Speech of Minister Ditmir Bushati at Counterterrorism Summit

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me begin by thanking the International Institute for Counterterrorism (ICT) and its founder Professor Boaz Ganor for bringing us together to share our thoughts on one of the most complex issues of our time, as well as to share information and practices on our resolute and continued contribution to the joint global efforts in countering the threat of violent extremism and terrorism.

I am also pleased to return for the 4th time to Israel, a country which has shown unparalleled resolve and has managed to build a solid pluralistic and open society despite the turbulent environment in the region. Being at the same time a country that has been exposed to various acts of terrorism, we think that we have a lot to discuss and learn here.

With Israel we share not only the identity of a country on the meeting points—both geographically and culturally—of regions, but also the fact of being small located in challenging security environments which by themselves provide incentives for the echo-system of terrorism and related phenomena.

But most importantly, our two countries and peoples share a common history of struggle, solidarity and of resilience of human spirit during the dark days of the WWII, when Albanians, as opposed to other Europeans at the time, saved thousands of Jewish lives, overlooking ethnic or religious difference and being guided instead by what is noblest of the human spirit. This spirit of human solidarity must continue to guide us when faced with sinister threats such as terrorism, extremism and any kind of totalitarian ideology.


Dear Colleagues

In the course of the last years, the world has gone through extreme levels of violent extremism and terrorism. They have undermined international peace and security, have inflicted unbearable suffering to individuals, groups and communities, have further exacerbated conflicts, and have destabilized entire regions, thus becoming a serious obstacle to normal life and development. With the events in Syria and Iraq and the emergence of the so-called ISIL, this complex global challenge has reached unprecedented levels.

Albania has been continuously involved in addressing this global challenge. We immediately joined the Global Coalition and were happy to be able to concretely help the Government of Iraq in its efforts. We have also introduced new laws pursuant to landmark UN Security Council Resolutions that address the threat of terrorism and violent extremism.

We strengthened our legal framework and empowered our law enforcement agencies; we have devoted special attention to various critical aspects such as countering the financing of terrorism, improving border security, regional and international exchange of intelligence and information as well as judicial cooperation. In addition, we built a good record in investigating and prosecuting terrorism related crimes under terrorism related laws.

In the course of the last 2 years, we have all made remarkable progress in defeating ISIL in Iraq and Syria. The caliphate is a thing of the past and there is a drastic decrease of the number of Foreign Terrorist Fighters and acts of terrorism. Yet, reports indicate that thousands of fighters are still engaged militarily and that ISIL threat remains a serious threat: it continues to plan and inspire attacks, to radicalize and recruit.

Countering terrorism is not and will not be easy, but there is no alternative and one must not feel discouraged. Just as the terrorist’s networks are transnational, so too must be our cooperation.

We must strengthen border security and information-sharing and devote vigorous efforts to the reintegration of returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters and their families. This becomes even more important in light of foreign terrorist fighters returning and relocating from battlefield.

With Israel, in particular, close cooperation and coordination between our national intelligence and security agencies has proved fundamental. Thanks to the serious cooperation with our Israeli counterparts and other partners, we managed to successfully thwart a dangerous terrorist plot against the Israeli soccer team playing in Albania. But this is not the reason why we won in football against Israel.



In addition to the core threat of terrorism emanating from ISIL, being located in the Mediterranean we also face a broad range of unprecedented and diffused new security challenges which may create a conducive environment to terrorism and extremism, such as:

  • Migration;
  • Increase of transnational organized crime and weak rule of law;
  • Extremist and disruptive ideologies;
  • Lack of prospects, development and connectivity for the young people of our region(s).

In the face of these challenges, forging new partnerships as well as strengthening cooperation with neighbours and existing allies is critical for our national security and that of our immediate environment.

As a NATO member and an EU candidate country, Albania works closely with a large number of other partners, at the bilateral, regional and European level and not least within multilateral platforms, to address driving and conducive forces for terrorism and related phenomena.

Thus, our contribution as an Ally to the collective efforts in fighting illegal migration in the Mediterranean is significant: Since November 2016, Albania is part of NATO’s maritime mission in the Aegean in order to help EU’s FRONTEX to stop migration smuggling. In this context, our collaboration with Italy is an exemplary case of solidarity and close partnership between two Mediterranean countries. Only last week we decided to lend a helpful hand and respond to the Italian authorities call to provide shelter in our country to 20 Eritreans fleeing war and blocked for days overboard in Catania.

We recognized early on that we must work regionally, with our immediate neighbours: Albania included terrorism and violent extremism in the regional agenda of the Western Balkans during our CiO of South East European Cooperation Process in 2015.

