“Albania’s NATO commitment is a commitment to the region”

“Albania’s NATO commitment is a commitment to the region”

By Ilir Meta  In the capacities of the President of the Republic and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Albania, but especially as a witness and protagonist of my country’s nearly 30-year-old Euro-Atlantic journey, I would like to share with

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Editorial: For whom the bell tolls? The foreshadow of regress is already here

Editorial: For whom the bell tolls? The foreshadow of regress is already here

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL This week, the majority of the MPs in the Dutch parliament took a vote to ask to their government for the return of the visa regime with Albania. The dramatic development included several political parties in the

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Anti-Chinese hysteria as the wrong response approach

TIRANA TIMES OP-ED The higher ranks of the Albanian Executive, from the Prime Minister himself to the Minister of interior Affairs and the Minister of Infrastructure down to the Albanian police chiefs seem to have found an incorrect and dangerous

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Editorial: Twice the crime, twice the terror: a day of reckoning for Albania and its security

Editorial: Twice the crime, twice the terror: a day of reckoning for Albania and its security

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL It is the most bitter of ironies that in the same time when Albania celebrates the 10th anniversary of NATO membership, a membership into the strongest, most efficient and prestigious security alliance in the world, the security

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The saga of foreign affairs fake drama persists

TIRANA TIMES OP-ED Another week, another important press conference with the presence of none less than the foreign affairs minister who has to communicate something of crucial importance to the Albanian public. He is urging the holders of diplomatic passport

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Serbia’s ‘Greater Albania’ project

Serbia’s ‘Greater Albania’ project

By Janusz Bugajski Serbia’s government may be planning to eliminate Kosova statehood by supporting a “Greater Albanian” project. Since the break-up of Yugoslavia, officials in Belgrade have toyed with various solutions that would permanently settle relations between Serbs and Albanians and

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The challenges of Albanian democratic consolidation

The challenges of Albanian democratic consolidation

By Dr. Elez Biberaj Albania is facing its most serious predicament since its implosion in 1997 – a deteriorating political situation, the practical dismantling of the check-and-balance system, and a seemingly collapsed judiciary.  Institutions that sustain a rational, all-inclusive, democratic decision-making process are weak. Polarization is striking and there is

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Editorial: The Foreign Policy and Foreign Service in jeopardy: Bring back the law

Editorial: The Foreign Policy and Foreign Service in jeopardy: Bring back the law

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL It has been the consistent constructively critical approach of this paper to keep the actors of foreign policy accountable by carefully examining their positions, narratives and actions. Recently there has been ample material to be critical of

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A Few Words on the Eventual Candidacy of Fredi Beleri for Himara’s Mayorship

A Few Words on the Eventual Candidacy of Fredi Beleri for Himara’s Mayorship

By Nikollaq Neranxi * The head of OMONIA, Fredi Beleri aims to present his candidacy to become Mayor of the Municipality of Himara and such an effort has been made by him in the past local elections but without success

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Editorial: Make no mistake: the Crisis is exacerbating!

Editorial: Make no mistake: the Crisis is exacerbating!

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL There is an expression in Albanian “from rain to hail” that captures with some needed simplicity the development of the complex and problematic political situation nowadays.  The persistence of the majority of actors, both national and international,

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                    [post_content] => By Ilir Meta 

In the capacities of the President of the Republic and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Albania, but especially as a witness and protagonist of my country’s nearly 30-year-old Euro-Atlantic journey, I would like to share with you some views and stands about this important process. 

After the great political upheavals and transformations that took place during the 1990s, Albania inherited a completely militarized state based on the concept of ‘the entire people ready to serve as soldiers’ who would fight against the two superpowers of that time, by consuming every year up to 20% of our country’s citizens’ GDP.

The new era of political pluralism, the first steps taken towards the rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights, a free market economy, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, were accompanied by a strong political willingness to join the Western collective security and the European values as well.

Albania, in 1994 was among the first four countries belonging to the former Eastern Camp that signed the PFP initiative with NATO and during the 1999 Washington Summit, it was involved and included in the MAP program by being accepted as an aspiring country.

We celebrated in Tirana, just a few days ago, the 10th anniversary of our NATO membership marking one of the most important dates in Albania’s and Albanians’ modern history and an historic event not only for our country, but also for the Western Balkans region.

This process would not have been successful without the sincere support and assistance provided by our friends and partners: NATO member countries.

Albania, during its NATO accession process, has undergone profound transformations, faced and overcame difficult challenges, and has marked tremendous achievements.

Domestic political transformations, constitutional and legal, economic system reforms, but especially the deep reform in our foreign policy, security and defense system, constitute the most prominent achievements of my country in fulfilling the obligations required to join NATO.

Establishing the democratic civilian control over security and defense structures and transforming Albanian Armed Forces from a people’s army with Cold War concepts into a modern small and professional army is the most impressive aspect of this process.

I would like to stress that not only during this deep transformation process of Albanian society, but even at the present day, the constant support of Albanian citizens (over 90% of them), and that of the public opinion, civil society and the broad political and inclusive consensus are the elements that highlight the case of Albania’s membership in NATO, showing therefore not only the political orientation, but above and first of all, the orientation and Western affiliation of the Albanians.

Our commitment to NATO and our engagement does not serves only our national security and our country’s development, but above all, it represents a great responsibility to serve the peace, stability and security of our region, of the Mediterranean one and beyond them as well.

