By Jonilda Koci for Southeast European Times in Tirana – 02/05/07
The White House confirmed last week that US President George W. Bush will visit Albania on June 10th. He also plans to visit the Czech Republic, Poland, Italy and Bulgaria, after attending the Group of Eight (G8) summit in Germany from June 6th to the 8th.
Bush plans to meet with Albanian President Alfred Moisiu and Prime Minister Sali Berisha.
According to Moisiu, the visit carries great symbolism. A superpower, he said, is building reciprocal respect and collaboration with a small country such as Albania.
"This shows proof of the great values of American democracy, which remains an inspiration," the president said April 26th during a meeting in Tirana with the former Supreme Commander of the NATO Allied Forces in Europe, General Wesley Clark.
Berisha said he considers Bush's visit as a high point in the excellent relationship between Albania and the United States. "Since Albania's independence, in the most critical moments of national liberty for Albanians, the United States has played the role of helping to save rights and freedom," he said.
He also referred to the situation in neighbouring Kosovo. "The dreams of Kosovo's Albanians for their free, democratic and independent state find understanding in the administration of President George W. Bush."
The United States has also supported Albania's NATO ambitions. Last month, Bush signed into law a bill reaffirming his country's support for the NATO accession of five countries -- Albania, Croatia, Georgia, Macedonia and Ukraine. The NATO Freedom Consolidation Act of 2007 also opens the door for the extension of new US military assistance to the countries next year.
US officials and diplomats have encouraged Albania's acceptance into NATO in 2008.
Albania, meanwhile, has contributed troops to the US-led missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Since February, the country has had 120 non-combat troops, stationed at the Mosul Airport. In December 2006, Albanian Defence Minister Fatmir Mediu said Albanian troops would stay in Iraq as long as US forces remain there.
Bush will be the first US president to visit Albania. In 1999, President Bill Clinton scheduled a visit to Tirana, but it was cancelled. Two US secretaries of state have visited Albania -- James Baker in 1991 and Colin Powell in 2003.