By Fatjona Mejdini
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama scored a propaganda coup on Thursday with a meeting with US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in Washington.
Officially held to mark the 25th anniversary of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, the two leaders discussed terrorism, Albania’s role in the Balkans – and baseball among other matters.
Diplomatic ties between Albania and the US were interrupted when the Enver Hoxhas’s Communists took over Albania at the end of World War II.
Since the collapse of the Communist regime in the 1990s, however, Albania has been a firm supporter of the US and its policies in the Balkans.
Albania’s role in the Balkan region was one of the main topics at the meeting in Washington.
“The President and Vice President expressed appreciation for the critical role Albania plays in advancing regional security and reaffirmed the importance of keeping the door open to Euro-Atlantic integration for stability in the Balkans,” the White House said.
“Albania is now a point of reference in the Balkans and one of the most important actors in the region. We appreciate this role and totally support you,” the Albanian government quoted Obama as telling Rama.
Rama said he considered the Balkans “a success story of American foreign policy” and emphasized that his country wants to open a new page in the story of regional collaboration.
“Albania is pro-American country and a serious partner in NATO,” Rama added.
The contribution of Albania to the fight against Islamic State, ISIS, as a rare majority-Muslim country in Europe, was another topic of discussion.
Rama told Obama about the opening in Tirana of a regional center designed to curb violent extremism, an initiative mulled over the last months between Albania and its regional and international partners.
Obama and Biden meanwhile commended Albania for promoting religious tolerance, for its contribution to the international coalition against ISIS, and for the steps it has taken to counter terrorism and violent extremism.
Another topic of discussion was judicial reform in Albania, which was on the top of the agenda of US Secretary of State, John Kerry during his visit to Tirana in mid-February.
Accompanied by Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati and Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri, Rama asked the FBI to lend its experience to the creation in Albania of a Bureau of Investigation and to the better work of the country’s police.
After the formal meeting was over, Rama spent some minutes with Obama in the Oval Office. He told Albania’s Top Channel TV that the two leaders spent some time discussing basketball, a passion of the two of them.