US Ambassadors: Local Powerbrokers in the Balkans

Image by Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr.

Former U.S. President George W. Bush was not very popular at home when he visited Albania in June 2007. In fact, everywhere he traveled in Europe at the time, he faced protests, some of them violent. Protestors taunted him from the Czech Republic to Germany to Italy. The dramatic confrontations in Rome paralyzed parts of the city.

However, when Air Force One landed in Tirana’s Mother Teresa Airport, Bush was hailed by a 21-gun salute, while cheering locals swarmed the heavily cordoned streets, branding slogans, such as “proud to be partners.”

In the small town of Fushe Kruja, where Bush stopped briefly to discuss a U.S.-funded microloan programme with a baker, a barber, a tailor, and a shepherd, he received a rock-star welcome. Today a 2.85-meter statue of the 43rd U.S. president adorns the town’s main square.