BY MARTIN VULAJ/
Attached is the article i wrote back in 2013. I reposted this because I felt it is still relevant. I also attached the following comment which I thought needed to be heard:
“Below is an article I wrote in 2013 on the Diaspora . The US diaspora must fully engage in the current political process but they must do so by engaging with the US administration and leveraging our relationships with our congressional friends to influence the process to ensure Kosova’s territorial integrity and her speedy accession into NATO, the UN and, eventually, the EU.
We must be part of the process in order to influence the process. We cannot do it by throwing stones from the outside.
Diaspora derives from the Greek word diaspeirin which means to scatter about or disperse. The Hebrews used the word “galuth”, which means exile, for the same purpose. The Albanian diaspora has a history of contribution to the Albanian cause and Albanian state that goes back as far as Albanian history does. The purpose of this article is not to opine on Albanian history for I am surly not qualified and, if it is one thing the Albanians have is an abundance of historians.
Nevertheless, even the most cursory view of Albanian history reflects the critical role of the diaspora in the development of the nation, the state and the capacity for national and international interaction. From Skenderbeg to the actors of the Albanian renaissance to the Kosovar national resistance and the extraordinary courage of the predecessors and creators of the KLA, it becomes clear that the role of the diaspora was critical in every stage of development of Albanian national awareness.
In discussing the modern role of the Albanian diaspora it is clear that the assistance provided by the European diaspora in terms of funds (remittances as well as earmarked funds for special causes, movements or even arms) was irreplaceable but what transpired in the United States is unique and deserves special attention.
In addition to the same remittances, earmarked funds, moral and technical support, the Diaspora in the United States was able to access the very levers of power of the state and directly influence it’s application of both soft and hard power. This is not owing to the individual nature of each diaspora as, like a farmer’s seeds that are dispersed, while you have a better seed here and there, overall you have fairly even distribution in terms of quality, So too with the dispersion of the diaspora between Europe and the United States. No, what this owes to primarily is 1. The model of democracy in the united states and the unique social contract between the citizen and the state that not only enables but actively encourages the citizen to participate in the democratic process. Such participation is largely limited only by the citizen’s varying capacities; and 2. The largely non-discriminatory social policies of the U.S. that enable rapid economic movement by the citizen.
The Diaspora in the United States was able to take advantage of both of these aspects of American society and make considerable amounts of money within one generation and then leverage that money by applying it to the open political process gaining direct access to both policy and decision makers and thus influencing both by stressing policies that are in the interest of both the United States and the Albanian nation.
The culmination of this activity was the US led intervention in Kosova. The intervention was not of course solely owing to the activities of the diaspora but their role in influencing the climate within the US government should not be underestimated.
In the aftermath of the intervention, with the emergence of the new Kosovar state and Albania being on the path to a stable democracy and European participation, the considerable energy that the diaspora had brought to bear has seemed to dissipate for lack of a single concentrated rallying cry. This begs the question quo vadis diaspora?
With the extraordinary capacity the US diaspora has exhibited, the incalculable potential the US government (and business community for that matter) offers, the acute needs of the growing Albanian nation and the receptivity of the US government to citizen participation the potential to realize a growing and strengthening of mutual interests vis-à-vis the U.S. and the Albanian nation is there for the taking. For this to happen, several things are necessary:
First, the diaspora must continue to engage the Congress and State Department but do so in a structured way. The primary committees affecting our issues are the ones the deal with International Affairs and Appropriations. There are others of course but attention and resources should be concentrated on these four (2 in Senate, 2 in House). However, the Diaspora must also look past the Congress and State Department as the sole mechanisms of change and look to and engage the other Departments. The interaction with Capitol Hill and C Street must continue and, Congress is especially important in meeting objectives as they have that capacity either directly or indirectly through the power of the purse, legislation or the shadow thereof. The diaspora must focus on targeted, tangible goals such as agricultural, medical and military assistance, the development of a modern professionalized diplomatic corp., the strengthening of citizen organizations and technology that would serve to attract investment; This however cannot be done without structural interaction with Albanian decision makers overseas which brings up the next point;
Second, while there is an increasing capacity exhibited by the Albanian (read Kosovar and Macedonian as well) diplomatic corps, the host countries must understand that traditional diplomacy has its limits and its boundaries. The Diaspora doesn’t. There must be an institutionalized relationship with the diaspora and Tirana, Prishtina and Skopje where ideas and information is openly exchanged. It is worth noting that, perhaps until recently, these capitals were unaware at the astonishing opportunities afforded at the Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Energy, etc. For example, the Department of Agriculture has programs whereby the recipient is given an amount of a surplus commodity (grain for example) to sell in the host country and use the proceeds to invest locally to spur on development.
