Question: Madam Assistant Secretary, first of all, thank you for giving us this opportunity.
Assistant Secretary Nuland: It’s my pleasure, Bledar.
Question: You have met with all political actors in Albania and probably have heard from the government their goals on reforms and European integration and from the opposition complaints on several issues. Where should immediate reforms focus? What is the US advice if lack of consensus blocks the reforms?
Assistant Secretary Nuland: First of all, Bledar, it’s terrific to be back in Albania. I haven’t been back here in a couple of years. I want to take this opportunity first and foremost to congratulate the people of Albania for the fantastic step that you took two weeks ago with the candidate status into the EU. I know that the whole country and all politicians have worked very hard to get Albania to this stage. It’s a real vote of confidence in your progress and we are very proud to be your partner in all of the reforms that were necessary to get to this point and the reforms that you still have going ahead. So, you asked what we talked about today. Among the things that we talked about today is our economic relationship. I would like to see more U.S. business and investment here. I would like to see more cooperation together in the sphere of energy security. You have great potential and we have a lot of projects that we can work together on: from the TAP pipeline to reform of your current system to some of the offshore opportunities. Of course, we also talked about the ongoing process of judicial reform. I was very pleased to see that there was unanimity across the political spectrum that this work has to continue; that it is what the Albanian people expect and deserve; countering corruption, a clean transparent judicial system and we will continue to be your partners in that journey.
Question: Corruption has been one of Albania's biggest struggles in the past 23 years. As the European Commission and the U.S. government, and several international reports have publicly stated, corruption from the bottom to the highest level of government has been a big problem and so far, we don’t have a good track record of law enforcement and of punishing official of all levels. The problem is not only political, but also concerning the malfunctioning of the justice system. We don’t have only corrupt politicians, but also corrupt judges. What should Albania do in this case? How deep should justice reform be? Do you think that we need to replace and punish corrupt people or do we need to change the corrupt system?
Assistant Secretary Nuland: Let me say that countering corruption is a challenge for every country on the planet; it’s a challenge in the United States. I don’t have to tell Albanians that you deserve a cleaner and less corrupt system, that there’s more work to do there. From the U.S. perspective, what we advise all countries, and what we try to do at home, is to try to attack corruption from many different perspectives. Obviously, you have to make cases and lock up folks that are corrupt, whether they are in the business sector, whether they are public officials. You have to ensure transparency of contracting; you have to ensure that bribes can’t be taken. There are many ways to attack the problem; there’s the law enforcement and justice side and there are also things like e-governance, which make it harder for people to take bribes, but there’s also the cultural requirement. There’s education of the population to have zero tolerance and to report corruption and those kinds of things. That’s work you can do with your NGO sector, through education, through neighborhood support. So, we advise countries to tackle it from all sides.
Question: In a recent appeal about vacancies that exist in strategic European countries, like Hungary, Turkey, Czech Republic, Moldova, and Albania, Secretary Kerry said, I quote, “Without the authority of an ambassador, we cannot engage fully with officials at the highest levels in countries where shared democratic values are under threat.” Is Albania one of them?
Assistant Secretary Nuland: First of all, let me say that Secretary Kerry’s op-ed was directed at the U.S. Senate, where we have dozens and dozens of next rotation U.S. ambassadors who are awaiting Senate confirmation and it’s locked up in political struggles inside the Senate. He was making the point to the Senate that the U.S. pays a price when we have vacancies at the ambassadorial level. Obviously, in Albania, we have our excellent Ambassador Arvizu. He’s been here a long time. Usually ambassadors are only here for three years. We’re very lucky that he has been willing to stay. I think the point the Secretary was trying to make is that in all of these countries, we work on democratic development, we work on it in the United States, we work on it in Albania. These kinds of things that we’ve been talking about – rule of law, judicial reform are part of that.
Question: You are on a tour in the Balkans. How do you see the new situation in Macedonia with Albanians complaining about discrimination and with the Ohrid Agreement not implemented 13 years after the big crisis in that country?
Assistant Secretary Nuland: I will be in Macedonia on Monday. As you know, I’m on a tour of the Balkans with an interagency delegation. We’re visiting five countries on this trip. One of the reasons I wanted to make sure to go to Skopje was that we are concerned about rising tensions. We’ve all worked very hard as friends of Macedonia, to help them build a strong multi-ethnic society, where rights are protected in both communities. So, I’m eager to hear from all sides how things are going there and how we can help. We did talk a little bit about Macedonia today, as well as in my conversations in Montenegro. So, the whole neighborhood is eager to help as well.
Question: The last question comes from the U.S. Embassy Facebook fans.
Assistant Secretary Nuland: We love the fans of the U.S. Embassy Facebook page. Thank you fans.
Question: “How does the United States see Albania's future?” The question was submitted by Arlis.
Assistant Secretary Nuland: How do we see your future? You know that– I hope you know that I’m an enormous fan of Albania. I’ve been working with you throughout my time. I was at NATO twice – first as Deputy and then I had the honor to be Ambassador to NATO, when Albania made the final push to become a NATO member. So, I am, in economic terms, as we say, very bullish on your country. I think the potential here is enormous. The people are spectacular. That’s why I wanted to come back, to see what more we can do together, particularly on the economic side.
Question: Thank you for this interview for Top Channel, Madam Assistant Secretary.
Assistant Secretary Nuland: Thank you. It was my pleasure.