Albania’s geostrategic position is a challenging potential in the interest of NATO’s engagement but at the same time an envious and attractive ground for the ambitions and goals of other state and non-state actors aimed at weakening the Alliance, the division of the European Union and undermining the cooperation and mutual trust that unites us in NATO and in the European Union as well.

Therefore Albania strongly supports the “Open Doors” policy to expand the Alliance with the other countries of our region.

We are convinced that Montenegro’s accession into NATO was a just and necessary action taken to have a regional and geostrategic impact. The Alliance proved its strength, power and determination by successfully challenging serious attempts aimed at forcing this process to fail.

We are happy today for the end of the lengthy saga of the dispute between Greece and the Republic of North Macedonia and the signing of the Prespa Agreement, because I am convinced that the membership of our neighboring country in NATO and in the European Union too marks another cornerstone of security and the stability of the Western Balkans.

Albania thinks that the acceleration of Kosova’ steps and those of the remaining countries of our region towards NATO and European Union would serve not only the long-term security and stability of the Balkans, but also the economic cooperation and growth and the increase of foreign investments, mainly from the North Atlantic Alliance and of the European Union member countries.

The legacy from the not so distant and bitter past, is still alive in the region. The prejudices, particularly the ethnic ones, continue to pop up and to hinder the indispensable process of reconciliation and cooperation among the countries and peoples in the region, – a vital challenge for its security and future.

My country, which once was a consumer of security, today is a contributor to the stability and security in our region and beyond it.

Albania will take over the OSCE Chairmanship-in-Office in 2020 and is prepared for that challenge.

The increasing ambitions and the “geo-strategic expansion” of third actors, state or non-state actors in the Western Balkans and beyond it, remain a potential and challenging threat and danger for both the Western Balkans and the Alliance per se.

Therefore, we deem that the NATO’s role and continuation of its presence in Kosova and our region, is crucial for the peace and Euro-Atlantic values.

Our Euro-Atlantic agenda is faced today also with the increasing threat of the religious radicalization and terrorism, with violent extremism, with foreign fighters and the consequences of their war, with illegal migration and human and narcotics trafficking, which threaten and endanger our national interests and those of the Alliance.

Yet again, the current world order appears to face major challenges of balances of powers.

New potential conflicts, the crisis of multilateralism, new forms of international cooperation, cyber and hybrid attacks, and the emerging of new economic powers with obvious and noticeable ambitions for geopolitical expansion, are threatening the current and the future of our societies.

The rapid pace of globalization, climate changes, the fight to establish the monopoly over resources and energy corridors are issues that have sparked intense debates in the framework of transatlantic relations trying to challenge them.

Under such conditions, we need to strengthen our partnership and mutual trust within the Alliance, to enhance and increase our co-operation, to share our experiences and information, especially among the relevant specialized agencies and security structures.

Albania guarantees to fulfill its responsibilities, about its engagement, commitment and solidarity enshrined in the principle of “the collective defense and security” of each NATO member country and of the strategic interests of the Alliance.

Albania has made available its entire infrastructure to the benefit of collective defense and the Alliance’s operations and military exercises by demonstrating itself as a reliable partner and leader in all regional initiatives with a view to enhance the confidence among the countries of the region, strengthening the cooperation and sharing of its membership experience.

In its 10 years of membership, Albania remains a major contributor to the implementation of United States and NATO initiatives and projects, contributing to peacebuilding and increasing mutual trust and stability in the region.

After its accession, Albania increased its ambitions and contributions of the NATO’s obligations by receiving deservingly in 2012 its official appreciation as “one of the 5 model countries for reforms, its defense budget, fulfillment of obligations and contributions for NATO” thanks to the 500 persons at the same time contribution placed at the disposal of the Alliance.

During its 10 years of membership, Albania has carried out important defense modernization projects such as the: Naval Space Monitoring, Patrol Ships, Helicopters, Special Forces, new Uniforms, High Security Course, Strategic Studies Center, digitalization of personnel data, the exemplary project of demolition of inherited ammunition (about 300,000 5 tons of ammunition), creating the museum and image of the Armed Forces; signing of several understanding agreements regarding Special Forces, Intelligence, Paris Protocol / SOFA, exchanging the classified information, etc.

Ever since 1996, my country has contributed to international missions alongside allied countries with about 8,000 men and women in uniform, a significant figure for a country with modest opportunities and counting on a relatively small population.

Almost all of our military personnel have contributed and taken part in NATO missions, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chad, Mali and Kosova.

By actually contributing to the international operations of the Alliance and the European Union with 210 military personnel, we are ranked third when it comes to percentage of the population for contributions to international operations.

Albania is seriously engaged in the Global Coalition for the destruction of the so-called Islamic State, and developing new capabilities and technologies to tackle the terrorist threat and to manage the consequences of a terrorist attack by substantially contributing to this very important challenge.

In the framework of its commitment in the global counter-terrorism efforts my country has taken concrete steps to establish the Center of Excellence combating the phenomenon of Terrorist Foreign Fighters.

The selection of Kuçova’s as the location of NATO’s modern air base is a strategic investment to the benefit of our national security, region and projects and also of the long-term goals of the Alliance in Western Balkans and beyond it, and also the expression of the mutual trust and appreciation of Albania’s contributions to the North Atlantic Alliance.

