The disputes for head of ODIHR

06/09/2011 15:10

The case of Audrey Glover is mentioned in more than one cable published
by Wikileaks. Two of them that refer to the meeting of Lulzim Basha
(then Foreign Minister) with the US ambassador John Withers, and another
one again between Basha and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State,
Stuart Jones, show two different stances of the Foreign Minister, who
once says that the stalemate with Glover is not a personal issue, but in
the meeting with the high rank US official he says the contrary.

One of the messages sent by the US Embassy to Washington confesses the surprise of the Americans by Albania’s refusal to assing Glover as head of the ODIHR mission. In fact, the former ambassador Withers has made it clear to the Foreign Minister Lulzim Basha in the meeting of 30 April 2009, on which was reported on that same day. Withers advices the Foreign Minister to be cautious for not making Albania create an unfortunate and dangerous precedent of member countries trying to influence ODIHR/OSCE nominations – a precedent the U.S., OSCE and others are keen to avoid.

According to the cable, Basha told Ambassador Withers that the Government of Albania (GOA) has “nothing personal” against Glover, and does not contest her qualifications or background.  Instead, Basha insisted, the opposition and media would use the Glover appointment to “reopen the drawer” of 1996, a period Basha described as “the absolute low point” of Albanian-ODIHR relations”.  Basha recalled that following the ODIHR report on the 1996 presidential elections, ODIHR was not allowed back to Albania to observe the 1996 local elections, because relations between the GOA and ODIHR had sunk to such lows.  Basha said that the opposition, media and Albanian public would inevitably see Glover’s appointment as a vote of no confidence in the GOA’s ability to carry out a good election, claiming “if I were in the opposition, that’s what I would do too.”  Basha said that of all the people available to ODIHR, no other “has a bigger link to the dark days of 1996.”

The cable explains that Basha showed no signs of turning back from that position. On the contrary, Basha asked for the Ambassador’s help in finding a “quiet, but quick solution,” and suggested that the U.S. could reach out to others to encourage ODIHR to find another candidate.  The Ambassador declined, saying the U.S. position on this was clear.  Immediately following the meeting, OSCE Head of Presence Robert Bosch telephoned Ambassador Withers to say that ODIHR will move ahead with Glover’s appointment, believing that Albania has no grounds or authority on which to reject the head of an Election Observation Mission.

This presentation of facts in the cables is accompanied with a comment:

“Basha’s talking points were well rehearsed, but can’t disguise the fact that all of the GOA objections to Glover likely stem from a longtime PM Berisha grudge against Glover because she was the head of ODIHR at the time of the rigged 1996 presidential elections – one of the worst black marks on Berisha’s long political career.  The GOA stand also reflects another Berisha tendency – his belief that he must control each and every aspect of the upcoming elections, including those mandated to assess and comment upon them.”

Another cable sent on 13 May 2009, referring to the visit of the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Stuart Jones in Albania reveals a different position taken by Basha for the matter now turned in a problem. Among other information, the cable mentions a dinner of Jones with Basha, when Jones warned that the GOA was making it look like a personal dispute, Basha admitted that it was personal. The cable says that indeed, Berisha in his anger had even instructed Basha to tell his foreign counterparts that it was personal. Basha admitted that no matter what the outcome, the situation was lose-lose for the Government, and for that reason, it has been keeping the issue quiet and out of the media.

As for the Prime Minister, the cable says that Berisha argued vociferously against ODIHR’s appointment of Glover, claiming that Glover is biased and will not give Albania a fair hearing in any ODIHR election assessment.

The cable adds that Berisha expressed particular anger at Glover’s arrival in Tirana, despite the fact that the GOA had called her appointment “unacceptable” in a letter to ODIHR shortly before Dame Glover’s arrival in Tirana. (Glover arrived in Tirana May 6, just one day before DAS Jones).  Berisha told DAS Jones that although the GOA will cooperate with ODIHR, “we will not cooperate with her (Glover) at all.”  DAS Jones urged the GOA to accept Glover as the head of the observation mission, stressing Glover’s professionalism and underlining ODIHR’s precedent of never giving countries the right to veto a head of mission.  Jones said that Europeans would not understand Berisha’s position especially in light of NATO Membership and Albania’s desire to chair the OSCE in 2012.  And we wouldn’t either.  How, Jones added, did Berisha plan to explain himself to the Europeans?  Berisha paused and said “I am a simple man.  I can only tell them the truth and hope they will understand.”

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