Sitting in these bureaucracies are extraordinary sums of monies and bureaucrats whose sole job is to disperse them. Of course we are not always talking about cash but programs and assistance that can change lives and influence national direction. The ability of the formal diplomatic corps to leverage such opportunities is limited; not so for the diaspora who lives in the world of grey diplomacy cross pollinating between Capitol Hill, CStreet and the other government agencies until particular goals are realized. This is why a strategy is needed and why Congress must continually be engaged. I assure you the meeting with an Agency representative is quite different when a Senator has called for it or, even better yet, is sitting in the room.
Of course it is the job of USAID to deal with assistance but it is Congress that sets the budget and the Appropriations committee that oversees and directly influences it.
Third, the diaspora as well as the Albanian nation must not look at this assistance as handouts but rather a trade amongst partners. In addition to the strengthened relationship and the strategic interest that serves for the United States, the diaspora has something far more important to offer: The exporting of the American ideal! The United States is built upon the concept of the sovereignty of the individual; that each single individual is endowed with rights that are inalienable. The interrelationships of individual sovereigns are combined to make a collective sovereign and these relationships and therefore any curtailment of any right is governed by law.
While, to some, this may be a statement of the obvious, its gravity and value cannot be overestimated. While here in the U.S. it is, or has become, second nature, we need only look the countries of the middle east to see what value this concept, this ideal, this reality in fact has. So the notion of assistance as trade for expanding and strengthening the American ideal is a bargain for the United States. The diaspora is the key mechanism for this. Only through the diaspora can this become intrinsic and organic to the Albanian organism. Top down never works.
Fourth; the organizational development of the diaspora must move forward. The Diaspora has succeeded in procuring earmarked funds directly through interaction with the Appropriations committee. It is worthy to note here that was solely owing to Jim Xhema, the old lion of the community and his relationship with Senator Mitch McConnell who was the Chairman at that time. However that is a drop in the bucket of the existing potential. Other relationships such as the special relationship that Harry Bajraktari has with Elliot Engel and the ones that Joe DioGuardi has that have produced many hearings. The late Arber Xhaferi once told me that “Joe DioGuardi showed us where Washington was when we didn’t even know the address”. NAAC came along and gave the community new, younger and more polished approach but since Kosovar independence has seemed rather rudderless.
The old lions like Jimmy, Harry, Joe and so many others must not be allowed to fade away. Since the end of the war in Kosova, thousands of Albanian Americans have grown up, graduated from College and professional schools and entered the work force. This new talent must be drawn upon to build on what the lions have created and move the community forward pursuant to a coherent strategy. Institutionalizing this role is critical to the success of all parties but cannot be done without, in particular Tirana and Prishtina.
Fifth, over the course of the last two decades many American friends have appeared on the Albanian national scene. These friends must not be allowed to simply fade away. The withdrawal of The Albright Group from offering to invest in Kosova should send a shockwave down the Albanian spine and should never be permitted to be repeated. The overriding interests of such investment are far greater than the monetary investment itself. Friends like Secretary Albright must be encouraged to remain engaged in our success.
Albania is building roads that not only will link it to Europe but to it’s very future. Kosova is gaining in recognition every day while consolidating its institutions. In Macedonia the Albanians have established themselves as an integral part of the state. All have challenges but what is undeniable is that everywhere the eagle is spreading her wings. It must do so in a stable and predictable manner inspiring confidence rather than trepidation. The Diaspora must adapt to current needs and help lead the change into the future.