Saturday, November 3, 2012

Catching Up With Hillary Clinton After Sandy: Meet-And-Greets At U.S. Embassies Zagreb, Tirana, Pristina, and Belgrade

As always, on her final swing through the Balkans as Secretary of State, Mme. Secretary held meet-and-greets at the American embassies before departing each country. Here are her remarks to staffs and families.

Meeting with Embassy Zagreb Staff and Their Families

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Merten
Esplanade Hotel
Zagreb, Croatia
November 1, 2012

AMBASSADOR MERTEN: Good morning, everybody. I have the great pleasure to introduce someone who needs no introduction, as you all know.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. (Laughter.)
AMBASSADOR MERTEN: We are, Madam, Secretary, on behalf of my colleagues here at the Embassy and also for our operation host, we’re delighted to welcome you to Zagreb. We and the Embassy team had a great time preparing for your visit, and I think – I know our Croatian hosts were very delighted to welcome you here. It means a lot to all of us.
Without any further ado, our Secretary of State, Ms. Hillary Clinton.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Ken. (Applause.) Well, it is wonderful to be here in Zagreb and to have a chance to visit with all of you. It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for actually four years, so I’m glad I’m finally here. And it’s also a great pleasure to be here with Ambassador Merten. Before joining you in Croatia, Ken was our Ambassador in Haiti. Before that, he helped fly me around the world by providing all kinds of logistical and other support. He has been a great leader because he was our Ambassador during the earthquake in Haiti and all of the work we did afterwards to try to rebuild Haiti. And I also know he’s had a smooth transition thanks to Hoyt Yee. Is Hoyt here? Hoyt, thank you. Thank you for your leadership as chargé. We really appreciated it.
Yesterday when I met with the President and the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, we spoke about how much progress Croatia has made on the path to European integration. We look forward to final EU membership next year. And we are delighted at our relationship, which has never been closer. You’re doing so much to promote educational opportunities for bright young Croatians to study overseas. You’re working with Croatian leaders to help strengthen rule of law to fight corruption. You’re working with Croatia on behalf of change in the rest of the region so that other nations can follow the Croatian model.
I also very much appreciate the annual Ron Brown Forum that the Embassy hosts. Ron was a dear friend of my husband’s and mine, and as you know, he was on a mission to bring economic empowerment and opportunity to the Balkans, and he died along with 34 others, Americans and Croatians, in that 1996 plane crash. But his memory and legacy live on with the forum and we greatly appreciate the work that you are doing.
I also brought with me wandering around back there the highest-ranking Croatian American in the Obama Administration, Ambassador Croatia Marshall – I feel that’s her name – (laughter) – Ambassador Capricia Penavic Marshall, right there in the blue, who has been a great friend and associate. But I’d like all the Croatian staff to raise their hand now. Will everyone, all of our Croatian staff – well, no, no, Capricia, you’re actually – (applause) – you’re on the American staff side. But let’s give a big round of applause to our Croatian staff. (Applause.) We’ve had strong relations for 20 years. Have any of you been with us for 20 years? Any of our Croatian team been with – ah, these two young women who – I think we started them and there’s another one; we started when you were 10. (Laughter.)
But I have to say, as you have learned, ambassadors come and go, certainly secretaries come and go, but what remains are our locally employed staff who truly are the brain trust, the memory bank, of every single post. So this is a full team effort. I want to thank all of our American team, civilian and military, Foreign Service and Civil, State and USAID and every other agency. I also want to thank the families. I know that these young people are getting a little anxious to get a picture and I’m going to hurry up because I want to do that for them. But then I want to shake as many hands as possible in order to express personally my gratitude to you. We’re very, very grateful. We see this as a consequential, important relationship going forward. And we want to see Croatia really anchor further progress in the region.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

Meeting with Staff and Families of Embassy Tirana

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Sheraton Hotel
Tirana, Albania
November 1, 2012