Any commitment and project that serves the strategic goals of the Alliance and strengthening of its role in the Balkans will enjoy my support for the timely and serious implementation as a major and national obligation.

I will urge and encourage the increase of the defense budget during the upcoming years because it is a priority and also as a commitment and engagement to the Alliance.

I am convinced that in this way, we will efficiently and proactively respond and answer to the new threats, dangers and challenges of security and improving the spirit of solidarity within the Alliance.

Ladies and gentleman,

On March 24th, 1999, NATO’s intervention in Kosova marked an extraordinary mission that not only prevented a humanitarian catastrophe and brought to an end the killing and ethnic cleansing of Albanians, but above all, established the peace and contributed to the security and stability of the region.

I reiterate my deep gratitude to the United States and to all the member countries that successfully completed that noble mission.

“We won the war, but you are the ones who need to gain the peace.” – stated former United States President Clinton during his visit to Kosova, that took place in November of 1999.

Albania, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, is determined not only to preserve this peace, but also to seriously remain committed to the common geostrategic challenges that the Alliance faces in the region and beyond it.

It is ready to take on all the responsibilities required from it, and to particularly fulfilling its irreplaceable role as a factor of stability in the region, as a tireless promoter of regional cooperation and integration, as a firm supporter of the NATO’s “Open Doors Policy” and as an Alliance’ strategic partner by following and implementing a coherent and credible foreign policy.

While expressing my warm congratulations on the occasion of the Alliance’s 70th anniversary and thanking you for your attention, I would like to extend to you the invitation to visit my country which, as you may know, enjoys a special cultural heritage, possesses a marvelous tourist seashore and mountainous environment, but above all, cherishes a unique hospitality that you cannot find anywhere else.

*This speech was held at the NATO Defense College in Rome 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL 

This week, the majority of the MPs in the Dutch parliament took a vote to ask to their government for the return of the visa regime with Albania. The dramatic development included several political parties in the Netherlands who are also well presented in the governing positions. This decision will not materialize soon and the relevant ministers have already presented the arguments against it. Also in any case the EU is bound to strike it down give its existing regulations. However, more than a decade after the visa regime was lifted for Albania, such a development risks to put in jeopardy, even in just rhetoric, one of the most significant achievements in the post-transition phase. The damage is already done giving Albania a hard hit on its already fragile image, discouraging investment and putting another dark a looming shadow also on its perspective.

To be fair, this decision of the Dutch MPs is a biased indictment of the Albanian people and society built on perceptions that should have not been generalized. The situation of Albanian crime in the country or in other countries of the EU, exaggerated as it is often by the media, would not warrant this decision alone, unless it was coupled with an evaluation that Dutch politicians are implicitly making about the country. This decision is translated into a position of the Netherlands, a key EU member state, that Albania is a captured state by organized crime.

It is one of the hardest blows to the image of the country and a very gloomy foreteller of negative outcome of the EU Council meeting that will decide the fate of opening the negotiations. How can a country that favors returning the visa regime simultaneously agree to open accession negotiations with Albania?

In the midst of this crisis, Albanian politicians instead of assessing the dramatic damage being done are continuing with their domestic crisis or their fake indifference. The government though the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is downplaying the realistic probability of the decision, being turned into policy, willingly ignoring in the process its significance and the signal its ends to other skeptical EU states. Unbelievably the Minister of Internal Affairs justifies the current increase of serious crimes by complaining that the opposition protest are consuming attention and resources. Equally ridiculous and farfetched are the declarations of the Deputy Prime Minister and the head of the majority’s parliamentary group that this development has been reached due to the friendships and lobbying of the leader of the Albanian opposition in the Netherlands. Trying to portray Lulzim Basha as holding a parliamentary majority of the Netherlands under his sway is an ultimate irony on the claimers themselves. 

So the ultimate outcome is that alarming bells rings deaf for everyone who should take responsibility and action over it.

In times like this it would have made sense for visionary politicians with the nation’s interest at heart to join forces and turn up together, with resolve and clarity and ask for clarifications from the Dutch Parliament over such an aggressive decision upon all the Albanians citizens. They would have to work hard and lobby together to protect the freedom of movement which is so sensitive to all their constituents and was very well deserved by Albania through fulfilling all conditions in the relevant roadmap.

Albanians do not the isolation that they were subjected to from the absurd visa regime for years. Neither do they deserve the politicians who are not lifting a finger to protect them from this dangerous and humiliating let down.  

 
                    [post_title] => Editorial: For whom the bell tolls? The foreshadow of regress is already here 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-04-12 09:35:24
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES OP-ED

The higher ranks of the Albanian Executive, from the Prime Minister himself to the Minister of interior Affairs and the Minister of Infrastructure down to the Albanian police chiefs seem to have found an incorrect and dangerous way to shift their part of responsibility in the latest grave breach of security that happened with the heist at the international airport. The collective anti-Chinese hysteria in the narrative style of their press conferences is not just a lack of ethics but resembles downright racism and reflect a deep-seated lack of respect and failure to take their own responsibilities. It is unclear what would the same people say were it to be the former concessionary owners. Would they be blaming “the Germans” or “the Europeans”?

