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Beqir Sina

The Albanian American Civic League awarded its annual prize "Balkan Peace Award - July 2, 2003"

-- by BEQIR SINA, Uashington DC (USA), July 2003

Joseph DioGuardi Washington, DC - The Albanian Americans through the Albanian American Civic League's annual "Balkan Peace awards" have honored and expressed their appreciation to three American congressmen, very well known friends of the Albanians in America: Republican Henry Hyde, Democrat Tom Lantos, and former Republican congressman Benjamin Gilman (Chairman Emeritus of the U.S. House of Representatives International Relations Committee). The awards ceremony took place in the American capital, Washington DC - at the House and Senate complex, the Republican Club, as a continuous gratitude for their work in introducing to the Congress the House Resolution 28, which asks for the American Administration to support the independence for Kosova now. While the international community is trying to put off the discussion on the final status for Kosova, this resolution strongly supported by the Civic League, also recognizes the fact that the US and the International Community have worked hard in stopping the ethnic cleansing in Kosova, carried out by the Slobodan Milosevic regime.

"Balkan Peace Award"

AACL-logo Meanwhile, three large alabaster eagles hand-carved in Albania by Shkodran sculptors, each mounted on a cherry wood base with the inscription: "Albanian American Civic League - Balkan Peace Award - July 2, 2003" were presented by the AACL. These awards, which have already become traditional for this lobby organization, were presented at a very impressive dinner, filled with many feelings and emotions of respect, on Monday evening in Washington DC, the American capital. Tens of Albanians, politicians, and medias including those operating in the US were present at the event. The AACL through this ceremony has honored the work and dedication of three very well known American politicians, great friends and dedicated supporters of the Albanian cause, and independence for Kosova as a top priority.

Opening the award ceremony to honor the three American congressmen, the AACL Balkans Affairs Adviser and American writer Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi asked that a minute of silence is held in remembering all those who died for the liberation of Kosova, and also those who died all over the world while fighting for democracy and freedom, with a special tribute paid to the three Bytyqi brothers.

Three years, three awards of honor for the Albanian friends in America!

Being the moderator of the ceremony, the President of the AACL and former republican congressman from New York, Joseph J. DioGuardi, said that the Albanian American Civic League gave its first Balkans Peace award to General Wesley Clark in 2001, for the important role he had played in ending once and forever over ten wars in the Balkans caused by Slobodan Milosevic, and also for his special work in discovering the bodies of three Albanian American brothers killed by the Milosevic regime after the war in Kosova.

"The Albanian American Civic League," he said, "gave its second 'Balkans Peace Award' last year to the democrat senator Joseph Biden Jr. Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, for his standing up as the strongest opponent of the Slobodan Milosevic's policy, and for being one of the most dedicated supporters in favor of the US engagement in the Balkans, and also for his great work for fifteen years supporting a long term peace in South East Europe, especially for the Albanians in Kosova and Macedonia.

So, this was the third time the awards were presented to the three congressmen, sponsors of the H. Res. 28: Henry Hyde, Tom Lantos, and Ben Gilman, who was the Chairman of the House International Relations Committee. In this context, he noted that the three American congressmen Hyde, Lantos, Gilman, while asking for the independence for Kosova, are also expressing their support toward the Albanian democratic aspirations, which were expressed freely by the Albanians during their last two elections as a fact that the Albanians are working according to the interests of the US and the international community as well, in their pursuit for a long term peace and stability in the Balkans and the entire region, too. In his recognition of previous work done for Kosova, DioGuardi, a former member of the House of Representatives mentioned the first resolution on Kosova introduced to the 100th US Congress on July 15, 1987. This resolution was known as the H. Con. Res. 167 and was signed by 55 American congressmen.

But, DioGuardi, President of the Albanian American Civic League, aware of the difficulties that will come upfront until the independence for Kosova becomes a reality, for the VOA stated, "We know that this will not be the number 1 issue, but we have to work very hard to make it be one of the 5 or 10 top issues so this Administration can do something about. Let's get our energy centered in Washington as this is the only place where the issue of the independence for Kosova can be resolved."

Lantos: "The Independence for Kosova - A Fundamental Issue for the American Democracy!"

Moreover, DioGuardi, asked Congressman Tom Lantos to come up and receive his "Balkan Peace Award" symbolized by the Albanian Eagle. "First of all, let me thank all of you," said congressman Lantos. "It is you, who honored me with this great award, that will have the chance to see it whenever you happen to come into my office. This wonderful award will stand by many other presents, awards and honors that I have received during my congressional career, and I treasure very much all of them," continued Lantos.

Lentos also mentioned that among many of his awards in his office, there is another eagle - an American eagle made by American sculptors, which symbolizes the American democracy, freedom, integrity, and independence. Now and on, according to Lantos, both of those eagle will stand proud representing the good relations between our two peoples. "Your eagle is a great honor for me and Mr. Hyde, a special person, very brilliant with great merits in the human rights work," said Lantos.

Congressman Lantos thinks that Mr. Hyde as Chairman of the House of Representatives International Relations Committee has provided strong leadership, especially in a committee such as this one where there are members that do not support our resolutions or don't understand them thoroughly, like in the very concrete case with the H. Res. 28, for the independence of Kosova. "But Hyde and I," said Lantos, "by introducing the resolution on independence for Kosova to the Congress have still respected everyone while protecting the values of our democratic system with a lot of patriotic and fundamental values. These fundamental values of the American freedom and democracy support the independence for Kosova - the Republic of Kosova," ended his statement Mr. Lantos, an Albanian friend.

Gilman: "For the good of everyone - Independence for Kosova now, not latter!"

Benjamin Gilman, former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is now Chairman Emeritus of the same committee, when interviewed by the VOA during this ceremony after having received his award, said that Kosova needs to granted its independence as soon as possible, even though there is a lot to be done. "We have to work very hard to convince the State Department to change its policy and act now without waiting anymore," said the former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "The Albanian Americans believe that at a time such as the current one when the Administration is deeply concerned with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the reconstruction of Iraq, the Albanian lobby in America should work unanimously in keeping their issue on the table," said Gilman.

In the meantime, the spokesperson for Mr. Hyde, Blaine Aaron (Foreign Policy Advisor the Chairman and General Counsel of the International Relations Committee), thanked the Albanian American Civic League and especially its prominent leaders, the DioGuardis, on behalf of Mr. Hyde, who could not attend the ceremony due to health complications. He also added that along with his boss he would be always ready in working even harder to make the congress pass the resolution, which would recognize the independence for Kosova. "We have to do much more," he said, "in educating those who do not see the importance of independence for Kosova."

Cloyes DioGuardi: "For the Albanians in America - Extraordinary privileges to show that the Albanians have enjoyed the freedom and democracy offered in the United States."

While talking about the medias being present at the event, the AACL Balkan Affairs Advisor and American writer Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi, told the journalists that "Among Albanian Americans, especially among those coming from Kosova, the concern for the final political status of Kosova is very, very great, so the Albanian American Civic League representatives urge those Albanians to use more properly the possibilities that American offers them in solving their problems."

"I think," she added, "that the Albanian all over the world should be more active in supporting this cause, and especially those in the United States who have extraordinary privileges and can use them to enjoy their freedoms and the democracy that this country offers." "Now they should be willing to give what this country has given to them," said Shirley Cloyes, a Balkans expert.

Active members of the Civic League who were present at the awards ceremony said that the Albanians in Diaspora are to work harder and get more unified in order to realize their common objective by convincing the Administration that Kosova should become independent now. This is also the purpose of the "Balkans Peace" awards, which actually means independence for Kosova.

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