Thank you. Thank you very, very much. It is absolutely wonderful to be here and have a chance to see each and every one of you in person to thank you for everything you are doing on behalf of this incredibly important and valuable relationship between the United States and Albania. And thank you, Ambassador, for your leadership here in Tirana and thanks also to your wife and your daughter, and let me also express appreciation to DCM Henry Jardine.
Thank you all for the work you put into my visit here, because I’ve been wanting to come – I told the President and the Prime Minister that I usually go to places we have some kind of problem with. We don’t have any problems with Albania, and so I – (applause) – really had to advocate hard and say, “We must go to Albania.” And the Ambassador is right – it’s a very busy and active time back home in the United States, but I am thrilled to have this chance to be here. It’s much too short a visit. It’s kind of like the appetizer, so I have to come back for the full banquet sometime in the future.
But I think you know how much the United States values our partnership and our friendship, not only with the Government of Albania but with the people of Albania, and it is something that I hold particularly dear. We share important military ties, we strongly supported Albania’s membership in NATO, we are now strongly supporting Albania’s membership in the European Union. What you’re doing, every one of you, is to help us deepen and broaden that, to strengthen democracy, to promote and protect human rights, and to create more economic opportunity.
As I just said in the parliament, the elections next year will be very important for the advancement of democracy in Albania. And I know that elections have posed some challenges in the past, but the role that this Embassy and each of you, American and Albanian alike, can play in monitoring polling places, helping to tally votes, making it clear to our friends here that having a good, free, fair, credible election that meets international standards will skyrocket Albania forward on the path to EU accession.
And just as important as the friendship and partnership we have is what you’re doing to promote social issues and civic engagement. I love the program called Albanians Coming Together Now, because this is a program the Embassy launched to bring together business, civil society, and concerned citizens to help strengthen the ties between the people and their government. And I also want to thank those of you who helped to make Tirana’s recent LGBT conference such a success. We stand for human rights. We stand for relationships between people. And we believe that that serves as the core and foundation of a strong, lasting relationship.
I’m also pleased to be here on the first day of the month that marks the centennial of Albania’s independence. I hear you are preparing a special surprise for the gala concert. I wish I could be here to see what it is, but Ambassador, let me know as soon as you can. And I also want to thank especially our Albanian colleagues. Will all of our Albanian colleagues who work here at the Embassy raise your hand, please, so we can give you a round of applause? (Applause.) I am so grateful to you. Many of you have been with us for years, decades, and as I say everywhere around the world, ambassadors come and go and secretaries come and go, but our locally employed staff provide the continuity, the memory bank, for every single post. And that’s especially true here.
Will those of you have been with the Embassy since we opened our doors in 1991, will you raise your hands? Who’s been here since 1991? We hired you right out of grade school. You have a – (laughter) – so 1991. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
I know that we have our State Department and USAID and our military and civilian agencies represented here. We also have some Peace Corps volunteers, I’m told. Do we have some Peace Corps volunteers here today? Thank you back there. Thank you for what you’re doing. (Applause.)
And I was delighted to walk into a group of beautiful children who are part of our Foreign Service families and our Embassy family here. I bet a few of them might have gone trick or treating on the ridge last night and are probably still suffering from sugar overload. (Laughter.) But when I see that, when I walk into a room like this, it reminds me of why we do the work we do. And that was really my message in the parliament. We all have in a democracy an obligation to try to leave the country that we serve better off for the next generation. And really looking at the faces of those children reminded me of why I do the work I do, and why all of you do what you do, and make such a contribution to a better future for Albania, a better future for our relationship.
I know that my coming, even for a short visit, adds a lot of work to what you do every single day, and I understand the Marine Corps Ball is tomorrow, so I hope you get to relax a little bit. But I want you to know that even though we are far away, we follow closely what you’re doing at this post. We care deeply about this relationship. We want to see Albania become a model not just for the region, but the world. We think it can. We think that the role that Albania can play, is playing, can really shape the history of Europe. The religious tolerance, the role women are playing, the vibrant democracy and economic activity since your freedom from Soviet oppression – all of that is such a strong foundation to build on.
But now the next steps have to be taken, starting with good elections that reflect the will of the people. But then that’s not enough. Whoever gets elected – and we don’t take sides in anybody’s election – we are just on the side of free and fair elections that reflect the will of the people – and once people are elected, holding them to a high standard to produce results for the Albanian people, that’s especially important for young people.
Young people the world over are wondering what kind of future they’re going to have. There is no reason , after everything Albania has gone through – with your independence a hundred years ago, all of the challenges and suffering the parents, grandparents, great grandparents, endured – there is no reason that the future for young people in Albania should not be as bright as it could be anywhere in the world.
And so I am here to express full confidence and optimism in what is possible and to pledge that the United States, through a very active Embassy, will continue to provide support as you grow your democracy and make a real difference first for you, and now next for the rest of the world. Thank you all. (Applause.)

