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News 02 Sep 13

Albania, Kosovo Give US Diplomats More Gifts

New data from the US State Department shows that Albanian and Kosovo officials gave more presents to visiting American dignitaries than they received in other Balkan countries last year.

Besar Likmeta

The data published by the State Department’s gift protocol unit last Thursday showed that pro-American Albanian and Kosovo officials were more likely to offer gifts to visiting US leaders than their counterparts in the Balkans.

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who toured the region in October 2012, was the US official who received the majority of the gifts.

During her visit to Pristina, Clinton received a blue scarf with black, purple, and blue beaded flowers, gold and red earrings and a red jacket with tan and green leaves, courtesy of Kosovo’s President Atifete Jahjaga.

Jahjaga also gave Clinton framed silver filigree jewellery, taking the estimated total value of the gifts to $990.   

On the same Balkan tour, the former State Department chief received a filigree jewellery holder and a silver filigree box from Albanian President Bujar Nishani and Prime Minister Sali Berisha, while the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina presented her with a brooch and earrings.

Pro-American sentiment is widespread among Albanian populations in the Balkans; according to Gallup’s 2012 Global World Leadership Survey, 87 per cent of Kosovo’s people and 80 per cent of Albanians approve of US leadership, the highest rating of any country in Europe.  

Meanwhile the most outstanding gift that President Obama received in the Balkans last year was a gold wreath from his Bulgarian counterpart, Rosen Plevneliev.

But the most valuable gift from a Balkan official did not go to either the US president or his secretary of state; instead the US chief of protocol Capricia Penavic Marshall got that honour, receiving a $1,300 pearl and diamond pin and earring set from her Bosnia counterpart.

Over the past year, Balkan officials have also offered gifts to US military chiefs and lower-level diplomats.

Albania’s army chief of staff Xhemal Gjunkshi presented his US counterpart General Martin E. Dempsey with a sword, while the White House presidential chief of staff John Brennan was given three military medals in Bulgaria, and Tirana’s mayor Lulzim Basha offeredformer US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland a silver and pewter necklace with a circular pendant.

In total, Balkan officials spent an estimated $6,502 on gifts for their US counterparts in 2012.

However there were no gifts to US officials over the past year from Serbian, Croatian, Macedonian or Romanian leaders.

Clinton meanwhile outpaced her boss Obama on a global scale when it came to the gifts she received in 2012.  

The jewellery she was given by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia alone was worth half a million dollars, while Obama’s most expensive gift was a $16,500 gold-plated clock from Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, the Saudi defence minister.

The US constitution prohibits federal officials from accepting gifts with a value larger than $335 from foreign sources, so when foreign dignitaries offer extravagant presents, they are often stored in archives or put on display.

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