US embassy cable - 06TIRANA743


Identifier: 06TIRANA743
Wikileaks: View 06TIRANA743 at
Origin: Embassy Tirana
Created: 2006-07-14 05:20:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
DE RUEHTI #0743/01 1950520
O 140520Z JUL 06
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TIRANA 000743 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/12/2016 
Classified By: Marcie B. Ries IAW E.O 12958, reasons 1.4(b) and (d) 
1. (C) The Ambassador met with Prime Minister Berisha on July 
to review requirements for NATO accession and Albania's 
reform process. The Prime Minister signaled that he 
understood quite well from his discussion with Assistant 
Secretary Fried in Croatia that while the U.S. hoped there 
would be a positive signal that the door was open to the 
A-3 from Riga, there would be no invitations issued.  The 
Ambassador said she hoped Albania would act quickly on the 
results of the DOD defense assessment, which will be 
briefed to the PM later in the week.  She cautioned, 
though, that a successful bid for NATO membership depended 
as much on the strengthening of democratic institutions and 
the rule of law as on defense reform.  As was the case with 
Macedonia, elections that met international standards would 
be critical. (Note: Albania is due for local elections in 
early 2007. End note) In a subsequent discussion of 
governance issues, including the impeachment of the 
Prosecutor General, property restitution, the high council 
of justice and electoral reform, the Prime Minister stated 
he would respect the countries' laws and separation of 
powers and would reach out to the opposition.   The Prime 
Minister also mentioned he is interested in increasing 
Albania's troop commitment in Afghanistan - possibly 
together with Croatia and Macedonia, if they are willing. 
End summary. 
2. (C) The Prime Minister recounted the high points of his 
bilateral meeting with Assistant Secretary Fried at the 
Southeast Europe Summit the previous day in Croatia. The 
discussion had been a very positive one:  he appreciated 
very much Fried's comments on Albania's contribution to the 
GWOT, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and to regional 
stability. He was gratified that Albania's relationship 
with the United States was based on a warm friendship and 
real cooperation. 
3. (C) The Prime Minister mentioned he was well aware that 
the coming months would be crucial ones for the Kosovo 
status process.  Before his recent visit he had not been 
confident his message of "tolerance" would be received well 
by everyone but was relieved to find that feedback was 
positive.  He would continue to work hard with Kosovo 
counterparts to keep them working on making progress on 
standards issues. 
4. (C) He told the Ambassador that his top priority now was 
membership for Albania.  He had underscored this with all 
of the members of his government and created an 
inter-ministerial committee for the purpose of making the 
reforms necessary to get an invitation.  There was no 
question that Albania would devote the required 2 percent 
of gnp to defense spending.  He looked forward to hearing 
the results of the defense review supported by the U.S. 
Department of Defense, which expected would be very helpful 
to Albania in meeting its MAP commitments. 
5. (C) In addition to defense reform, Albania was also making 
progress in increasing security in its ports and on its 
borders. Albania had been working hard to secure the trust 
of the Government of Italy and as a result cooperation with 
Italy in law enforcement and anti-trafficking activities 
was much improved. Albania was considering beginning 
helicopter surveillance of its coast and was also weighing 
the purchase of sophisticated scanning equipment from 
Switzerland to give it the capability to examine more 
thoroughly vehicles and containers.  The Ambassador noted 
that security was also heavily dependent on tightly 
controlling access to ports in particular, and that the 
Embassy via the ICITAP program was working with the 
Ministry of Transport on specific plans and training to 
upgrade port security. 
6. (C) The Ambassador told Berisha that while defense and 
reforms were important, in assessing Albania's application, 
NATO members would look equally hard at democracy and rule 
of law issues.  There had been some good progress on 
organized crime, specifically apprehending known criminals, 
and this had been recognized.  But the NAC would also look 
at, for example, whether the local elections meet 
international standards. 
7. (C) The Prime Minister conceded that there was a stalemate 
election reform and specifically on voters' lists, which 
everyone knew had been a problem in the previous election. 
