A comprehensive inclusion of the Balkans in NATO is a strategic investment for security

Speech of Prime Minister Edi Rama at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Tirana:

Dear Mr President!

Dear parliamentarians!

Ladies and gentleman!

Dearest Prime Minister of Montenegro!

I welcome you to Tirana, and I hope that during these few days and in the few moments you have spent away from the artificial lightening of this room, you have been able to understand that this is a country where it is worth returning.

Since when the great schism divided Europe into East and West, approximately 1000 years ago, and until 2009 when Albania became a NATO member, Albania and Albanians have lived, or rather have survived within a very serious world border. The border crossing our country was Byzantine for many centuries, for many other centuries it was Ottoman, and finally it was Communist. Efforts to survive within this border that divided the world, have affected deeply the political, social, cultural and economic profile of Albania and Albanians. Many answers to our past and our present can be found in this millennial border.

NATO membership, which was actually a kind of removal of the border from us, was an historic big bang that set definitively a new future for the Albanian people by opening up a tremendous opportunity to build prosperity in completely different and substantially favourable conditions.

In this seventh year of our membership in the Alliance, today we have the honour to host in Tirana the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, this very important Euro-Atlantic forum. On this occasion, on behalf of the Albanian Government, I wish that this Assembly here in Tirana will be a success.

I want to thank in particular the chairman of the Albanian delegation to the Assembly, Mr Pandeli Majko, who, with you being here, has made true a dream of his which, I am a witness, is very old. One more dream remains to come true, and this is a NATO base in Albania.

This session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly is being held on the eve of the Warsaw Summit, which is expected to guide our Alliance in a complex historical moment, when the Euro-Atlantic security environment is facing the tectonic changes in the East, South and North. This challenging security environment has of course its effects also in Eastern Europe. Despite the indisputable importance that our region has for the European Union and NATO, today it remains a space where neither the European Union nor NATO have expanded completely, thus leaving unmet the need for a thoroughly completed and totally free Europe.

The existence of NATO in the epochal changes of the late 80s of the last century, and its expansion after the fall of communism, have been a basic factor for maintaining peace in Europe, and for the expansion of freedom spaces in the east of the continent, thus filling quickly the vacuum created by the disintegration of the Soviet Union. But this did not happen at the same speed and with the same determination in the Balkans, where NATO did not immediately dominate the vacuum created after the tectonic changes that the peninsula suffered due to the disintegration of Yugoslavia. The problems created by this delay are known, while the process of NATO expansion in the Balkans is still unfinished.

Therefore, the signing of the Protocol of Accession with Montenegro, just a few days ago, is an important strategic step of the Alliance in terms of the implementation of the open door policy. I'm proud that Albania has strongly supported since the very beginning, when there was much scepticism about the topic of Montenegro, the openness to Montenegro and Montenegro's integration. Because, inter alia, the NATO membership of Montenegro transforms the Adriatic Sea into an internal sea of the Alliance, thus designing an increased democratic stability in the European-Adriatic space.

We have supported the NATO membership of Montenegro, as much as we have hoped and hope, have worked and will work so that Macedonia as well will be anchored in the Euro-Atlantic course. Eliminating the Yugoslav heritage form the mentality and state practice remains a sine qua non condition for the future of that country, which Albania is interested to be increasingly democratic, increasingly prosperous, and certainly increasingly consolidated.

We believe in the potential of Macedonia and appreciate the constant investment of the United States and the European Union for its democratic security. Macedonia has a chance to build its future, not on the archaic formulas of ethnic, religious or cultural arithmetic, but on the basis of the great values of freedom and progress, as a condition for the coexistence of free citizens. Such a country and society, without an imposed ethnic and cultural hierarchy, integrated in the NATO and the European Union, will be without any doubt a factor and a very important model for a Balkan region in peace and prosperity. The freezing of processes such as the internal reconciliation and the Euro-Atlantic integration of Macedonia in the recent years, only increases the need for a strong NATO and European Union support to Macedonia.

Whereas Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia should transform their ethnic, cultural or religious heterogeneity into the engine of the Euro-Atlantic integration, Kosovo needs to transform its homogeneity into a Euro-Atlantic integration factor. I say this because, unfortunately, there are still some special actors of the European stage who deem Kosovo’s homogeneity to be a separate problem. Such approaches make Europe’s newest state continue its efforts to simply be recognized by some European countries its right to exist, or to integrate, by being recognized and accepted. Meanwhile, it is our very firm view that the times we are living in put all of us in front of new challenges, both in terms of their size and risk, face to which many of the traditional mechanisms that have imposed this totally conditioning relationship for Kosovo should be left behind in the name of stability and security of each and all of us together.

