The harsh terminology used in the statement of the US Embassy in Tirana on July 28 which says that it is shameful that there is in parliament a deputy sentenced for human beings trafficking and that Albanians have the right to have representatives with integrity and high ethical standards rather than criminals should be seen as a signal that something is not functioning normally in the relations between Albania and the United States.
It is not expressed only the displeasure of the US diplomacy on a certain issue and a certain negative phenomena. That should be considered as something which is more than that because the US Embassy takes a harsh stance and denounced publicly a negative reality which has to do with the policy and the domestic life of Albania.
In the diplomatic aspect, the public pronouncement of the embassy of another state on an internal problem of a state where it is accredited indicates that the problem and the concern of the ally over that are great and they surpass the limits of diplomatic self-restraint.
A day earlier, on July 27, even the annual report of the US State Department on the trafficking of human beings had referred to the same criticism stressing that Albania is far from the minimal standard of the fight against human beings.
The stance of the US diplomacy should be seen as a direct criticism against the parliamentary majority and towards the ruling majority in Albania which have reconciled with such a situation which is unacceptable for the US diplomacy and cannot be tolerated in a democratic country.
The statement of the US Embassy is not a product of the moment. Rather it expressed a displeasure that goes on with regards to the negative phenomenon which it criticizes. We say that it is a follow up because the issue of the decriminalization of the parliament and the Albanian politics has been treated specifically loudly especially after the appointment of the new ambassador in Tirana.
In April Ambassador Lu declared on the eve of the local elections that there are persons with a suspected criminal past in the lists of the candidates for mayors and the embassy was discussing with the political leaders of the country.
The left and the right political parties in Albania did not pay as it is seems the appropriate attention to the warning of the US diplomacy and the result was that there are some names with criminal past in the winning lists of the mayors.
This negative product could not fail to have its repercussions in the political stance of the US diplomacy which became tougher when the harsh statement was made public.
It is understood by the evasive replies given to the journalists on the topic by Prime Minister Edi Rama in the press conference on July 30 the difficult position of the Albanian government in face of the statement of the US Embassy.
The Premier was forced to get out of his usual direct style of the public communication and use euphemisms as those that this question was not brought by the year 2013, that in the current legal and constitutional conditions there are no people that have problems with the law in the parliament of Albania etc.
The analysis of the US Embassy communiqué and euphemistic statements of Prime Minister Rama lead to the conclusion that there is a diplomatic clash on this issue. But it must be understood that the clash is not simply and solely for the topic of decriminalization. It seems that it includes a wider spectrum and reflects some moves and tendencies which are not positive, and which have appeared during the last three years in the relations between Albania and the USA. During this period, Albanian-US relations have had two great cracks. The first one is that of January 2013, when the monument of fighters was removed in Presevo and Berisha Government did not hold the right stance in conformity with the line of NATO and the USA, but it joined with the folk and dangerous stances of local pseudo-patriotism. At that time, the US Embassy of Tirana sent a strong letter of protest to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Albania, which based on warnings and used terminology is unprecedented in the history of Albanian-American relations, since after the grave crisis of bilateral relations in 1997.
The second crack is that of November 2013, when the new government of Prime Minister Edi Rama refused the request of the USA for the destruction of a part of Syrian chemical weapons in Albania. No realistic mind can accept that the Prime Minister refused the chemical weapons because of the pressure of the so-called environmentalists, who intentionally organized even an anti-American demonstration in Tirana before the US Embassy, the first since 1991, when relations between Albania and the USA were re-established. According to reliable diplomatic sources, the Prime Minister of Albania rejected the request of the US government for the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons because of the pressure put by some external forces. It is also worth mentioning here that the Syrian chemical weapons were destroyed in Finland, a Nordic country, which has the highest standards of democracy and environmentalism, a country where not even a small protest was organized against this stance of their government. I wrote in the pages of this newspaper at the beginning of 2014 that Prime Minister Edi Rama has the difficult responsibility to repair this crisis in Albania’s relations with the USA.
The signing of the “Joint Declaration of Strategic Partnership” between the US and Albania on April 20 this year in Washington has been an important positive act of the strengthening of bilateral relations. But the dynamics of strategic relations is complex and a process that has requirements and parameters, for which it is worked constantly. The importance that the American diplomacy is paying to the respecting of democratic standards and norms in Albania and its attention to decriminalization of parliament and Albanian politics should be seen as part of the determining of relations between two states as strategic.
Not by chance, the new American Ambassador, Donald Lu seems to be following a different tactic of his diplomatic performance in Albania compared to his predecessor. Differently from Alexander Arvizu, who in his relations with the former Albanian Prime Minister, Sali Berisha passed from love at first sight to a divorce at second sight, the new ambassador appears to have chosen the position of equidistance, which is more suitable for the criticism to negative phenomena of the Albanian politics and life.
These may be called days of cold winds in the ties between Albania and the US, which should not be considered easily transitional. And in order for them not to leave traces, they require a multiple work by the government of Albania to fulfill the requests of the big ally, to prevent consequences and to systematically strengthen strategic ties between the two states. The governments of Albania, whether leftist or rightist, should not forget even for a moment that for Albania, at the strategic and prospective level, the alliance with the US is more important that the relations with any other state of the NATO and EU.