Albania’s prime minister, Edi Rama, is a fiery, statuesque and decidedly well-attired politician who stands nearly 6 feet 7 inches tall. As British political operative Alastair Campbell states in his book Winners and How They Succeed, Rama is not only the tallest world leader but, as a former league basketball player, the only head of government who has represented his country internationally at sport.
In 1993, when Rama was campaigning in Tirana’s artsy fringe, Fred C. Abrahams, who was a Human Rights Watch special adviser to Albania, remembers him attired in “a T-shirt with stick figures in different sexual positions.” Now the 51-year-old prime minister prefers bright purple paisley ties, red patterned pocket squares and elegantly cut three-piece suits. Both his stature and personality have led Rama to become one of the Balkans’ most recognizable leaders—but in his clean, modest office, which overlooks Tirana’s Boulevard Dëshmorët e Kombit, it is impossible to forget his unconventional political past.
Prior to entering politics, Rama was a respected artist and exhibited in Paris, Frankfurt and New York. He still doodles on his working papers, particularly his daily schedule. These doodles are transformed into his wallpaper. Violin concertos play in adjoining hallways and construction is occasionally audible as Rama discusses his vision for the Balkans. “Both here and in Kosovo, we want to have excellent relations with everyone,” Rama tells me. “We strongly believe that what has always been a reason for dispute—for wars, conflicts, bloodshed, hatred, separation, misunderstanding—can become a huge resource for excellent relations. Our minorities should act as bridges.”
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