Each of these high ranking heads of the key executive cabinet posts have failed spectacularly to acknowledge their responsibilities according to their specific sectors, with the special focus on the Minister of Interior Affairs. There seems to have been an additional violation of an order given by his predecessor, after the same incident happened there years ago, that the police forces should accompany significant transfers of money sums. The same logic is valid for the Minister of Infrastructure who can rile away at the private company but needs to do more than just fire the Head of the Civil Aviation in return for her line ministry’s share of the fault.

The private concession which manages among others the security within the perimeter of the tarmac should of course be held accountable for its failures. This can be very well done without any discriminatory labels about their country of origin which happens to be one of the strategic investors of the region and has a very long and strong relation with Albania.

The state might be within its rights to restore official control of the airport by its own police forces and army as it has done in the last hours. It is within its rights to investigate the private firm that is supposed to take care of the security and the concession that has subcontracted it. However no state official, not even ministers and the head of the cabinet have the right to use derogatory comments that are useful to divert blame but are totally unfit for a serious official communication.  

 
                    [post_title] => Anti-Chinese hysteria as the wrong response approach 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL 

It is the most bitter of ironies that in the same time when Albania celebrates the 10th anniversary of NATO membership, a membership into the strongest, most efficient and prestigious security alliance in the world, the security in its only international airport is breached so violently, so frighteningly for the second time in less than three years.

The strategic importance of the international airport “Nene Tereza”, located in Rinas, is very well-known. The famous bank robbery that happened in 2016 at around the same spot made headlines and was marked down as one of the gravest breaches of national security. And now comes another. Extremely well-organized criminals, equipped with weapons and even grenades, some of them masked with silicone face masks as to be rendered entirely non-recognizable, using a van again bitterly and ironically marked as ‘Financial Investigation’ stole away the stash of money that was being deposited on the plane to be flown to Austria. Possessing internal information and likely internal assistance as well the group then proceed to burn their car and escape. The police during their chase assassinated one of them, well-known for previous criminal records both in Albania and in Greece. However no further arrests have been made and the rest of the culprits together with the money are on the run.

One can only imagine the terror and shock of the passengers observing this from their plane windows. If this was a group of terrorists they could have easily entered the plane and possibly even flown it to hit European targets easily reachable in a very short time.

It is entirely unacceptable for a crime of such intensity and terror, of such high impact in this specific location to be repeated twice. It is unforgivable.  This is not only on the police but on the entire apparatus that is supposed to keep the only international airport safe: the airport from which the US Assistant Deputy Secretary of State had flown in just hours ago. The airport from which our troops leave for missions in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of NATO. The airport that every day sees thousands and thousands of citizens, families and businesses walk through it taking for granted their peace and safety.

The security and law enforcement agencies in Albania are facing a day of shame but also most importantly a day of reckoning. It is of utmost importance to overhaul the entire security, to find and keep accountable the authors of this heinous crime and to rethink strategically the obligations related to internal and external security of Albania as a NATO member state.  

 
                    [post_title] => Editorial: Twice the crime, twice the terror: a day of reckoning for Albania and its security 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES OP-ED

Another week, another important press conference with the presence of none less than the foreign affairs minister who has to communicate something of crucial importance to the Albanian public. He is urging the holders of diplomatic passport to return them since they will be annulled. Apparently most of them, around 300, have been issued not in accordance to the legal requirements.

Another announcement of administrative nature which stipulates that the law and the regulations have been breached but that no measures shall be taken to identify and keep culprits accountable.

Another press conference and another chance of the minister to be sadly used in the ongoing, otherwise- almost- silent internal fight between the head of the majority and the departed minister of foreign affairs. A war that showed one of its battles in the latter’s parliament speech where he denounced the arrogance and overall approach with which the majority is handling the political crisis and appealed for a deal with the ‘real’ opposition.

If there is a process of reflection and reform for the foreign affairs as the new minister seems to claim, so far there is nothing to it: no substance. Only blitz administrative measures that look radical for a few seconds in the Tv screen until people stop to reflect that nothing is really changing. Those people removed will come back. After all a few of them have been removed before and due to the connections have made their way back to the same or even higher posts. As long as the law is bent and deformed to the will of the governing and their entourage the quality of Foreign Service will remain wanting.

Even for this petty measures regarding the removal of car plates and diplomatic or service passports, a way will be found for those with the right links to reverse them or wait until the noise is abated and claim them back again.

This set of measures to allegedly clean up the ministry and to improve the management of foreign policy is set to fail because it is just an internal political battle with some features of trying to impress the public through the media coverage. It is not a consistent strategic reform to set once and for all the simple meritocratic rules of employment and promotion, of career and privileges.

