By Harry Bajraktari
We have lost a great friend and a great woman tonight.
Madeleine Albright was a great Secretary of State, who showed tremendous leadership in the international efforts to bring peace and democracy to the Balkans.
She passed away one day before the anniversary of the NATO intervention that liberated Kosova in 1999. Many called it “Albright’s War” because she was among the first to realize that the Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic understood only the language of force.
One of my most memorable meeting with Madeleine Albright was in February 1999, one day before we left for Rambouillet, with a group of NAAC members, and with our friends from the Albanian Caucus, Rep. Eliot Engel and Rep. Sue Kelly. In that meeting, Madam Secretary, as people called her, asked for our help to convince the Albanian leaders of Kosova that signing the agreement was the only way to stop Milosevic. NATO was ready to strike Serbia very hard and she needed Albanians to trust America.
Those were difficult days for all of us. She too traveled to France and talked in person to all the representatives of Kosova.
Madeleine Albright kept her word. When the leaders of Kosova signed the Rambouillet Agreement and Serbia’s representatives rejected it, NATO intervened. On March 24th, bombs rained over Serbian military installments and units. The United States and its allies stopped the developing humanitarian catastrophe in Kosova. Tens of thousands of Kosovar lives were saved by this intervention.
Secretary Albright remained a lifelong friend of the Albanian people everywhere. She supported the independence of Kosova and was always enthusiastic about the progress of the new state.
On the 20th anniversary of NATO’s intervention, we traveled together in the same plane to Kosova in order to commemorate the triumph of peace, justice, and freedom. We were in great company. President Bill Clinton and General Wesley Clark were traveling with us as well.
I was moved by the beautiful ceremony in which a square in Prishtina was named after her.
Like many of us, Secretary Albright was an immigrant and her family moved to the United States to escape the communist regime. Her life is a great American story. Only in America, an immigrant grows up to become the top diplomat of the country.
May she rest in peace! The Albanian nation will never forget her!