US concerned with Russian and Turkish penetration in the Balkans

US concerned with Russian and Turkish penetration in the Balkans
Philips (left) and Bushati

 Strong debate in Columbia about Albania, the role of Russia and Turkey, the problems of Tirana ...

"America has no better ally than Albania and Americans do not have better friends than Albanians!" says Professor David L. Phillips. 

This is the essence of a meeting held today at Columbia University, where the Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati talked about the challenges of the Western Balkans. Challenges affecting Albania's relationship with the US. Russian penetration and Turkish penetration with Islamic color in the Balkans are current US concerns for this region, which Prof. Phillips calls it "a complicated region." The region he knows well because he has been working for nearly 30 years with it, and he knows Albania well where he has been with the first senior US delegation to visit the country after thefalling of communism, along with James Baker.

Russia in Albania

The US is concerned about increasing Russian penetration in the Western Balkans, and according to the New York Times, it has turned the region into a battlefield that reminds the Cold War, where Russians have access to infrastructure and public life. Russia is very present in the Western Balkans, especially in Bosnia and Serbia. Russian influence is strong in political elites, business and the media. "We, as Albania have considered ourselves immune to Russia, must say that in recent years Russia has tried to penetrate in the public life, for example in the media," says Minister Bushati.

Turkey in the Balkans

Prof. Phillips, ask where funding comes from for the construction of the largest mosque of Tirana. "From my experience with Albania, nationalism has had greater values than Islamism. Have these values replaced each other?" Is the question that he asks to the Albanian minister who defends the mosque's construction: "The mosque is build, I do not know why this should be debated. For a long time the Muslim community in Tirana did not have a mosque and the clergy went to public schools. "The minister confirms good relations with Turkey, but adds "this did not prevent us from being vigilant on international policy issues. Sometimes we have been in the opposite direction from Turkey." No, says Prof. Phillips. "When the European Parliament has taken a stand on Turkey, you have kept Turkey's side."
Public questions also arise about Turkish investments in the region. The Kosovar journalist Jeta Xharra is in public and uses the opportunity to show her stance, which does not match to that of the Albanian Ainister. The journalist says that in Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo, Erdogan's Turkey has an Islamic agenda. Albanian women and men have joined ISIS.

"There are no preference policies for Turkish investments in Albania, Turkey is the fifth country for investments in Albania." Albanians are making a big contribution to the fight against terrorism." says Minister Bushati.

A diaspora representative has the a most radical approach when it comes to the Albanian politics: "You do business with Turkey, sleep with Serbia and flirt with Russia".

Prof. David Phillips advocates the creation of an academy to teach lessons to prevent violent extremism, where Columbia University can help with its contribution.

Greece and Albania

Greek ambassador to the UN, Maria Theophilus is listening attentively. It is the first to get the floor from the public to give a message from Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias. "Greece is relying on the European perspective of the Western Balkans." Each country is a separate case, with Greece, Albania will solve the problems in a separate package."

"Say hello to the minister, and tell him where he is in Vienna to find a solution before the meeting of NATO ministers, expected to be held in July," says Phillips, who does not mentions Macedonia's name, but everyone knows what it is all about.

The package as a solution to Albania, certainly, contains the law of war, which is still in force between Greece and Albania since World War II, and Greece refuses to abolish it. But not just that. The question of what is called "Cham Issue" is raised by the public. A representative of the "Chameria" Albanian-American Organization asks whether Chameria is the topic of talks that Albania is currently developing with Greece and seeks more transparency on this issue because the informations of politicians of the two countries are different.

Bushati did not mentioned Kosovo

Minister Bushati says at the talks table it is about issues of the past, but also of the daily life of the citizens. Even here Prof. Phillips offers the assistance of the association for its historic dialogue. Minister Bushati did not mentioned Kosovo separately on the points he spoke about. There is some time that Albania no longer needs to play the role of defense lawyer for Kosovo. Kosovo currently has better defense attorneys than Albania. "Albania supports Kosovo's efforts to close all the open issues with neighboring countries, and visa liberalization." said Minister Bushati.
US concerned with Russian and Turkish penetration in the Balkans US concerned with Russian and Turkish penetration in the Balkans Friday, April 27, 2018 Rating: 5
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