Political Appointees, Impunity, Harm Albanian Foreign Service – OpEd

In 2001, the government of Albania under the leadership of the Socialist Party, nominated Mr. Fatos Tarifa as Ambassador to the United States from Tirana, Albania. Mr. Tarifa was one of many Albanian Ambassadors who had been promoted to the Foreign Service as a political appointee; who was coming from a successful career in academia, as a Professor of Sociology.

Twelve years later, in March of 2013, Mr. Tarifa had this to say for Top-Channel (about the agreements signed between the government of Albania and two public relations firms in Washington, D.C.): “US$1.5 million is too much for lobbying. It doesn’t fit to the budget of our embassy in Washington…This is unjustifiable. This is a shame and it shows that we are not serious, especially with …USA. We cannot close an embassy that is crumbling down…” [1]

As someone who has visited the Albanian Embassy on multiple occasions, I feel obliged to break the silence and set the record straight for the sake of public interest, as well as to reveal the true extent of the damage that Ambassador Tarifa has caused to Albania’s taxpayers. His actions have certainly tarnished the national image of Albania due to his irresponsible tenure in Washington DC, for over five years.

Ambassador Tarifa was surrounded by non-career diplomats, the first secretary of the Embassy and a close friend of Joana Nano (wife of Fatos Nano) for example. The first secretary owned an apartment in front of her office, and the Embassy was paying her monthly rent, despite the fact that she had not presented a lease agreement to Mr. Tarifa. While Mr. Tarifa has expressed his concern about the use of public money in his statement above; it should also be noted that while representing his country across the Atlantic, he would take multiple trips to Las Vegas (by car) only to buy Cigars made by fashion models of Dominican Republic and to satisfy the taste for organically-made pencils, always at the expense of Albania’s tax payers.

Additionally Mr. Tarifa, never paid parking tickets issued to the two cars of the Embassy: a Cadillac Sedan and a Dodge Caravan (minivan). Both cars, especially the minivan had received over US$6,000 in parking tickets that were never paid under Mr. Tarifa’s tenure. Also over the years, Mr. Tarifa pocketed all public monies that were repeatedly allocated by the Albanian government to remodel the main Embassy building on 2100 S Street. Under his watch, the inside of the embassy reached a point where visitors coming from outside would have to wear long coats inside even in the summer. The opposite phenomena was true at winter season when the Embassy staff would come to work with warm clothes and switch into short pants during office hours. [I]

Ten years after Mr. Tarifa’s tenure ended, history has once again been repeated by the leadership of the Socialist Party. At this time the Socialist Party has governed for over two years and has been refreshing the most obscure practices inherited from the Fatos Nano Government. They immediately promoted many Socialist Politburo members, as ambassadors, who have not had any experience in Foreign Service. Corruption dominates the current Albanian Foreign Ministry, whereas Mr. Arben Ahmetaj, the newly nominated Minister of Finances has routinely flown (over 17 times) to countries from Qatar to Hong Kong in executive Gulfstream private jets, at the expense of Albanian taxpayers. However the recent nomination of Mr. Genti Gazheli as Ambassador to Turkey serves as testimony to the most corrupt practices in the Albanian Foreign Service. [2] Mr. Gazheli has made a fortune, reaching millions of euros, during his service as a customs guard in a number of Albanian border posts.

On his current official website at the Ministry of Finances, Mr. Gazheli, publishes press releases without even mentioning a time or date for when the meeting took place, or even the name of his counterparts at the meeting. [3] This practice is the typical attitude of loyal party members whose only objective seem to be the mismanagement of public funds and the defense of illicit activities inspired and led by their superiors. The appointment of Mr. Gazheli as Tirana’s diplomatic chief to Ankara raises many questions including: his professional background, the real motives of his nomination by Albania’s Prime Minister and the many doubts about his lack of leadership towards establishing a strategy to further strengthen the cooperation with one of the world’s twenty largest economies.

Furthermore, Mr. Edi Rama and his cabinet members have a reputation for making extortion phone calls to the President of Albania, with the intention of pressuring the head of state to nominate trusted political appointees in key ambassadorial positions. Mr. Gazheli, who has accumulated a massive amount of wealth during his time serving as a border control officer at border crossings all around Albania, has allegedly been involved in many illicit activities during this time of his career.