We firmly believe that Kosovo's integration in Euro-Atlantic family is a necessity, not only for Kosovo, not only for the Balkans, but for the whole Euro-Atlantic family. It remains undisputed the fact that the responsibilities of Kosovo's integration cannot be sought only outside it. Political leadership, institutions and the whole of Kosovo’s society will bear undoubtedly the main burden in this vital process, both for Europe’s newest state and for the whole region. But the institutionalization of NATO-Kosovo relations, and later the anchoring of Kosovo in the common Euro-Atlantic family, should be seen as a catalyst for the entire integration process of the region.

The integration in the Alliance of countries in the region, such as Kosovo, strongly aspiring membership, will be a factor of reflection and encouragement to countries that are still ambiguous in their relations with NATO. A comprehensive involvement of the Balkans in the NATO will obviously be a strategic and capital investment through which the architecture of European and Euro-Atlantic security in the south and southeast of the continent will take a much more complete and much safer shape. This would be at the same time a clear answer both to the geopolitical ambitions of other actors and the region, and in front of the risks waves and threats that are constantly coming from the Middle East and North Africa.

Dear attendees!

The Warsaw Summit, to be held in the country where the Warsaw Pact was created 61 years ago, will remain historic not only because of the symbolism that the capital of Poland carries, but also because of the meaning of the problems that need to be addressed by this Summit. On the one hand, Russia is applying an increasingly aggressive doctrine, with a growing military provision which remains a constant concern. On the other hand, waves of terrorism and violent extremism, and the refugee crisis that originated in the Middle East and North Africa, have a direct impact on the European security architecture.

In these conditions, we should reinforce but also expand the range of our capabilities to cope with the risks that are increasingly taking a global shape and dimension, and are increasingly challenging the traditional mechanisms of responses to risks and threats. The need for a very broad spectrum of capacities creates great spaces for all NATO member countries to make a substantial contribution, regardless of their size.

In addition to being fully aware of Albania’s modest possibilities to provide conventional military capabilities, we are also aware of the possibility to make prominent contributions in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism, not only by being lined up side by side with our strategic allies and partners on every front, but by being an active part of a front that goes beyond conventional means in this global battle.

Within this border, where in 1000 years until the day the country joined the NATO Albanians have been constantly under the pressure of the survivor, they have however managed to build a community over the centuries, and later a state whose citizens have different beliefs but coexist in total religious harmony or, as Pope Francis said during his visit to Albania in 2014, in a total religious brotherhood as it has rarely happened elsewhere.

At the end of World War II, the number of Jews living in Albania was almost ten times higher compared to the number of Jews that were living here at the beginning of World War II. Our country is and will always be a country with a proud history for not delivering any Jews to the Nazis. In addition to the many extraordinary stories of Christian families protecting the Jews, but also in most of the cases, of Muslim families protecting the Jews.

A people who recently gave European heritage 38 martyrs of freedom and religion, who became such as representatives of the Catholic clergy in the hell of tortures suffered by a  brutal communist regime that, unlike the communist regimes of the other countries of the Soviet empire, dared to ban God as illegal.

In September of this year, Albanians and Albania will be identified with the newest Saint of Christianity, Mother Teresa, and this fact gives us not only the right, but makes us feel compelled to cultivate, improve and share with others this precious software of our heritage, which can serve as a useful antidote against any kind of extremism.

We are committed to launching in Tirana the Regional Centre against violent extremism. Whereas in Warsaw, Albania will come as a country that has made serious efforts to implement the commitments agreed at the Wells summit, both in terms of the modernization of defence capabilities and in terms of the improvement of the defence budget. In the budget of this year, we managed to change the downward trend of the recent years, and to record a significant increase in defence spending. In addition, our participation and mobilization with military resources and capabilities within NATO has been intensified significantly, quantitatively and qualitatively.

At the same time, we are combining the above efforts with the continuation of state-consolidating reforms which have a direct connection to the democratic security. For the moment, our energies are all directed towards the completion of the Judiciary Reform. The approval, and later the implementation of this fundamental reform in the integration process, which for us is a continuous process of modernization of the state and its institutions, will be an important moment to open a new chapter of democratic consolidation, which coincides with a new step in the process of European integration, the opening of negotiations.

Last but not least.

NATO and tourism are two things that have no connection with each other, but I believe that this does not mean that people working for NATO are not interested in tourism. So I hope that the little you have seen in Tirana has fuelled your curiosity to return. If it is true that the beauty of our country, its exceptional climate and our hospitality have impressed you during these days, from everything I could hear directly or indirectly, then you have to return as soon as possible in Albania as tourists for you have seen nothing yet.

Many thanks!​

Postal Address

Permanent Delegation of Republic of Albania to NATO
B-1110 Brussels- Belgium

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