|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta
Joint Press Availability, Palace of Congresses
Tirana, Albania, February 19, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
PRIME MINISTER META: At the beginning of this press conference with the Secretary of State, Her Excellency Ms. Albright, I wish to stress that the Albanian government appreciates her visit as an acknowledgement of the major efforts Albania has made to establish peace in Kosovo, to overcome the humanitarian crisis and for the constructive policy of good-neighborliness and regional integration. She pursues this policy with determination. It is the only way to assure the Euro-Atlantic integration of Albania and of the entire region of southeastern Europe. In this context, I wish to underline that the visit of Secretary of State Albright marks a new phase in relations between Albania and the United States. This is a long-term cooperation in the context of bringing stability and development to the region, and now in the context of the implementation of the Stability Pact and the integration of Southeastern Europe in the Euro-Atlantic community. Taking this opportunity, I would like to stress once again that this visit, which is taking place after other visits by U.S. officials, means hope and gives us confidence as a government, and especially to our citizens, that the U.S. will continue to support Albania and its democratic processes, the process of reform, the major challenges we have ahead, to strengthen democratic institutions, particularly in the area of the fight against crime and corruption so that Albania continues to be a factor of stability and peace in the region. Allow me once again to thank Ms. Albright for all her support, and that of the United States, for our country.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister and good afternoon everybody. I had very productive consultations today with President Meidani and the Prime Minister. I told them that the United States sees Albania as a valuable partner in building a stable and prosperous Southeast Europe. Albania has shown a real commitment to the principles and priorities of the Euro-Atlantic community through its generosity to refugees during the Kosovo conflict, through its participation in the Partnership for Peace and now through the Stability Pact. President Clinton and I want to work with Albania to improve the conditions here for attracting more trade and investment, by extending the rule of law and rooting out crime and corruption. This is a difficult but essential effort and we will be with you in every step of the way. We will also be with Albania as it seeks to consolidate the gains of democracies. As I told your Parliament, it is essential that Albania’s political parties work with the OSCE to overcome their divisions and reach a consensus on a fair framework for this year’s local elections. Before taking your questions I want to say how truly grateful I am for the wonderful hospitality that the Albanian people have shown today. That large crowd out there was quite unexpected and made me just feel very much at home in Tirana. After a visit such as this one it is easy to understand why the friendship between our two nations grows stronger with each passing day. Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Two questions if possible. My first question is, one of the parties in the government coalition has sent a delegation to the congress of Milosevic in Serbia, to the Communist Party there. What is your opinion about this as we are talking about Euro-Atlantic integration? And the second question is; what is your opinion, after your visit in Tirana, about the level of corruption?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, on the first question, we believe that Milosevic is the cause of the major problems and instability and obviously the ethnic cleansing throughout this entire region, and do not think that following his approach to dealing with his own country that he has much to offer anybody in this region. And that his party congress, as I understand it, was completely closed to any media, and evident that he does not have the best interests of the region at heart. So I do not quite understand why somebody would go and attend that congress.
In terms of the issues here, I have had very open and frank discussions with the President and the Prime Minister and made quite evident also in my speech to the Parliament that we all understand that corruption is corrosive to the democratic evolution of Albania and that every effort has to be taken in order to get rid of it. It is not easy and it is essential that the rule of law be strengthened in Albania. The United States wants to do everything we can to be of assistance to Prime Minister Meta’s Government, and to him because he has shown his dedication to rooting out corruption, to make sure that he succeeds because the corrupting of the system makes it very difficult for Albania to move forward and that is our greatest wish.
