Michigan, September 27, 2021
The Honorable Ms. Yuri Kim
Ambassador of the United States in Tirana, Albania
Dear Honorable Ambassador Kim,
Firstly, I would like to extend my thanks to you and your staff, for all the good work you have done in my birth country, Albania.
Your role in Albanian politics is of an extreme importance, as Albania is still going through a long transition and politicians are still gaining the necessary experience and they need to be guided and advised through the new paths of democracy. Your role becomes absolutely crucial, considering the fact that actual corruption and organized crime in Albania is at the highest levels of the democratic countries of the world.
Ms. Ambassador, I fully understand your mission to represent the interests and policies of the United States in Albania and region. As an American, from the bottom of my heart, I would love to see in you, the strong leader, the excellent manager, a resilient negotiator and the respected representative of the United States. But again, as an American citizen, I am a little concerned that your figure as a respected US representative has started to diminish slightly among Albanians (I wish I was wrong). I will try to explain briefly from my perspective, why this is happening:
Dear Ambassador, if you are honestly “dead serious about the fight against corruption and impunity” in Albania (as you often like to say), then it would be wise to start your commitment, with the recent and current corruption within the government. A good and widely-known example of corruption would be the Prime Minister Edi Rama (Mr. 20%) along with his previous and current staff, Tahiri, Xhafaj, Kodheli, Gjiknuri, Klosi, Beqaj, Ahmetaj and so on. These individuals covered with power, during the last 8 years, regularly have stolen the elections, have history of links with foreign and domestic criminals, have been accused for active and passive corruption and have “cannabis-ized” the entire territory of Albania. As a result, Rama’s regime during the previous two mandates and to continue, have brought Albania closer to the Latin America than Europe, it has taken Albania astray and faraway from the path of integration into the EU. Today Albania lumps together with the countries with the highest risks of money laundering in Europe. High level of crime, drug and human trafficking has identified Albanians as the most criminalized people in Europe. Albanians have been stripped out of their future, thousands of educated youths do not know what the future holds for them. In eight years, massive departures of entire families or over half of a million hopeless Albanians fled their country, seeking for a better life, freedom, safety, human rights and a democratic society without corruption.
To support my above statement, below I have listed a few reports from the US State Department and the European institutions:
In 2017 and again in 2018, the US State Department designates Albania as a, “country of primary concern in respect of money laundering” and emphasized that “illicit proceeds are easily laundered due to rampant corruption and weak legal and government institutions…Albanian serves as a base of operations for regional organized crime organizations”.
Based on a The Council of Europe report, Albania remains a country of origin and a transit country for human trafficking, because “the government of Albania does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking…Corruption, particularly in the executive branch, is widely spread and omnipresent” and “remains a serious problem”.
According to the Transparency International Index, “Albania is among the most corrupted countries in Europe. There is also clear evidence showing that the state is a “hostage” of private and criminal interests”.
“Widespread practices of vote-buying, as alleged by many IEOM interlocutors, remained a problem. The leaking of sensitive personal data of some 900,000 Albanian citizens before elections, including their political preferences, was of serious concern and made voters vulnerable to pressure”, the Report states.
Dear Ambassador, these are only a small and superficial manifestation of the massive corruption, only “the tip of the iceberg”, which is destroying Albania’s economy and future. As the State Department’s report states above, corruption lies within the government, also in the opinion of many Albanians and mine, that is where you and all diplomatic bodies in Albania must concentrate their efforts and energies against corruption. Your visible one-sided attitude, supporting and comforting the government or the Socialist Party officials and targeting the opposition, attacking the Democratic Party historic leader Mr. Sali Berisha, has resulted to a negative effect against you. People of Albania expect from you to have one standard when it comes to the fight against corruption, not only on the right of the political spectrum, but on the left too, or wherever it occurs.
Dear Ambassador, when you say “[Albanian democrats] cannot move with one foot stuck in the past”, in order to keep balance, at least say something about the Socialist Party as well, as its moral biography has been a burden to Albanians for over 75 years. The Socialist Party has remained the same rigid, autocratic and communist regime, which originates from the “Communist Party”. Or, if you consider Mr. Sali Berisha ‘the past’, please tell the Albanian people about your boss, our President Biden at 78, who has been engaged in politics for 50 years, is currently serving as the President of the greatest nation on earth. Politics does not require a strong body, but a bright mind and wisdom. Mr. Berisha certainly is the past, but obviously, he is also the present of the Democratic Party. He is still a mountain of knowledge and wisdom, a column of democracy, and more importantly, he is telling the democrats how their future must be: with dignity, integrity and sovereignty.
