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US-Albanian Relations

Albania enjoys friendly and cooperative bilateral relations with the US. The United States has long supported Albanias independence and its democracy. Albania first became independent from the then Ottoman Empire on November 8th, 1912. After the First World War, President Woodrow Wilson defended Albanias statehood. And during the dark days after the second world war of the communist era, the Voice of America, whose Albanian service celebrates its 70th anniversary at an event tomorrow, brought news and inspiration to a very, very isolated nation.

Albania's attitude toward the United States traditionally had been very hostile. Relations with Washington were broken in 1946, when Albania's communist regime refused to adhere to prewar treaties and obligations. Alia showed a different inclination, however, after a visit to Tirane in 1989 by some prominent Albanian Americans, who impressed him with their desire to promote the Albanian cause. In mid-February 1990, the Albanian government reversed its long-standing policy of having no relations with the superpowers. A leading Albanian government official announced: "We will have relations with any state that responds to our friendship with friendship." No formal contacts between the United States and Albania existed until 1990, when diplomats began a series of meetings that led to a resumption of relations. After the fall of the harsh communist regime in 1991, the United States, under President George H.W. Bush, quickly re-established relations with Albania.

Pro-U.S. sentiment is widespread among the population. Even while the U.S., which had closed its mission to Albania in 1946, was being vilified by communist propaganda during the Hoxha regime, ordinary Albanians remembered that Woodrow Wilson had supported Albanian independence in 1919. Albanians credit the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 with saving thousands of Kosovo Albanians, and they greatly appreciate the U.S. Government's continued support for a stable, free, and democratic Kosovo.

There are formal networks such as the National Albanian American Council (NAAC), founded in 1996, which seeks to advocate for Albanians and promote cooperation, peace, and democratization in the Balkans. The regional focus that NAAC has reflects the fact that ethnic Albanians are spread throughout the Balkan Peninsula. One of the programs NAAC has is the Hope Fellowship Program, which is conducted in conjunction with USAID. Through this program, individuals from Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro and Albania participate in study visits to the U.S. to learn more about advocacy, democratization and other issues. The program targets people between 18-45 years old, different ethnic groups, and women in government institutions and/or civil society leaders.

In 2003, Albania and the U.S. signed and ratified a number of agreements, including a treaty on the Prevention of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Promotion of Defense and Military Relations; the Adriatic Charter; and an agreement regarding the non-surrender of persons to the International Criminal Court. The U.S. strongly supports Albania's EU membership goal, as it did Albania's pursuit of NATO membership. Working toward NATO membership, the U.S. and Albania signed a Supplementary Agreement to the Partnership for Peace Status of Forces Agreement, an important step in strengthening bilateral cooperation and enhancing security, peace, and stability in the region. The U.S. Senate unanimously ratified Albania's Protocols of Accession to NATO on September 25, 2008, and President Bush signed the Accession Protocols on October 24, 2008.

Since FY 1991, the U.S. has provided Albania with more than $616 million in assistance, not counting U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food aid. The aid has served to facilitate Albania's transition from the most isolated and repressive communist state in Europe to a modern democracy with a market-oriented economy, and to support long-term development. In 2007, the U.S. gave over $21.1 million to Albania under the Support for East European Democracy (SEED) Act program. Albania was among the first countries selected to participate in the Threshold Program under the Millennium Challenge Account, winning a grant of $13.8 million and a second Threshold grant of $16 million in 2008. The program targets two critical stumbling blocks to development--corruption and rule of law.

Despite daunting problems at home, Albania has wholeheartedly supported U.S. anti-terrorism efforts by freezing terrorist assets, shutting down non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with possible links to terrorist financing, expelling extremists, and providing hundreds of military troops for the U.S.-led actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Albania has played a moderating role in the region and has fully supported UN mediation efforts in Kosovo.

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