By Joe DioGuardi
On January 20, 2004, I was in the U.S. Capitol with the Board of the Albanian American Civic League. As we watched President Bush give his annual State of the Union speech, in which he concluded that the state of our nation is strong, I thought about the weak economic, political, and social conditions that affect the seven million Albanians living side by side in six political jurisdictions in the Balkans. I thought to myself if Gjergj Kastrioti or Fan Noli were here today looking through my eyes, how would they assess the state of the Albanian nation in the political and economic context of the world today?
I think that Kastrioti and Noli would conclude that the state of the Albanian nation today is poor.This is not to say that Albanians as individuals and families are not strong. They are, and this has enabled the Albanian people to resist and endure 2,300 years of foreign aggression and occupation, as follows:
Very few non-Albanians know the history of brutal foreign aggression and occupation, and brave Albanian resistance over the last two millennia. But, history alone is not enough in making a case under international law for the independence of Kosova and justice for all Albanians in the Balkans. It is up to the Albanian people to make their case in
Washington and in parliaments around the world, appealing to the United States and international interests in a peaceful and stable Europe. And this is what the Albanian American Civic League has been doing since its formation fifteen years ago to continue the work that I started as a Congressman in 1986 and have continued with Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi, as Balkan Affairs Adviser, since 1994 for all Albanians.
And what about the day-to-day economic and political conditions that affect the Albanian people where they live in the Balkans and worldwide? From my nearly twenty years of activism and advocacy in Washington and around the world for the Albanian people, I have attempted to analyze the size and status of the Albanian nation worldwide, as follows:
Finally, back to the dysfunctional political and economic hodgepodge called the Balkans. The Albanian American Civic League, which I founded after I left Congress in 1989 continues to focus on the political health and economic welfare of all Albanians in the Balkans. While it is easy for Albanians to talk about the national cause, it is difficult to explain to Americans that seven million Albanians live side by side in six political jurisdictions because they were unfairly divided, or “gerrymandered,” without their consent just before, during, and right after World War I. So there is no way to address the future of the Albanian nation without saying something about how Albanians see their immediate political future in each of the six countries in which they live today.
The Albanian American Civic League is concerned about the potential for another conflict in the Balkans. We have advised our friends in the U.S. Congress that they must stay engaged with us in the Balkans, especially now when the United States can ill afford another hot spot. And we have insisted that a just and lasting peace in the Balkans can be achieved only by bringing independence to Kosova, genuine democracy to Albania, and full equality, human rights and justice to Albanians in Macedonia, Montenegro, the Presheva Valley, and Northern Greece. Without the latter, I am sad to say that the state of the Albanian nation of seven million in the Balkans, as well as international respect for the Albanian diaspora of approximately another seven million, will continue to be poor.