QUESTION: Ms. Albright, how does the U.S. consider the question of the return of Albanians to Mitrovica, to the northern part which is de facto occupied by the Serbs?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that we are very concerned about what has been going on in Mitrovica. It is a great tragedy and the situation there is exceptionally complex and volatile, and I think that it is absolutely essential that the resolution of ethnic tensions is critical to the security of Kosovo as a whole. Everybody is looking at Mitrovica and both the UN and KFOR are taking the situation there very seriously - the whole security situation - and additional military and police forces have already been deployed to Mitrovica. It is very important that Mitrovica be able to be a multi-ethnic region. That is what the essence of the Kosovo struggle was about and divisions there are not appropriate and attacks on KFOR by any party will not be tolerated. I think that it is very important for stability to be restored and for the region to be multi-ethnic, that is what this was all about.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary. The voting is finished in the Iranian elections. I wondered if you were now in a position to say anything more substantive about your expectations and hopes of a new relationship with Iran in light of the apparently strong performance by the reformist camp?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, as I said yesterday, we were very pleased by the fact that the voter turnout was so high. The vote counting, as I understand it is being done by hand so we do not yet have any final results, and we will not have those at least probably until later today or tomorrow. The Iranian people clearly, by going to the polls in such large numbers, have demonstrated their eagerness to use the electoral process to make their voices heard and to chart their country’s political direction and their enthusiasm is testimony to the growing strength of democracy in Iran which we do welcome. But since the results are not in totally, I think I cannot make any comments that would make it any clearer until we see what the results have really brought.
QUESTION: This is for Prime Minister Meta. The message that comes recently from the United States is that it expects the Albanian government to achieve concrete results in the declared struggle against crime and corruption. Could you tell us when are we going to see the results and to what extent?
PM Meta: First, this is one of the messages of the United States. It is a message that I gave as Prime Minister from my first day in office. For Parliament it will continue along with the support that the US and the international community give to the Albanian government very strenuous effort to overcome a very shocking transition. The country has been living under great corruption for the last ten years. And when, unfortunately, part of the Albanian political class lacks the necessary will to embark on this process, nobody should expect overnight results in corruption that has been rooted over the last ten years, again, due to the irresponsibility of state officials. This, however, is not a justification for any delay by my government. Our improvement in the customs service, which had been a big problem for previous government, has been marked. In the fiscal administration, our results are growing. Unfortunately, given the nature of our media, not a single politician has escaped the tag of corruption -- whether fair or unfair -- and corruption has become a political cudgel that does not serve the anti-corruption process.
I would like to declare that I am determined to undertake any initiative necessary in this area. But I also appeal to the support of the judiciary, which is crucial to our fight against corruption.
QUESTION: This is for both the Prime Minister and the Secretary. Mr. Prime Minister, what specifically are you looking for from the U.S. in terms of aid assistance as you move toward these reforms and did you ask the Secretary for any of this today and, to the Secretary, if he did, what was your response and what is the U.S. prepared to give if you could be as specific as possible to help Albania move on this way?
PRIME MINISTER META: First, I would like to say the political support of the United States and other countries to Albania in recent years has been necessary. Second, I would like to repeat that the support has been economic and humanitarian as well as political. The support has also helped the cause of reform and of consolidating institutions in the country. For example, the U.S. gave the Albanian government a grant of $12 million as budgetary support, and the presence of American investments which we think will be greater in the future, shows that support for reforms is strong. I wish also to stress here that the NATO presence in Albania increases security in the region, an important pre-requisite for economic progress and integration in Euro-Atlantic structures.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that we generally discussed our support for the changes here in Albania, especially the necessity of additional changes in questions to do on rule of law, the judicial system, and we are going to be contributing some additional funds for that, 9 million I believe, I have to check that though, the number, and to do what we can in terms of providing some more underpinnings to that. Also, we are supporting Albania’s entry into the WTO and generally trying to help their case in deliberations, the Stability Pact. I think the Stability Pact process is kind of in the middle of making some allocations and we believe that Albania can have a stronger case in terms of what it might get from it. And, again, we are on a systematic basis, by having more exchanges with the Albanian government, letting them know of our support for their activities during the Kosovo crisis and since.
REEKER: Last question, Deutsche Welle.
QUESTION: Twenty-four hours ago, the NATO chief, Lord Robertson, like you today, mentioned a threat of a tendency toward a Greater Albania. Is it a concern of the international community for the near future? Do you see any risk of it in Albania?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that since both he and I have mentioned it, I think there is some concern as there are some elements of Albanians in various places that are taking actions that are worrisome in terms of trying to get stability. However, I must say, in my conversations here, both with the President and the Prime Minister, they have made quite clear that that is not the policy or interest of their government.
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