziu: It’s a scandal if it happened.

Ambassador Kim: It’s a power problem. Impunity must come to an end. Reporters, journalists have a role in that. Of course, the biggest role goes to law enforcement, but let’s stop pretending.

Blendi Fevziu: Ambassador, the NBI is on its way but still not complete. Why so difficult?

Ambassador Kim: They are actually making a lot of progress here. There are 30 some investigators almost completing their training now. There has been a second round of calls for more investigators. That will take a few more months. Our FBI is involved in training. So, this is an exciting process.

Blendi Fevziu: Assisting the NBI?

Ambassador Kim: They are providing some training at the beginning and as necessary will provide some advice as well.

Blendi Fevziu: A few days ago, arrived in Albania 8,000 American soldiers for the Defender Europe 21 military exercise.

Ambassador Kim: Yeah.

Blendi Fevziu: You said it’s the biggest exercise after World War II, the biggest in Albania, but you said it is no coincidence that Albania is chosen. What does that mean?

Ambassador Kim: So, as you know, we have three priorities here: democracy, defense, business and we want to make progress in all three of those because they are interconnected. It’s not just justice reform for justice reform’s sake. It’s not just business for business’s sake. It’s not just soldiers. So, let me give you some numbers for Defender 21.

Blendi Fevziu: Yes.

Ambassador Kim: It’s up to 6,000 American soldiers who will be in Albania, not all at once, but over the duration of the exercise.

Blendi Fevziu: How long will be the exercise?

Ambassador Kim: It officially opened on May 1st and on May 4th, you had three four-star generals, American generals…

Blendi Fevziu: Yes, for the first time in Albania.

Ambassador Kim: It’s historic, right? So, the exercise will run until about the end of June. And it is part of a broader exercise that involves 28,000 multi-national troops coming…

Blendi Fevziu: …from all over Europe…

Ambassador Kim: …coming from 26 countries and they are conducting almost simultaneous activities across 16 countries. Albania happens to be one of the biggest hosts. Albania is hosting most activities out of those 16 countries and I say that that’s not an accident. What it shows is that we are serious about Albania’s importance as a NATO Ally and I think it shows that Albania is serious about its role as a NATO Ally. So, what’s going to happen through these exercises is that we’re going to have these thousands of troops conducting all of these exercises…

Blendi Fevziu: It’s impressive to see so many military vehicles…

Ambassador Kim: …on land, sea, and air. On land, it means we’re practicing getting troops as quickly as possible from one point to another; sea means getting all of this equipment from one end to another, shipping it here, and getting it onto land. Now, it sounds simple, but when you’re talking about thousands of vehicles, and when you’re talking about fuel, it’s extremely difficult as a logistical project. Air involves air defense and missile defense. So, we’re going to be testing out our ability to work together as allies, to defend the airspace of our friends and allies here in Europe.

Blendi Fevziu: Are you satisfied with the role Albania is playing inside of NATO?

Ambassador Kim: Yes. Albania is an absolutely loyal and capable ally and what we’re looking for is to build on that, so the first thing we have to do is, like every ally, Albania needs to dedicate 2% of its GDP to defense by the year 2024. And that’s an agreement all allies made in 2014 at Wales. Albania’s on track to do that. The second thing is that we will increase our bilateral and multilateral exercising and training with Albanian forces so that you increase skills. And I think all of this is in a positive trajectory.

Blendi Fevziu: Ambassador, I have seen on social media especially, a lot of comments about why Mr. Basha was not invited to this ceremony.

Ambassador Kim: I don’t know. If it had been up to me, I would have invited him, for sure. But, this was… I don’t control the guest list…

Blendi Fevziu: The protocol… It was not organized by the American Embassy?

Ambassador Kim: No, it was organized by the Defense Ministry.

Blendi Fevziu: Ah, okay, thank you. I have seen you are moving a lot in Albania, you are visiting a lot of cities and places, but especially different from other ambassadors, you are meeting with a lot of ordinary people, everywhere in Albania. What is the perception you have from those people, about the country, about the future of the country?