 
                    [post_title] => The saga of foreign affairs fake drama persists
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                    [post_date] => 2019-04-08 20:28:32
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-08 18:28:32
                    [post_content] => By Janusz Bugajski

Serbia’s government may be planning to eliminate Kosova statehood by supporting a “Greater Albanian” project. Since the break-up of Yugoslavia, officials in Belgrade have toyed with various solutions that would permanently settle relations between Serbs and Albanians and finally eliminate the “Kosova question.” The current focus on territorial partition can be viewed in thisstrategic perspective.
All Serbianleaderssince Slobodan Milosevic have resisted negotiating with the authorities in Prishtina, and onlyacquiesced because of pressure from the EU and the US. They prefer to deal with Tirana and in bypassing Prishtina they deliberately seek to undercut the legitimacy of the Kosova state and its officials.
Tirana has sometimes fallen into this diplomatic trap even though it has firmly supported Kosova’s independence and territorial integrity.In November 2014,Prime Minister Edi Rama paid a historic visit to Serbia, the first by an Albanian premier in 68 years, paving the way for the normalization of relations between the two countries. This was followed a few months later by the first visit by a Serbian prime minister when Aleksandar Vucic travelled to Tirana. Such visits are important to promote regional stability, but they may also disguise a more divisive agenda.
Officials of both major parties in Tirana have periodically claimed that they are the leaders of all Albanians in the Balkans. Such statements, usually made during election campaigns,may be intended to give support to various Albanian communities but they inadvertently assist Belgrade by undercutting Prishtina’s position. Politicians in Kosova do not want rifts with their counterparts in Tirana, and although they view Albania as their historic motherland, they do not consider its politicians as their “elder brothers.”
Belgrade will consider almost any option to avoid recognizing Kosova as an independent state.Having failed to reintegrate the territory into Serbia or to disqualify Kosova on the international arena, it has revisited the concept of a “Greater Albania” that could serve Serbian interests. Partitioning Kosova and merging most of the country with Albaniacould achieve several objectives.
First, for domestic consumption, the government can claim that Serbia has actually benefited by gaining Serb majority areas without recognizing Kosova’sright to exist. Such border changes would evidently ensure greater ethnic cohesion and homogenization and enable Serbs to focus on the future of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The “Greater Serbia” project would have received its most significant boost since the demise of Milosevic.
Second, for an EU audience, Belgrade can claim a breakthrough in stabilizing the Balkans by forging a lasting Belgrade-Tirana compact. This would help the government in moving forward in its bid toward EU membership andappeal to Washington, which is in search ofother permanent regional solutions following the landmark Skopje-Athens agreement.
Third, negotiations fora Belgrade-Tirana accord,depicted as an historic treaty “between Serbs and Albanians,” would serve an additional objective even if they fail by provoking rifts between Albanians in both states.One cannot assume that relations between Tirana and Prishtina will always be trouble free. An undercurrent of resentment of Tosk linguistic and cultural dominance that is periodically expressed could bubble to the surface if Kosova feels it is treated as a second-class partner.
There is also a rational political calculation, in that an accord between Belgrade and Tirana over Prishtina’s headcould marginalize Kosova’s leaders and weaken Kosova’s international position. The new state would be viewed as a mere province of Albania rather than an equal partner. Support in Prishtinafor a loose confederation between Albania and Kosova or a merger through an EU-driven process that dissolves borders does not envisage outright annexation.
A Serbia-Albania agreement also carries loomingthreats to other neighboring states, particularly to Montenegro and North Macedonia.TheAlbanian population in southern Montenegro could be enticed with secession to “join the motherland” and used as a wedge against the government in Podgorica in an effort to reintegrate Montenegro in alarger Serbian state.In North Macedonia, any territorial union between Albania and Kosova could revive the ghosts of separatism among the Albanian population in the western districts and even in Skopje.
In an idyllic world, Albania, Kosova, and Serbia would move toward a common future in the EU where borders would cease to be significantmarkers of ethnic exclusivity. But the region is far from idyllic and the wider Europe itself is now rocked by greater demands for ethnic borders.
*Janusz Bugajski is a Senior Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington DC and host of “Bugajski Hour” and “Bugajski Time, ” television shows broadcast in the Balkans. 
[post_title] => Serbia's 'Greater Albania' project [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => serbias-greater-albania-project [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-04-09 13:34:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-04-09 11:34:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=141291 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 141251 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-04-06 22:57:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-06 20:57:21 [post_content] => By Dr. Elez Biberaj

Albania is facing its most serious predicament since its implosion in 1997 – a deteriorating political situation, the practical dismantling of the check-and-balance system, and a seemingly collapsed judiciary.  Institutions that sustain a rational, all-inclusive, democratic decision-making process are weak. Polarization is striking and there is no political center, which makes compromise very difficult.

Albania finds itself in the unenviable position of being one of Europe’s poorest and most corrupt countries. Although Albania has averaged an annual real GDP growth of 4 percent, one third of the population still lives in extreme poverty, subsisting on less than one dollar per day. Many Albanians believe the current system is rigged against them.  They have lost hope, seeing little opportunity to shape their country’s future.  According to recent Gallup surveys, some 60 percent of Albanians would like to emigrate. Since the early 1990s, more than a million-and-a-half Albanians have emigrated, with those between the ages of 20 and 40 leaving in the largest number.  Albania’s population today is estimated at 2.9 million – the same as it was in 1989 – and within the next thirty years is expected to decline to 2.6 million.

Having won a clear mandate in the 2017 elections, Prime Minister Edi Rama has been riding high. But his rule has been tarnished by poor governance, pervasive corruption, and economic mismanagement, and his leadership style has alienated many.

As is the case with some other East European leaders, Rama has become decidedly more authoritarian, corrupt, arrogant, and less transparent. He has attempted to maximize his power, shrinking public space, undermining independent institutions, stacking the judiciary with loyalists under the guise of reforms, and marginalizing the opposition. Rama has instituted a kleptocratic model of governance, granting no-bid contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars to companies close to the government. The patron-client relationship between government officials and prominent businessmen has deformed the government decision-making process, violating the basic rules of the game, distorting market competition, and leaving ordinary Albanians without meaningful ways of effecting change.