Meeting with Embassy Pristina Staff and their Families

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Swiss Diamond Hotel
Pristina, Kosovo
October 31, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Ambassador. Thank you all so much. Well, I have to say it is wonderful being back here in Pristina and having a chance to see all of you and thank each and every one of you for the work that you are doing. I was here in 2010, and I already have had good reports from the Ambassador about all of the progress that we’re seeing here and that we’re helping to facilitate.
I want to thank you, Ambassador, for your leadership. This is the third time Ambassasdor Jacobson has been an ambassador, and your ears should have been burning in the car ride from the airport as she spoke glowingly about the team here and the work you’re doing, and how significant it is. So her introduction just now was by no means only for public consumption. She is extremely proud, and we are proud of her. And we’re delighted to have her husband David, a British diplomat, lending a hand in this very exciting post.
I also want to thank DCM. Kelly, where – there you are Kelly. Thank you for your hard work. And I think that the exciting aspect of being here at this time is because we can see the progress that is taking place, and we can also work to facilitate the dialogue taking place between Kosovo and Serbia. I will be speaking about that with the leaders that I will be seeing later today.
I also want to recognize someone else. And that is Tristan DeWitt. Where’s Tristan? There you are, Tristan. Tristan and I both have the same birthday. (Laughter.) And Tristan was the first young person to arrive at post since Embassy Pristina opened to family members, so he represents all of the children and the family members who are here now as part of this important community.
I want to also recognize how significant the economic growth has been, and I know that you’re working to promote that, just like you are working to help empower women to be part of the economic and political future of this very young country. I know that many of you had the opportunity to work with Ambassador Larry Rossin, who was our first representative in Kosovo, and he will be certainly missed.
Now today is Halloween, I’m told, so I don’t know what it is planned, but I hope that all of the children here have a happy Halloween. And I especially want to thank our locally employed staff. Will all of our locally employed staff raise your hands, all of our Kosovo colleagues? Thank you so very much. (Applause.) Ambassadors come and go, as do Secretaries, but locally employed staff are the nerve center and the memory bank for every mission, and that’s especially true here as well.
Now as we move forward, I want to emphasize how important it is to have the interagency, whole of government approach, because that’s what we’re standing for in the State Department, that is, as the Ambassador said, the QDDR’s call that diplomacy development work together, our colleagues, military and civilian alike, are part of this great effort to help support this new young country, and to a better future. I’m very proud of what you’re doing. I know the significance of it. And I thank each and every one of you for your contributions.
Now I want to shake some hands and thank you personally. And I’ll start down there and have a chance to do that, but Ambassador, again thank you for your kind words, and thank you for your leadership. (Applause.)

