Albania Reforms Senate Caucus to Boost US Ties

Balkan Insight
Publication date: 
Mar 23 2017

After years of allowing its old association in the US Congress to lapse, the Senate Caucus has been reactivated to support the aspirations of Albanians and their influence in Washington. 

Albania is trying to woo important friends in Washington DC at a time when the policies of the new White House under Donald Trump towards the Balkans are still unsettled and unclear.

Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati said a press release while on a US visit on Wednesday that the Senate's Albanian Issues Caucus had now been reformed.

The group is led by Democrat Senator from Michigan Gary Peters and Republican Senator from Iowa Joni Ernst.

"Proud to join Senator Ernst to relaunch the Albanian Issues Caucus and support the democratic aspirations of Albanians in Balkan countries," Senator Peters said on Twitter.

Michigan is home to a considerable number of 200,000 or so Albanians migrants that live in the US and who are fully or of partial Albanian descent.

The Senator from Iowa emphasized the need of the US to create stronger relationships with its known allies.

“It is crucial that we continue to strengthen our relationships with our allies in Southeast Europe,” she said in a press release published on her webpage.

"The Senate Albanian Issues Caucus will help to facilitate dialogue on critical issues facing the Albanian American community and countries in Southeast Europe with significant Albanian populations," it said.

Moves to reform the Caucus started in April 2016 when Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama visited the US.

The Albanian Caucus in Congress played an active role in US politics during and after the Kosovo war, culminating at the time of Kosovo's declaration of independence in February 2008, which the US supported from the start.

After that, however, the caucus and other associations in the US became more passive, with no real agenda, goal or strategy over issues concerning Albanians in the region.

Avni Mustafaj, the former director of the National Albanian-American Council, told BIRN that Albania and Kosovo needed to work more closely with the Albanian-American community and strengthen relationships in Congress.

"Periodic visits to DC are not enough to to be effective. Caucuses stay active and committed through the Albanian-American community, who vote for these people and give financial contributions to their election campaigns," he said.

Date: 23/03/2017