The media environment has become less free and independent. The Prime Minister has steadily challenged the very notion of an independent media, launching his own, online outlet, ERTV.  He has steadily undermined the media, using an increasingly aggressive and threatening rhetoric, and characterizing them as “trashcan media.”  His recent attacks on the VOA, for airing a report on collusion between Socialist Party officials and organized crime groups during the 2017 elections, were breathtaking in their audacity.

Many journalists, vulnerable to political and economic pressure, practice self-censorship and avoid reporting about taboo topics. It is troubling that in 2019, the Albanians must rely on the international media, including the VOA, for reporting on sensitive issues.

Rama has refused to address the many scandalous revelations of corruption, including the publication of wiretaps revealing the involvement of senior Socialist officials with organized crime groups in vote buying during the 2017 elections. He has unabashedly provided impunity to high officials despite clear evidence of corruption and collusion with organized crime groups and drug traffickers.

The State Department’s 2019 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, released in March 2019, identified Albania as a key transit country for narcotics distribution and “a base of operations for organized crime organizations operating in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and South America.”  The report listed Albania as a major money-laundering country, and added that, “Official corruption is pervasive and fosters an environment in which drug traffickers are largely able to operate with impunity.” The State Department report noted that justice reforms were undermined by “pervasive corruption.”

It was against this background that the Democratic Party-led opposition decided, in February 2019, to withdraw its deputies from parliament.  This unprecedented step pushedAlbania into a state of increased tensions, which risks violence,governance breakdown, and the postponement of Albania’s EU integration. Rama has dismissed Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha’s demands to resign and create a technical government as simply an attempt to grab power. Despite the urgency of the situation, the Prime Minister has thus far made no serious effort to reach out to the opposition.

There is no question that the Democratic Party and other opposition parties had a litany of legitimate grievances.  But by withdrawing from parliament, they simply abdicated their responsibilities to their electorate and made it easier for Rama to move in a more authoritarian way.  Arguably, Basha could have pursued a two-track policy: remain in parliament and challenge Rama’s governance and power structure, while at the same time mobilize support for nation-wide protests, develop an alternative platform, and work to position his party as best as possible to win the next local and parliamentary elections.  While Albania’s elections have in general been problematic, they offer the best and most realistic opportunity for the opposition to dislodge the governing party.

Basha took this hugely important decision in the absence of a real, honest debate about the rationale and potential risks of such a course and without any serious effort to enlist international support. Few Democrats had the courage and opportunity to question the assumptions under which the decision was made.  As should have been expected, the United States and the European Union expressed support for the government and criticized the opposition.

While Basha has been able to organize large protests in Tirana, it is not clear to what extent the opposition’s message has resonated with the populace.  There has not yet been a critical mass of public pressure that would force Rama to resignor radically adjust his position. The society at large seems disillusioned and increasingly disinterested in politics and unwilling to act. Despite growing discontent with government policies, ordinary Albanians have displayed little enthusiasm for societal activism that would bring much desired changes, apparently believing that they have no influence over the political system.  It is not clear if Basha has a strategy to broaden his party’s appeal and engage the civil society, whichwould help the opposition sustain the protests and convince Rama to compromise. There is a huge disconnect between the means at his disposal and his desired ends. Lack of a road map and Rama’s staying power could lead to an erosion of support for Basha and fragmentation of the opposition bloc.

Rama does not seem to comprehend the magnitude of the challenges his country faces and has adopted an uncompromising position.  The international community’s criticism of Basha’s decision and reluctance to seriously scrutinize the government’s policies and actions, have emboldened Rama, giving him confidence in his grip on power. His strategy has been to portray a sense of normalcy, embark on the offensive with his own rallies, hoping that in due time support for the opposition will vanish.

This is a short-sighted policy.  The longer the crisis continues, the greater the risk that Albania will face a potentially combustible situation.

​Albanians today appear dangerously adrift and without a clear vision for the future.  They seem to have lost trust and confidence in their leaders and in themselves.  They are likely to suffer further setbacks unless they make some critical choices and develop a strategy that will not only reverse their current backsliding but will set their country on a clear democratic path.

In past crisis, Albanian leaders were able to forge, at the last minute, unexpected and face-saving deals.  While there has been a serious breakdown in trust and communication between the government and opposition, there is still time for acompromise to end the cycle of escalation that is essential for maintaining the nation’s social cohesion.  But this requires political will on both sides to deescalate the conflict and pull back from maximalist demands. Thus far, political will has been missing and the current situation could easily settle into a prolonged stalemate.

However, unless Albanian leaders make serious efforts to find a compromise, Albania will likely descend into a quagmire.  An early test will be the local elections, scheduled for June.  It is in the interest of both sides, that the opposition takes part in the elections.  If Basha boycotts the elections, the opposition will deprive its supporters of representation and face the risk of being further marginalized.  On the other hand, it would be shortsighted for Rama to go ahead with the elections in the absence of the opposition’s participation or to attempt to create his own opposition to dislodge the official one.

