By Harry Bajraktari
I would like to congratulate my good friend congressman Ritchie Torres, who will be the new Co-Chair of the Albanian Issues Caucus in the 117th Congress.
Congressman Torres is fulfilling his promise of picking up where congressman Eliot Engel left on the Albanian issues.
Announcing his leadership of the caucus, he emphasized the strong Albanian-American friendship. “I look forward to advocating for and advancing our shared interests,” he said.
This is great news for our community. Congressman Torres is a rising star in the Democratic Party, and he is already making a name in Washington by offering crucial legislative contribution in the 117th Congress.
As congressman, he represents an area that includes Arthur Avenue, an enclave where Albanians have lived and worked for nearly a century now. Coincidentally this is also part of the district that elected Eliot Engel to Congress for the first time more than 30 years ago. It is where the idea of Albanian Issues Caucus kicked off and where Illyria newspaper was founded three decades ago.
The Albanian Issues Caucus in the US Congress is an important institution that addresses concerns of the Albanian-American community and of the ethnic Albanian population in Albania, Kosova, Northern Macedonia, Presheva Valley, Montenegro etc. The Albanian factor is crucial for the peace, stability, and advancement of the Western Balkans and the wider Southeastern European region. Albanians are also the strongest supporters of the United States in the world.
The Caucus has played an historic role in informing the US foreign policy decisions on the Western Balkans, especially on the issue of Kosova’s freedom and independence, in the democratization of Albania, as well as on human rights issues throughout the region.
Rep. Torres knows our community very well, from the times when he was working in the office of Councilman James Vacca,in the same district. He went on to become a New York City Council Member and now represents us in the US Congress.
He had just won the Democratic Party nomination last year when we met him with then Foreign Minister of Kosova, Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla and spoke about the issues in the region. It was refreshing to see his genuine interest and commitment toward the concerns of our community.
Albanian-Americans have had many good friends in Washington over the years. The dearest and greatest among them was Eliot Engel with whom I had the pleasure of working together for more than 30 years. He remains a great friend. Nothing makes me happier than to see the tradition go on with one of the leaders of a new and upcoming generation.
Indeed, our community looks forward to working with congressman Torres on promoting the friendship between the United States of America and the Albanian nation in the Western Balkans.
God bless America and God bless the Albanian 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.