The opposition had suddenly reversed course and was 
TIRANA 00000743  002 OF 003 
insisting that the temporary lists developed for the 
Parliamentary elections could not be used.  This created a 
real dilemma since OSCE was projecting that it would take 
three years to create permanent voters' lists.  He thought 
it a reasonable solution to use the temporary lists one 
last time.  On other electoral reform issues, he was ready 
to accept all recommendations put forward by ODIHR as well 
as whatever changes the opposition wanted in the election 
system.  He thought what had been a stalemate on 
appointments to tthe Central Election Commission was now on 
its way to resolution. 
8. (C) Berisha said he thought the Opposition's strategy was 
postpone the local elections.   Tirana mayor and Opposition 
leader Edi Rama had approached a number of people, 
including small party leaders Ilir Meta and Gjinushi to run 
in his stead in the mayoral race.  Both had turned him 
down. (Comment: it is general knowledge that the D/P 
dominates Tirana, making victory for any S/P candidate, 
even Rama, not a foregone conclusion. End Comment) He 
thought Rama feared that former PM Nano was calculating he 
could return to S/P leadership if Rama loses the local 
9. (C) Berisha acknowleged that politics had taken a tough 
but denied they were "hyper-polarized" as some alleged.  He 
said he was aware that there was concern that he was trying 
to consolidate power under his own office but denied having 
this motivation. He walked the Ambassador through several 
examples to make his point.  He described the recent 
reconstitution of the media control board - taken as a 
causus belli by the Opposition - not as an attempt to gain 
power over the media before the elections but as necessary 
to properly regulate frequencies and to overcome rampant 
disrespect of intellectual property rights. It was 
necessary to have an agency to deal with land distribution 
vice a alaetary commission because it neededasafo iil servants and to be organicalylne ote 
government.  The current commisinhs4,000 files and 
has only dealt with eih ecnt of them.  I was obvious 
they neededagvernment commitmn ehind them.  Berisha 
sai he knew that some wr saying that he was trying to 
take control of independent institutions.  This was not 
the case.  He was not asking to put the general prosecutor 
under the control of the government. Appointing the 
prosecutor was the prerogative of the president. He 
opposed a secret ballot on dismissal because the Parliament 
was only voting a report.  (Note: the Opposition is asking 
for a secret ballot in the hopes some of the D/P will vote 
against and embarrass the government.) The Constitution 
only allows for secret ballots when the vote is up or down 
on a person.  Berisha did not answer the Ambassador's 
direct question as to what would happen should the 
Parliament vote for dismissal (almost certain) and the 
President refuse to dismiss him. 
10. (C) Finally, Berisha said he wanted to increase 
Albania's troop commitment in Afghanistan and possibly 
deploy a small contingent in Darfur as well. He had 
asked the Defense Minister to examine whether this 
was feasible.  The Ambassador asked why he wanted to 
put Albanian troops in Darfur.  "We want to be anywhere 
you are",  he said. 
11.  (C) Comment.  While the Prime Minister is, in most 
cases, saying the right things, some of the Government's 
initiatives are at best hastily-conceived and at worst simply 
contrary to their own legal framework. We will continue to 
work closely with the government to try to channel its zeal 
in the right direction, including engaging the Oppossition on 
matters of broad, national interest.  In the last two days 
the Ambassador has met both with the Quint and the EU/OSCE in 
the framework of the local "international group," all of whom 
have agreed on these basic messages. 
12. (C)  Comment cont.  On the issue of additional troop 
commitments, we will seek an opportunity to discuss with the 
Defense Minister some more details as to what the GOA has in 
mind.  The Prime Minister told us that his first preference 
would be to deploy in Afghanistan as part of an A-3 brigade 
and that he will soon raise this issue with his Macedonian 
counterpart.  There is a serious question of where the 
resources would come for this deployment and whether it would 
be something which would be value-added in a military sense. 
Once we have additional details, we will solicit Washington 
views on whether we should encourage this intiative. 
TIRANA 00000743  003 OF 003 

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