George W. Bush photo

Interview With Andi Bejtja of Albania's Vizion Plus TV

May 31, 2007

President's Upcoming Visit to Albania

Mr. Bejtja. Mr. President, first of all, I want to thank you for the opportunity you give to me and to Albanian public for this interview. And I have just a simple question in the beginning: What is the reason of including Albania in this European tour this time?

The President. That's a fascinating question. First of all, I want to make sure the Albanian people understand that America knows that you exist and that you're making difficult choices to cement your free society. I'm coming as a lover of liberty to a land where people are realizing the benefits of liberty.

Secondly, I've been impressed by your leadership. I have met your leaders at different times——

Mr. Bejtja. Impressed in what sense?

The President. In the sense that they're committed to common values with the United States, that they believe in certain freedoms, and that people ought to be given a chance to live in a free society. And so my message is that we welcome our friendship, that I'm proud of the hard work that you're doing, and I'm particularly grateful to be the first sitting President ever to come to Albania.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Mr. Bejtja. Yes, this is a historical visit. And Albanians hoping to get a—to receive an invitation at summit to join NATO in 2008. How realistic this Albanian expectation is, according to you?

The President. Well, my message to the Albanian Government and the Albanian people is, first of all, thank you for your interest in joining NATO. But like I said to other countries that are at this stage in the process, that there's a certain map that has to be followed, a certain way forward. There are certain obligations that have to be met. And my only advice is, work as hard as you possibly can to achieve the different benchmarks that would cause the NATO members to accept Albania.

Kosovo/United Nations Security Council

Mr. Bejtja. And let's get to the hardest point: Kosovo. I mean, in the beginning of the week, you just had a phone call from Russian President Vladimir Putin, and you agreed with him to rediscuss Kosovo future once again. And people are worried about that. Do you expect any compromise with Russians that may affect our desired plan as it stands now?

The President. Well, let me make it clear what I did say.

Mr. Bejtja. Because everybody is worried about that.

The President. Yes, they ought to be worried about it; it's a difficult issue. But they ought not to be worried about my position. My position is that we support the Ahtisaari plan, and that's the instructions that I have given to Secretary of State Rice, who totally agrees with me. And those will be the instructions we give to the United Nations.

And so I don't know who characterized my phone call with Vladimir Putin, but as I told him on the phone, look, we don't want to—we would hope to avoid a major conflict in the area, but we feel strongly that the Ahtisaari plan is the right way to go; it's the right way to move forward. And that's the U.S. position.

Mr. Bejtja. So in case of a Russian veto next month at Security Council, does U.S. have plan B for Kosovo?

The President. Well, plan A is to try to make plan A work.

Mr. Bejtja. Yes, but is the plan A——

The President. I know, but you're asking me to think hypothetically. It happens, by the way, with the United States press too. They say, "If something doesn't happen"— my job is, make it happen in the first place. So we're working to try to convince all members of the U.N. Security Council to support the Ahtisaari plan, and we're out making our case as to why it makes sense and why this will make—yield peace. We would also hope that the EU would continue and NATO would continue to work with Serbia, to give them a way forward as well, that there be an opportunity for them to become participants in some of the European structures and, in this case, in NATO's case, an opportunity, perhaps, to join NATO and have U.S. as a partner.

President's Decisionmaking/U.S. Foreign Policy

Mr. Bejtja. Let me put another question. I mean, to be honest, it's very easy in the region to find pro-American governments, but it's not as easy to find so-called pro-American nations, or better saying, pro-American public or people. Does U.S. have any strategy to reverse this trend, to make U.S. policy more effective in long term?

The President. Well, first of all, it's like— people ask me the question about popularity, whether it be overseas or at home. You can't make decisions and try to be— and want to be popular. You make decisions because you want to be right. I make decisions for what's best for the United States of America. Sometimes that makes me popular; sometimes it doesn't.

But popularity comes and goes, but certain principles should never leave. And I believe firmly the United States must confront tyranny and disease and hunger. And I believe the United States must secure our homeland from further attack, and I will take the actions necessary to do so. I hope others understand why. I would like for people to understand the decision-making I've done. I want people to respect my country and to like the American people, and most people do like the American people. Sometimes they like the American President, and sometimes they don't. But popularity is—I would ask the question: Are you still going to make decisions based upon solid principles? And the answer is, absolutely.

President's Upcoming Visit to Albania

Mr. Bejtja. Yes. And let me ask one childish question, because it is your first time in Albania and everyone is wondering: What does come to your mind when you heard the word "Albania"?

The President. Beautiful coastline, interesting history, Muslim people who can live at peace: that's what comes to mind. I'm excited to go. I must confess that I also thought about the dark days of communism, when the society was a closed society. I'm looking forward—I met many Albanians who are excited to be living in an open society. And I can't wait to come to your country. I've heard great things about it, and it's going to be an exciting trip for me and Laura.

Mr. Bejtja. Thank you very much, Mr. President, and welcome.

The President. Yes, sir; thanks.

NOTE: The interview was taped at 3:37 p.m. in the Map Room at the White House for later broadcast. The transcript was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on June 1. In his remarks, the President referred to former President Martti Ahtisaari of Finland, United Nations Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Future Status Process of Kosovo.

George W. Bush, Interview With Andi Bejtja of Albania's Vizion Plus TV Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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