Photo: Security Forum in Belgrade, 2017
Former senior State Department official Thomas Countryman says he is not surprised by Mr Berisha’s decision to ban him from entering the United States.
“I do not think the audience in Albania is unaware of the extent of public corruption that has affected politicians from many parties, so there is a factual basis for the determination,” he told VOA.
Countryman, who covered the Balkans as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, says that although he does not know the arguments behind this specific decision, the authority that Congress has given to the State Department is being exercised with caution.
“It is exercised only if there is a strong factual basis for identifying significant corruption. It is used only if corruption is significant and especially in those countries where corruption is a serious and widespread problem. “Unfortunately, Albania is in that category”, said Countryman.
He adds that he hopes that this definition will encourage Albania and the countries of the region to fight corruption vigorously.
The former senior official of DASH, says that there is no secret reason that the announcement was made at this moment and that the bureaucracy in the United States is moving at its own pace.
“I do not believe that the US has ever sided with Albania in the very bitter political war between the main parties. But of course when I was in government and I believe even then, the US has always been concerned about the fact that there are credible allegations of corruption in relation to several different parties in Albania. “I hope that this action by the United States, which I am sure will be seen as dramatic in Albania, will result in a resumption of efforts to take action against corrupt politicians from every party,” he told VOA. ”.
But analyst Janusz Bugajski of the Jamestown Foundation does not understand why Sali Berisha was appointed and why now.
“I do not understand why a former political leader stands out, who no longer holds positions. This is something that could be done from within the country; if there is strong evidence, they should seek a trial, an investigation and so on, but to stop someone from traveling, that seems like a double standard, discrimination, or the ones I mentioned. “I do not think it is a good idea and the time when this decision is made is not appropriate,” he told VOA.
According to Bugajski, if other people from the region were included, “there would be very few political leaders left in the Balkans, or a good part of Eastern Europe, who would be allowed to enter America.”
He fears the move will be seen as an anti-Albanian move in the region.
“The European Union is already keeping Albania and Northern Macedonia at a distance, Kosovo has not yet received visa liberalization and I am sure there will be people who will say that this discrimination against Albanians is now being practiced by the administration of “in Washington,” he said.
Bugajski raises the question of whether other political figures will be included in this category.
“There have been many debates about the current government of Albania, whether the Prime Minister, the President, the opposition will be included. What about neighboring countries? Montenegro, Kosovo and so on? “It’s almost like opening the Pandora’s Box, so which leaders will not be allowed in the United States.”
Bugajski admits that the idea was to send a strong signal to the region, but adds that it could be a strong wrong signal.
Countryman sees it differently and anticipates seeing other definitions of this nature as well.
“It should be seen as a clear signal that the ongoing corruption by any party in Albania, by any party in other countries, has consequences beyond those of the country itself and affects relations with the United States,” he said.
According to him, these actions are part of a tendency of the Biden administration to prioritize the fight against global corruption. / VOA