By Harry Bajraktari
There is no better moment to underline the importance of the Albanian-American friendship, as Albania and the United States celebrate the 100th anniversary of their diplomatic relations.
Few are those who appreciate this bond more than the Albanian-Americans, a community that has always served as a bridge between our two nations.
The history of Albanians changed when the United States entered the theater of European politics in WWI. It was President Woodrow Wilson who rejected the plans of Yugoslavia, Greece, and Italy, to divide the Albanian lands and guaranteed that Albania remained in the map, as a sovereign country.
In 1922, Albania and the United States established diplomatic relations and Ulysses Grant-Smith became the first American ambassador in Tirana. A well-known Albanian-American, Faik Konica, would serve for many years as the Albanian minister in Washington DC.
The great relationship between the two countries was interrupted by the cruel and isolationist communist regime in Albania. Albanians today credit the United States for defeating communism all over the world.
When communist collapsed in Albania, almost 10% of the population showed up to welcome James Baker, the first Secretary of State to ever visit Albania in 1991.
The diplomatic relations were reestablished that year and Mr. William Ryerson became the first Ambassador of the United States to serve in the post-communist era.
The United States has played a crucial role in helping the fledgling Albanian democracy to ease the pains of transition. This help remain important today as well, because a lot remain to be done in Albania.
No where in the world is the United States more popular than in Albania, Kosova, and everywhere where Albanians live.
Troops from Albania, and now from Kosova, have served embedded with American troops in many crisis spots around the world.
Today, Albania is a member of NATO and has opened membership talks with the European Union. These memberships enjoy widespread support among all political parties in Albania, including the opposition.
The recent cooperation between Albania and U.S. has been especially visible in the UN Security Council where Albania has become a member for the first time in its history. The work of Ambassador Ferit Hoxha and his team has been praised several times by the American colleagues in New York.
Albanians everywhere from Montenegro, to Presheva Valley, and North Macedonia appreciate the influence of the United States in helping peace, stability, and prosperity advance throughout the region. They have benefited from these changes and have supported U.S. policies in the region.
After 100 years of diplomatic relations and a burgeoning friendship, the Albanian-American bond will only continue to get stronger as we share the same values and vision for a better, peaceful world for all.
God bless the Albanian nation! God bless the American nation!
Harry Bajraktari is founder and publisher of Illyria newspaper (1991-1998), an Albanian-American community leader, philanthropist and recipient of many awards, including the Honor of the Nation Order by the President of Albania, Kosova’s Presidential Medal for Merits & the White House Presidential Call to Service Award.