Current Albanian leaders are facing a crisis of their own making.  Clearly, they have a responsibility to their nation to find ways to de-escalate the conflict and alter their country’s dysfunctional trajectory before Albania slides into a full-blown national emergency, with a high probability of civil conflict. The crisis could be defused with an agreement on the local elections, followed by changes in the electoral code and a deal on holding early parliamentary elections. It has become imperative that the 2008 constitutional changes be revisited with the objective of strengthening independent institutions and empowering the parliament. The current electoral law, which has led to a dangerous distance between the people and their elected representatives, must be changed. There is an emerging consensus that Albania should return to a mixed or winner-take-all system and shift away from the current proportional system.

But ultimately, any arrangement in the absence of a complete national overhaul and real, fundamental reforms will not necessarily deliver a clean break or revitalize the country’s political system.  Albania desperately needs a restart and a national compact – an agreement on shared national goals, and principles of good governance – that would reshape the country’s political order.

The next phase could determine if Albania will evolve into a consolidated democracy or take a pro-authoritarian, one-party direction. The established political leaders, which have dominated the country’s politics since the early 1990s and are responsible for Albania’s lagging behind, have run out of steam and can no longer serve as a catalyst for fundamental change. Let us hope that three decades after the demise of communism, the Albanian society is able to produce new elites that will display the real statesmanship that the road ahead demands.

*Dr. Elez Biberaj is the Director of the Eurasia Division at the Voice of America 