Therefore, regional cooperation on CVE in South-East Europe has only enhanced over the past years and we now have a full-fledged network of national coordinators of countering violent extremism.

We have established a Regional Centre for coordinating actions in the area of Countering Violent extremism and we are working with a number of partners, from the EU such as the Netherlands, the UK, (until BREXIT), as well as with new partners from the Middle East such as Jordan in sharing experiences and creating better knowledge of the context of radicalization and extremism.

As part of our strategic partnership with the United States, we have now a structured cooperation in the area of data sharing and cooperation between our intelligence.

In the area of asylum seekers and organized crime we are working very closely with a number of law enforcing agencies from member states as well, such as the UK, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.



Dear Colleagues,


We all know that no one is born a terrorist and violent behaviour is not inscribed in our genes or national psyche. Therefore, understanding the drivers of violent extremism, and terrorism is of paramount importance. Experience has shown that various factors such as lack of opportunity, poverty, social injustice and marginalization do play a part in fomenting violence and may quickly transform grievances into extremism and radicalization like we have seen happen in many parts of the world.

It is therefore of paramount importance to prioritize preventive measures by addressing drivers that favour or lead to violent extremism that fuels terrorism. Prevention as the first line of defence is a vital investment for international peace and security. Here I would like mention three key factors:

  • Economic development,
  • Connectivity and,
  • Education


A sharper focus on the development-security nexus in our region and between our regions, in the Mediterranean-Adriatic space remains critical. Through an ambitious economic reform program, the Albanian government is focusing on improving the living standards and the future of our generations.

Yet, and this is my second point, being small countries, and in close vicinity to the EU, we know that improving national economy is not enough: we need more connectivity with the rest of the region and the European Union. In the Western Balkans we are working on removing political obstacles to the economic integration of the region.

Thirdly, we must do whatever is needed to disrupt the link between radicalization and terrorism by properly addressing the various and complex issues in the environments in which terrorism acts are nourished. We must adopt a “whole of society approach” by engaging with civil society, community and religious leaders, and certainly youth. Experience has taught us that in order to be successful in our efforts, we cannot rely only on prosecution but need to devote serious efforts to communication and education, as well, in order to counter terrorist narratives, engage with other communities and strengthen social cohesion.

It is our view that among the various tools at our disposal, education remains key for building resilience to dangerous influences. Information and the development of critical thinking mean empowering our children and youth to understand the world and its complexities and leave no place to social or religion-disrupting narratives which, as we know, fuel radicalization that leads to terrorism.

To this end, we have developed additional curricula for students to learn more about religion. We are training our teachers to strengthen discussions aimed at respecting differences and promoting religious liberties and highlight the benefits of social cohesion to combat extremist narratives, xenophobia and hate speech. We are trying to establish a better relationship between schools and community so as to better involve important stakeholders such as families and community leaders.

We value very highly the introduction of the chapter on the Holocaust in Albania in the history texts of the Israeli schools, describing the contribution of Albanians to the salvation of Jews during WWII.

As the late Shimon Peres noted to Prime Minister Rama three years ago during his visit in Israel: ‘Smallness and greatness nowadays are not measured by the size of the land or the number of the people. It is measured by the values and education of a country’.

In this context, we must use and improve digital connectivity between our young people with a view to protect them from extremist ideologies. We must use this weapon called technology to emancipate and liberate as opposed to creating new different forms of exclusion, xenophobia, ethnic nationalism, extremist behaviour and so on. It is a double-edged knife and we must learn how to use it for the good and the resilience of our societies.

In Albania, we have a particularly precious national asset to preserve and further develop: our century-long spirit of tolerance, religious harmony and respect.

It has been transmitted generation after generation from our ancestors and it continues to this day. Nothing should come to harm it; while we see religious harmony and understanding as a matter of national security, we think it has also shown an example of a society that has been able to find the best way to foster strong society bonds, build resilience and capable to resist the sirens of discord and hatred.

We are making the best out of our traditional culture of tolerance and inter-religious harmony in order to prevent the radicalization of our young people.

It was this reality, this climate of coexistence and cooperation between different kinds of religions in our small country, which prompted Pope Francis to praise Albania by the following words, with which I wish to close my address today:

“What is happening in Albania shows, though, that peaceful and fruitful coexistence between people and communities with different religious affiliations is not only desirable, but possible and realistic. This is something of value which needs to be protected and nourished each day, by providing an education which respects differences and particular identities, so that dialogue and cooperation for the good of all may be promoted and strengthened. It is a gift which we need to implore from God in prayer”.


Thank You.


Postal Address

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