Dear Ambasador, The Democratic Party of Albania is going through the worst crisis ever since it was established in 1990. Again, I am not happy to say it, but I throw a good part of the blame to you and the head of the State Department.
Based on Albanian public perception, Mr. Sali Berisha was not one of the corrupted politicians. The State Department decision to declare him “non-grata” along with their accusations, appeared like “a lightning in a clear sky”. Like every other Albanian, I have been patiently waiting to see some evidence related to such accusations. If the State Department has real evidence to support their allegations, but they do not make it public, then the whole process gets suspicious. As the time passes, this story has started to look like a conspiracy theory, or more precisely, a “witch hunt”. If State Department, since 2017 and on, has been clear about “rampant corruption in the Albanian government”, then people of Albania need answers of what you have done Ms. Ambassador, to fight this corruption and why are you fully concentrated on one person, who neither has any position or power, nor any access to government or public funds for more than eight ears. Furthermore, such actions, instead of destroying Mr. Berisha’s reputation and career, they had a boomerang effect. Mr Berisha is gaining power and sympathy amongst Albanians. He is becoming the main figure of importance and the absolute majority of the Democratic Party members adore and follow him.
On the other hand, Mr. Lulzim Basha, obviously under your pressure and in conflict with the statute of the Democratic Party, took an extreme individual act by expelling Mr. Berisha, the legendary democrats’ leader from the parliamentary group. This was a “verdict” without any evidence in possession, while Mr. Berisha should have been presumed innocent until proven guilty. Again, this action didn’t hurt Mr. Berisha, but in contrary, it has obviously damaged the Democratic Party, it has destroyed Mr. Basha’s credentials and most likely his political career as well.
Mr. Basha’s autocratic actions showed us that, he is not a man of integrity, he takes decisions under pressure and he betrays his co-workers. As a result, he is losing ground and also his party’s respect as a chairman. In other words, Mr. Basha is not the trustworthy person to lead the Democratic Party any more. Mr. Basha’s history results to be a failure. Even though he lost several and all of the elections ever since he took the lead of the Party, he, unfairly and in contradiction with the democratic standards, was elected again as the chair of the DP. His ego for undeserved power has blocked his vision and his conscience to understand that the Democratic Party belongs to democrats of Albania, and not to him. Please, help him realize that. Many democrats and I, for the reasons I explained above, don’t like Mr. Basha and we are not comfortable with anyone who tries to sell him as our leader or tries to direct our feelings. Mr. Basha failed democrats several times, he betrayed them and probably one day, he will fail and betray you as well Ms. Ambassador.
To conclude, as you have been recently fighting the corruption spotty and selectively, taking side between political parties, also taking side within Democratic Party, this has made the Albanian democrats lose some trust in you. But, this must not give anyone the right to accuse democrats of Albania as anti-Americans. If there is a lack of trust between you Ms. Ambasador, and the democrats of Albania, this does not, at any circumstances, condition their love and respect for the United States of America. Albanians in general beyond their political views and especially democrats, are pro-Americans. Such relationship has been established over a century ago, and it will continue in the centuries to come. Obviously, I am an Albanian democrat and I support Berisha. Democrats of Albania and I have given a lot from our lives to the Democratic party, we gave our time, our energy and our passion. We were in danger many times from socialist criminal militia for years and decades, lives and blood have been given to build and protect our party. But today we are heart-broken and betrayed. Also, I am an American and I love America as much as you do and I love Albania a bit more than you do Ms. Ambassador.
I completely understand that you and your staff are working very hard, and as you work, mistakes are made, errors happen. But it is never too late to fix them. I believe it would be the right thing to do so you gain the trust back, to fight the corruption in the government, to stay a bit away from the Democratic Party and let the democrat people of Albania choose their leader without you promoting your favorite one. Democrats of Albania, especially those in Diaspora “do not eat grass”, they are smart, educated and capable to make their own political choices and more importantly they don’t like suppression.
Respectfully, Valentin Lumaj/Michigan