10 years of NATO membership

 

Mr. President of the Republic,
Your Excellencies and guests from the partner nations,
Officers, non-commissioner officers and Armed Forces members!
On our country’s 10th anniversary of joining NATO, which coincides with the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the close cooperation during the Kosovo liberation war, Albania is preparing to commence important work to build the NATO base in Kuçova, which will be one of the NATO’s largest and most modern military bases in the region.
This fact is this jubilee’s beautiful symbolic, because the base, designed to be as one of the reference points in our strategic alliances, will be transformed from a base to defend against NATO into a reborn NATO base.
In a region that after more than 100 years of perpetual war and conflicts, thanks to NATO too, the Balkans is finally enjoying an era of peace, reconciliation and efforts for mutual cooperation, with a distinguished integrating military, economic and political approach.
Nevertheless, we must never forget President Kennedy, who once said: “Peace is not an everyday commodity, but a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.”
Today, we are no longer not each other’s enemies, but we are united together against new enemies. Violent extremism, despite the so called Islamic State’s capitulation, has not been defeated yet. Its fanatical doctrine cannot be annihilated by force of arms alone, but, but, above all, by the power of mind and the example this great Alliance embodies.
The resurgence of nationalism, the Syrian refugee crisis, or the Mediterranean migrant crisis, as well as the increasingly threatening cyberwar are real threats that must be addressed together, with each having its place and role.
Nor should we forget that NATO should also deal with the aggressive doctrines of third factors, with a growing military arsenal and an open contempt for the international law. The Crimea annexation is only one of the current evidence of this phenomenon.
We feel extremely well today that the integration of Montenegro first and then North Macedonia into NATO has created a wider space for NATO in the Balkans and strengthened the stability of the Balkans, clearing the way for filling a vacuum created after the tectonic changes the peninsula has been through from Yugoslavia’s disintegration.
However, in order for the still fragile peace in the region is never again challenged in the future and in order for the Balkans to never be again the gateway through which third countries influences penetrate to the heart of Europe, it is indispensable that Kosovo too, sooner rather than later, becomes an integrated part of the Euro-Atlantic Alliance.
Albania strongly believes that Kosovo’s integration with its national army into the Euro-Atlantic family is an imperative, not just for Kosovo and the Balkans, but for the entire Euro-Atlantic family. The Balkans full-fledged integration into NATO is undoubtedly a strategic vision and Kosovo’s membership in NATO would be an increased capital through which the European and Euro-Atlantic security architecture in the continent’s south and southeast takes a complete and secure shape.
Albania’s 10th anniversary of NATO membership marks a moment of pride, as well as reflection on what Albania has accomplished over these 10 years and what it should accomplish in the future. Our Armed Forces are now better equipped, better paid or highly trained than ever, number one guarantor of Albania’s democracy and progress in NATO.
But they should be better equipped, better paid and highly-trained in the future. Albania’s commitment as part of the NATO members pledge to meet commitment of 2 percent of GDP on Armed Forces and defence spending certainly serves this purpose.
There dozens of rescue efforts and operations that have saved many people’s lives during natural disasters, or interventions to improve civil infrastructure and cleaning up the territory, etc., because Albania’s Armed Forces, not only are they deployed to global hot spots where NATO troops are stationed, including the Mediterranean patrol mission, but also positioned on the side of the people and serving to community.
For all of these, each of us is in an indelible debt to all servicemen who, through commitment and self-sacrifice, put on the honourable uniform of the Albanian military and hoist our national flag all over the world, wherever the Alliance missions require, just as they set the flag of their high morale in any area and territory where solidarity is required in cases of emergencies.
In the face of your sacrifices, the minimum that the Albanian government can do is to resolutely continue resolutely on the path of reforming the Albanian Army and meeting its needs in line with NATO commitment and our ambition to be ever-present, albeit small in number, but absolutely equal in commitment and quality within the ranks of this Alliance.
The 2019 defence budget has recorded an increase of 10% compared to the previous year and the budget growth includes the highest salary hike for servicemen in years. Yet, I would like to tell everyone physically lined up here as the Armed Forces representatives that I am aware and we are all aware that this is not enough.
Last year was dedicated to the great politician and military strategist, the Europe’s knight, Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbeg, giving us a fresh impetus not only to strengthen our Armed Forces in several directions, but also to transform the Army’s brass band and honour guard to meet the Alliance’s standards. I avail myself of this opportunity to kindly appreciate the Minister of Defence and everyone else who finally took the brass band and the honour guard out of the past to the present of this Alliance.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank, on behalf of every Albanian, our great and irreplaceable allies, the United States of America and our European partners, who, 10 years ago, decided to trust in Albania’s capabilities to be a responsible ally and a valuable contributor to this Alliance. And today, I would like to tell our great, strategic allies and partners, that we are and will always remain firm and committed to properly respond to every call from the Euro-Atlantic Alliance.
These years are the best available evidence why the process of Albania’s integration into the European Union should continue to trust in Albania with the same disposition the Allies showed when approving our country’s NATO membership.
I believe that in a decade as an integral NATO part, Albania has been an embodiment of Mother Teresa’s legendary quote: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
Albania has done, is doing and will keep doing this within the Alliance because our ancestors have left a testament and this Alliance is the most direct opportunity to fulfil it: “The sun of Albanians always rises in the West.”
Thank you!

Postal Address

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Hoge Nieuwstraat 22, 2514 EL The Hague ,
2518 BD The Hague

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