On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I send my best wishes to the people of Albania as our two nations mark twenty years of renewed diplomatic relations on March 15. After a break of 52 years, 1991 was truly a new beginning – not only for our bilateral relations, but also for Albania’s development as a democratic country and international partner. This anniversary commemorates our partnership, reminds us of the progress made, and underscores the promise of Albania's future, especially as you take the necessary steps to achieve the goal of membership in the European Union.
Even during the darkest years of the Cold War, Albanians and Americans did not forget the deep bonds of friendship between our two countries. And after 1991, the United States supported Albania as it began the path of integration into the Euro-Atlantic community. Now a NATO member, Albania has shown a deep commitment to the Alliance, with one of the highest per capita contributions to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. Albania’s commitment to stability in its own neighborhood has been demonstrated through its support for the young nation of Kosovo and its contributions toward reconciliation in the Western Balkans.
The United States continues to support Albania’s integration into the European Union. We welcomed the decision in late 2010 to allow Albanians to travel visa-free throughout the European Union. Albanians have accomplished much already, but more work remains on the path to the EU -- and this year will be pivotal. Albanians must work together to ensure their country moves forward and maintains its momentum. We urge Albania’s political leadership, whether in government or opposition, to lead with accountability and transparency, and to respect and strengthen the rule of law and human rights. That is the best way to demonstrate their commitment to building the secure and prosperous future the Albanian people want and deserve.
I wish all the people of Albania the very best as we continue to work together, another twenty years and beyond.