Meeting With Staff and Families of Embassy Belgrade

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Hyatt Regency Hotel
Belgrade, Serbia
October 30, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s a great pleasure to be back here in Belgrade. Some of you I know were here when I was able to visit two years ago for a longer visit, but I’m delighted that I was able to come this time to thank each and every one of you for the work that you are doing on behalf of this vital relationship.
And this was a special unified visit, because Cathy Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union, and I started in Bosnia-Herzegovina, came here, will end the night in Pristina, where we’ll meet tomorrow with the leadership of Kosovo to emphasize a single message – that the future of these three countries is in Europe and in the Euro-Atlantic alliance, and that the United States strongly supports their aspirations.
I want to thank Ambassador Kirby and his wife Sara; I want to thank DCM Lee Litzenberger, and the entire Belgrade team for everything you did to prepare for this short visit, but I know that the work goes on day in and day out on so many fronts.
We’ve been clear that before setting a date for accession talks with the EU, Serbia does need to make progress on normalizing its relations with Kosovo. We recognize that Serbia cannot and will not formally recognize Kosovo, but there are lots of steps that the two countries must take together. And I thank you for sending that message on a regular basis.
We’ve also seen the bilateral relationship deepen and broaden. For example, two years ago when I was here, I committed to encouraging American businesses to invest in Serbia, and many of you in this room are making that happen. In fact, we have an economic team winner here today. American auto parts suppliers are key partners in the Fiat factory. Two American companies have opened call centers in Serbia, creating more than 400 jobs. There are a lot of win-win investments.
And I want especially to congratulate the chief of your economic section, Doug Apostol. When I was here two years ago and I spoke with the Prime Minister about a disagreement over risk insurance that was holding up a multimillion-dollar hotel project, Doug and his team got to work, and he was instrumental in helping to get that dispute resolved. That project is now going forward, bringing a number of new good jobs to Serbia. So for these and other efforts, later this year, Doug will receive the Department’s highest award for international economic work. It’s a rare honor and richly deserved. Congratulations, Doug. (Applause.)
Let me also commend each of you who worked so hard in the passage of Serbia’s new property restitution law, making sure it would cover victims of the Holocaust, many of whom are now American citizens. I thank all of you who stood up for the rights of Serbian Americans and helped the government bring this difficult issue to a successful conclusion.
In fact, I cannot imagine that we could be making the progress we are without our dedicated local staff. And I would like all of our Serbian staff members to please raise your hands so that we can recognize and thank each and every one of you. (Applause.) Because one thing I know for sure is that ambassadors, DCMs, secretaries come and go, but our local staff remain. You serve as our institutional memory bank, and we know how important you are.
I also want to thank all the family members who are here. I had a great opportunity to take a picture with some of the children, and they really did show great patience, because our meeting and press conference went a little long, but I was so happy to see them and have a chance to thank them and all of you who support those who serve.
I understand our local staff and FSOs have put together a basketball team, and soon you’re headed to Sarajevo for a tournament with other posts from around the Balkans. Now as Secretary, obviously I can’t take sides in such a competition – (laughter) – but I do want to just note that this is a great way of creating more public diplomacy and outreach as well as some healthy competition.
Now I know that there have been some difficult and risky moments in your service here in Serbia. We saw this when the Embassy was attacked four years ago. But this mission never skipped a beat. You kept doing what needed to be done. And I am very committed to your safety, and when you finally move in to your new Embassy compound, I’m confident it will give you a very safe place to work, as well as a more comfortable one. You will actually even, many of you, have offices with real windows once again. (Laughter.)
I want to thank all of you who serve the United States here in Serbia – civilian and military, U.S. Government across the board, every department and agency, in particular the State Department and USAID. And I’m very grateful to you, because I think this is a consequential relationship. We want to see the people of Serbia have an opportunity to participate fully in Europe and eventually in the Euro-Atlantic alliance. We want to see the people, particularly the young people of Serbia, have a chance to fulfill their own potential and aspirations. And the United States is very firm in our support of that kind of future for Serbia. We can’t do it from Washington; it has to be, done day in and day out, right here in Belgrade and across the country. And in order to do that, we look to each and every one of you.
So thank you for your service. I’ll start down there and shake a few hands and have a chance to thank you personally. Thank you all. (Applause.)

Secretary Clinton Addresses the Staff and Families of Embassy Sarajevo

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, with U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Patrick Moon, meets with the staff and families of Embassy Sarajevo, in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, October 30, 2012. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]