Twenty-five years have passed from the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between Albania and the United States of America, re-establishing the diplomatic ties between the two countries. This happened on March 15, 1991, at the State Department in Washington, where the Foreign Minister of that time, Muhamet Kapllani, signed on behalf of the Albanian side.
It’s natural that this event was the finalization of a long process of talks with many told and untold moments which re-started in New York on May 1, 1990, with a meeting between the American side and the Albanian one led by the then Ambassador to the United Nations in New York, Bashkim Pitarka (on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of this event I published something in the Albanian press and Albanian Daily News, what I called then as “reconstruction” of what happened from May1, 1990 to March 15, 1991).
I underlined the word ‘re-start’ above mentioned because contacts between Tirana and Washington had started earlier “to break the ice” in the bilateral relations after a break of 52 years.
I don’t want to focus much on the importance of this date because nobody has doubts that it was historic and it returned the Albanian-American ties to the right track. This happened at the beginning of the 1990s, just like the re-establishment of diplomatic ties with other countries, such as, Germany, UK, Russia, and others, when the democratic spirit of freedom in Eastern Europe was felt in Albania as well, which the well-known US journalist, Marvin Stone would dub as “The Last Domino” in an article published by the New York Times.
So, the act of the re-establishment of the Albanian-American diplomatic ties had as its background what was happening in Eastern Europe and Albania, where it was clear that the dictatorial regime was ‘dying’, and it was the people, especially the youth, who were bringing its demise. This is a separate story which many people want to ‘privatize’ as well, at a time when, in my view, the main actor was the people and the youth in particular.
It’s true also that even the historic event of the re-establishment of diplomatic ties between Albania and the US cannot be ‘privatized’, but one cannot deny the fact that such a thing was ‘sealed’ in Washington, after an intensive process of official talks of the diplomats of both countries of that time.
I am writing these things recollecting a moment of what happened at that time, when, after the closing of the official ceremony, we were informed from Tirana that news was spreading in Albania that the Memorandum was signed by Mr. Sali Berisha, who was invited to attend this ceremony as a representative of the opposition Democratic Party (DP), together with the late DP leader Gramoz Pashko.
We had not sent the official notification to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yet because of engagements and the time difference of six hours. The truth though came out soon through the official news and photos of the ceremony published at that time. It was Mr. Muhamet Kapllani who had signed the Memorandum!
This spirit of efforts for the ‘privatization’ of this event continued later as well, especially by Mr. Berisha, who even wrote in daily Rilindja Demokratike on March 16, 2016 that “Only the fall of the Iron Curtain because of the Student Movement of December 1990 and the foundation of the DP made possible the re-establishment of the diplomatic ties with the USA.”
There is no ‘only, only, and only’ in the history of Albanian-American ties at any time.
In the milestones of the long history of these relations, nobody can claim ‘sole ownership’, and in fact, I have seen few people who do such an effort. The USA and its politics and diplomacy, in their interaction with other countries, do not recognize and do not sing praises to the self-styled favorites. They have a ‘favorite’ and it is the Albanian people. Politicians and diplomats come and go, and they have their merits in certain moments, as they have their mistakes. However, as in the concrete case, it’s never ‘only’ one politician or political force that determined the re-establishment of diplomatic ties between Albania and the USA.
In this frame, I suppose that it would have been much better if, alongside meeting respectfully with US Ambassadors who have served in Tirana after 1990s, the Albanian Ambassador to Washington, Floreta Luli-Faber, had remembered on this occasion those actors of the event of March 15, 1991, and they were not far away.
From what I know, former Foreign Minister Muhamet Kapllani and former Ambassador Bashkim Pitarka, and a few other diplomats live there in the US. Their participation in such a commemoration event would have been more meaningful to show also appreciation to the Albanian side of that event. This would help to show once again that this event did not have ‘sole ownership’ but it had many concrete contributors whom I congratulate on this occasion!
*Former Counselor to Albania’s UN Mission in New York