Mr. Gazheli’s Ambassadorship to Ankara is a clear testimony of Tirana’s lack of leadership in executing an effective Foreign Policy. Mr. Ditmir Bushati and his superior are scoffing at Albania’s bilateral relations with a NATO ally the very same way as their predecessors did fifteen years ago with the United States, when Mr. Fatos Tarifa, was sent to Washington DC as Mr. Nano’s trusted political emissary.

Albania’s national interest has been impeded by not having a career ambassador being sent to an important partner nation such as Turkey. While an ideological inquisition has dramatically ruined Albania’s interests in the world view, such actions over the last year have transformed Albania into a Banana Republic.

The only initiatives that can be expected to be accomplished by Mr. Gazheli, as a former director of the Directorate of Money Laundering Prevention in Tirana, in Ankara are: to allegedly strengthen the presence and bolster the Financial Resources of Islamic State by using his expertise in money laundering; and to safeguard the interests of his superiors who also happen to be large shareholders in Süzer Group of Turkey. This company, Süzer Group, is expected to build a hydro-electric power plant in Albania and with the possibility of constructing two other hydro-electric dams in other rivers of Albania. There is no doubt that Mr. Gazheli’s current appointment by the Rama government is reminiscent of Mr. Tarifa’s suspicious years filled with a massive abuse in spending public funds.

The opinions expressed are the author’s own.

Notes:
[I] Mr. Tarifa, as someone with a reputation of being a ‘visionary diplomat’ while also appearing to have an unhitched history of corruption, should take a step back. He should call upon his sane conscience and stop blaming others every time he appears on political TV Shows. Mr. Tarifa, has proved during his tenure to be the most corrupt ambassador to ever represent Albania in North America. Moreover, based on his statements, Mr. Tarifa’s memory seems to be faulty; so we shall remind him of late 2005.

The Albanian Embassy was allowed to structurally decay to the point where the incoming Deputy Chief of Mission had to work in shorts and a t-shirt during business hours. This whie Ambassador Tarifa was ice fishing in Minnesota. If there was anything positive to come from Mr. Tarifa’s five year-long diplomatic tour; it is how meticulously well the Moldovan Embassy was kept by his former neighboring colleague.

The fact that Professor Tarifa is the author of 33 books published in various languages, does not make him immune to corruption, embezzlement of public funds, and does not explain the reasons why he damaged Albania’s image on at least 33 occasions.

Sources:
[1] http://top-channel.tv/english/artikull.php?id=8438
[2] http://www.kohajone.com/2015/02/04/anila-bitri-propozimi-i-qeverise-per-te-zevendesuar-neritan-ceken-ne-rome/
http://perqasje.com/2016/02/per-miopine-dhe-shurdhesine-e-ditmir-bushatit-per-te-mbrojtur-dinjitetin-kombetar/
http://www.rilindjademokratike.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=23243%3A2016-02-21-11-57-37&catid=58%3Alajme-kyce
[3] http://www1.fint.gov.al/al/statistika/pjesemarrje-ne-takimin-e-grupit-egmont
[4] http://exit.al/2016/02/11/afere-me-permasa-te-te-medha-mes-kompansie-turke-suzer-dhe-qeverise-rama/


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Peter Tase

Peter Tase

Peter Tase is a contributor, freelance journalist and a research scholar of Paraguayan Studies and Latin American Affairs in the United States; he is the founder of Paraguay Economic Forum in Milwaukee, United States. Educated at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and Marquette University, Tase is the author of "Simultaneous Dictionary in Five Languages: Guarani, English, Italian, Albanian and Spanish" and "El Dr. FEDERICO FRANCO y Su Mandato Presidencial en la Historia del Paraguay." Tase has written many articles on Paraguay's current Foreign Policy, Latin American Affairs and MERCOSUR regional trade issues for Eurasia Review and the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington, D.C.. Peter has appeared on SNT Cerro Cora, Asuncion and appeared in “Tribuna Pública” in TV Publica Paraguay, as well as given interviews for Diario 5 Dias in Paraguay, ABC Color, Ultima Hora, IP Paraguay, Revista PLUS+, Radio Ñandutí, Radio Nacional del Paraguay, www.datamyne.com and Spero News. Tase completed a Congressional Internship in the Office of Congressman Richard Pombo (CA-11), U.S. House of Representatives, and studied U.S. Government and International Affairs at the Les Aspin Center for Government in Washington, D.C.. In 2012 he was an adviser of Foreign Affairs and International trade Issues to the Chairman of the Committee on Trade, Tourism and Industry in the National Congress of Paraguay. Peter Tase is fluent in Guarani, Italian, Spanish, Albanian and mainly writes in English and Spanish.

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