Ambassador Kim: That’s one of my favorite parts of my job, because as you know, and as I mentioned earlier, my job as a diplomat is to work with the government, work with elected officials, and leaders, but it’s also about building people-to-people ties, between the American people and the Albanian people. And when I go around this country, I see…

Blendi Fevziu: You came at a difficult moment because of the pandemic…

Ambassador Kim: Yeah, but you can’t stop living because of a pandemic, huh? You have to find ways to still connect with people. You said earlier that I am unlike my predecessors, because of the way I talk to people. I think that’s not true actually.

Blendi Fevziu: I’ve seen a lot of pictures on Instagram, with common people, with young people…

Ambassador Kim: But that’s just it. It’s because of social media. So, you think that I’m talking to people more than everybody else, but it’s because…

Blendi Fevziu: …Yes, it’s more evident…

Ambassador Kim: …my predecessors didn’t have Instagram. When I talk to people, I ask them what they are worried about, what they think about, what they hope for their kids, and what they expect of their leaders, what they want from the United States.

Blendi Fevziu: What are their comments?

Ambassador Kim: They love their country, first of all. And, we all agree that Albania has so much potential, especially among its young people. I have never been to a country where people are so adaptable. You know, most Albanians, they speak two or three languages, which is incredible. It’s a huge asset. And Albanians know how to deal with so many different situations and so, my hope is that as the court system gets cleaned up, as corruption is eradicated, as business becomes more transparent, there’ll be more opportunity for Albania’s young people to really develop and contribute their talent.

Blendi Fevziu: …become much more involved in the development of the country…

Ambassador Kim: This can be a great country. This is supposed to be a great country.

Blendi Fevziu: You are almost in the middle of your term as Ambassador of the United States in Albania, what is your feeling about the country?

Ambassador Kim: I think I’m the luckiest American Ambassador in the world.

Blendi Fevziu: Why?

Ambassador Kim: Because! It’s a beautiful country but more than that, it has wonderful people. I know sometimes you feel a little bit depressed…

Blendi Fevziu: …small countries in the world, they are…

Ambassador Kim: You think it’s too hard, but as an outsider, as a foreigner, I’ve only been here for about a year and a half, but what I have seen so far, I see the challenges, I’m not blind, but I’m also filled with hope, because I think people here are talented, they are hard-working, and I’m hoping that over time, and especially with the next government, that we will be able to address more of the problems that prevent this country from being as rich and as good as it should be and it can be.

Blendi Fevziu: Ambassador, I have seen that besides your work, you are traveling over weekends, visiting sites or places in Albania.

Ambassador Kim: Yeah.

Blendi Fevziu: What are your favorite places? What do you find between north and south?

Ambassador Kim: You know what the problem is?

Blendi Fevziu: Yeah?

Ambassador Kim: Every place I visit becomes my favorite.

Blendi Fevziu: Until the next one.

Ambassador Kim: Until the next one. So, I have been several times to the north. I think I’ve been to Shkodra three times.

Blendi Fevziu: You’ve done hiking from Valbona to Theth.

Ambassador Kim: Yeah, I hiked from Valbona to Theth, which was wonderful. And it’s not just the nature. I love running into other hikers along the way and just having a nice chat and stopping for coffee, and stuff, so that’s great. I’ve been to Elbasan a few times, to Saranda a few times, Himara, Vlora, Durrës, and in a couple of weeks, I will finally go to Korça.

Blendi Fevziu: You haven’t been to Korça?

Ambassador Kim: I haven’t been to Korça, so there are still many places I haven’t been.

Blendi Fevziu: It will be an excellent visit, I think because Korça beautiful, a lot of tradition.

Ambassador Kim: Yeah.

Blendi Fevziu: I thank you very much for this interview tonight.

Ambassador Kim: Thank you.

Blendi Fevziu: Thank you, Ambassador Kim.

Ambassador Kim: Alright. Thank you.