[post_title] => The challenges of Albanian democratic consolidation [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-challenges-of-albanian-democratic-consolidation [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-04-09 13:34:09 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-04-09 11:34:09 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=141251 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 141207 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-04-05 08:46:30 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-05 06:46:30 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL It has been the consistent constructively critical approach of this paper to keep the actors of foreign policy accountable by carefully examining their positions, narratives and actions. Recently there has been ample material to be critical of the foreign policy leadership given the unprecedented passing of the credentials and powers of action from the Prime Minister decreed as Minister of FA, to the deputy minister which poses neither the sufficient knowledge nor the most basic experience to carry out this task in dignified way. Every development since then has unfortunately strengthened this view and warranted our skepticism. In the last week the public appearance of deputy minister Cakaj have only signaled that we are witnessing a new law in Albanian foreign policy. After destroying the sound legal basis for the foreign service with the change of the respective law that opened the doors of embassies and consulates even to the most unworthy, after selectively disregarding even their own law by keeping in service ambassadors who should have retired long ago, the majority is now back at the dangerous game of using the foreign service and the foreign affairs ministry to conduct brazenly an internal political fight. When a foreign affairs minister announces suddenly a press conference, a public appearance the expert public but also the general audience has a feeling that something important has happened. The removal of the car plates indicating diplomatic status from the honorary consuls of various countries in Albania is neither a dramatic development, nor an outstanding achievement. It is a simple procedural step no matter what significance one wants to vest it with. Similarly the removal from their post of a few dozen diplomats accused of being there due to nepotism and corruption is first and foremost a matter for HR management. We have argued before that this removal does not solve any of the structural problems that the Albanian representation abroad and the conduct of foreign policy at home has. After witnessing the appearance of deputy Cakaj and his ill-termed justification of the latest moves, it is safe to say that things are becoming worse. Cakaj delivered sharp indirect accusations to his predecessor implying that he had allowed or even urged nepotism to take over in the Foreign Service. This is a serious accusation that merits a serious follow up in asking for accountability. Otherwise this is pure witch hunt and internal political fight, which seems to be the case here. One cannot help but wonder how depressingly easy the instrumentalization of the key and symbolic figure of foreign minister has become for this majority to carry out blitz attacks on challenging voices that disrupt the serenity of the Prime Minister. This is a new low in Albanian foreign policy, the only remaining hope is that this is the bottom and there is not more space beneath it. The movement up starts with a clear necessary move: bringing back the former law or at least the spirit of requiring and promoting a career model in foreign service, adopting the best models of refreshing the foreign service with well-prepared figures and respecting all legal tenants of hiring and firing practices. This goes in line with what needs to be understood even without mentioning that foreign policy need better never be the arena of any party internal fights.   [post_title] => Editorial: The Foreign Policy and Foreign Service in jeopardy: Bring back the law [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-foreign-policy-and-foreign-service-in-jeopardy-bring-back-the-law [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-04-05 08:47:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-04-05 06:47:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=141207 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 141195 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-04-03 21:29:53 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-03 19:29:53 [post_content] => By Nikollaq Neranxi * The head of OMONIA, Fredi Beleri aims to present his candidacy to become Mayor of the Municipality of Himara and such an effort has been made by him in the past local elections but without success according to information provided by my compatriots of Himara. As a citizen of the area being well acquainted with its problems, I want to express my opinion on this candidacy, as I will do for any candidacy to be announced for that area. I have not known Mr. Fredi Beleri until 2016, when I was involved in the problem of land stealing in our area. I did not have any prejudices on him despite some news on him which had circulated in the past. My goal has been to unite all the inhabitants of Himara around the common worry, which is the theft of our property. I have not been interested in anybody's personal agenda at all. But in more than two years of intensive activity in face of the Mafia involved in property plunder, I realized that Fredi Beleri was not interested in the problem of the theft of properties of Himara people at all. As a matter of fact I was suspicious of that thing because of his approaches about various issues. But it turned into an absolute conviction a few months ago, when Gjikuria Company (friends of Edi Rama) asked the inhabitants of Spile to put their signatures so that works could be started, which means the theft of our properties. In a flagrant way, Fredi Beleri put his signature although he was not the owner of one centimeter of land for which he signed. Thanks to that signature, the Gjikuria Co. brought bulldozers to our lands, which the Himara people have seen with their eyes. This is an issue that is under litigation. So Beleri is not only interested but has become a tool in the plunders' hands. For this very reason, but for many others that is not worth to waste more time to list, I jump to the conclusion that he does not deserve to be considered as a candidate for the Mayor's seat of Himara because it would be an offense to its citizens. * Nikollaq Neranxi is President of the Association for the Protection of Property, Housing, Culture and History of Himara [post_title] => A Few Words on the Eventual Candidacy of Fredi Beleri for Himara's Mayorship [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => a-few-words-on-the-eventual-candidacy-of-fredi-beleri-for-himaras-mayorship [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-04-03 22:13:17 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-04-03 20:13:17 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=141195 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 141148 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-29 08:20:04 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-29 07:20:04 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL There is an expression in Albanian “from rain to hail” that captures with some needed simplicity the development of the complex and problematic political situation nowadays.  The persistence of the majority of actors, both national and international, to view the crisis as something easily manageable with technical tools and to safeguard a semblance of stability at all costs has in fact deteriorated the conditions and made the competing sides even more aggressive. It seems as almost all sides are waiting for something worse to happen in order to steer the direction of events into one side or another. No real constructive dialogue has happened. As the new MPs who clearly do not represent the opposition, despite being applauded by many members the international community, fill up the chairs in the Assembly, the President of the Republic is considering their mandate unconstitutional. Furthermore talk has started over the possibility to implement strategic comprehensive reforms with them. This is extremely dangerous. If a reform of such heightened sensitivity such as the Electoral Reform gets passed with the votes of individuals who are shunned by the opposition parties, the outcome will not only be unsustainable. It will be outright destructive. It is irresponsible of international institutions to even consider such an option and even worse to promote it. We have seen how even consensual reforms voted with large majorities have proven very vulnerable to political crisis. Every step taken brazenly in the face of the crisis will be rebuked as soon as power shifts hands and might prove to be quite problematic even before that. Additionally all sides should make no mistake in assuming that the passing of time and the appeasement approach of the usual arbiters, the internationals, is making the standoff manageable. The majority is weathering the storm with pompous celebratory events filling up public plazas such as the recent party congress. Moreover the congress blatantly assuming routine promoted the candidates for local elections, which are now seriously threatened by boycott of the opposition and therefore have few chances of being conducted in normalcy. The crisis is there and it is exacerbating by the day. It is being increasingly felt by business in the declining tourism and investment interest, by citizens in many aspects of their lives and their future planning. It is a standing issue at the eve of the accession negotiations decision by the EU Council forthcoming in July. Albanian democracy and stability are at an important crossroads which requires strategic and visionary reconsideration as well as careful promotion of novel and comprehensive models of dialogue. The future of the country depends on it.   [post_title] => Editorial: Make no mistake: the Crisis is exacerbating! [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-make-no-mistake-the-crisis-is-exacerbating [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-29 08:21:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-29 07:21:22 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=141148 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 141406 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-04-19 10:23:14 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-19 08:23:14 [post_content] => By Ilir Meta  In the capacities of the President of the Republic and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Albania, but especially as a witness and protagonist of my country’s nearly 30-year-old Euro-Atlantic journey, I would like to share with you some views and stands about this important process. After the great political upheavals and transformations that took place during the 1990s, Albania inherited a completely militarized state based on the concept of ‘the entire people ready to serve as soldiers’ who would fight against the two superpowers of that time, by consuming every year up to 20% of our country’s citizens’ GDP. The new era of political pluralism, the first steps taken towards the rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights, a free market economy, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, were accompanied by a strong political willingness to join the Western collective security and the European values as well. Albania, in 1994 was among the first four countries belonging to the former Eastern Camp that signed the PFP initiative with NATO and during the 1999 Washington Summit, it was involved and included in the MAP program by being accepted as an aspiring country. We celebrated in Tirana, just a few days ago, the 10th anniversary of our NATO membership marking one of the most important dates in Albania’s and Albanians’ modern history and an historic event not only for our country, but also for the Western Balkans region. This process would not have been successful without the sincere support and assistance provided by our friends and partners: NATO member countries. Albania, during its NATO accession process, has undergone profound transformations, faced and overcame difficult challenges, and has marked tremendous achievements. Domestic political transformations, constitutional and legal, economic system reforms, but especially the deep reform in our foreign policy, security and defense system, constitute the most prominent achievements of my country in fulfilling the obligations required to join NATO. Establishing the democratic civilian control over security and defense structures and transforming Albanian Armed Forces from a people’s army with Cold War concepts into a modern small and professional army is the most impressive aspect of this process. I would like to stress that not only during this deep transformation process of Albanian society, but even at the present day, the constant support of Albanian citizens (over 90% of them), and that of the public opinion, civil society and the broad political and inclusive consensus are the elements that highlight the case of Albania’s membership in NATO, showing therefore not only the political orientation, but above and first of all, the orientation and Western affiliation of the Albanians. Our commitment to NATO and our engagement does not serves only our national security and our country’s development, but above all, it represents a great responsibility to serve the peace, stability and security of our region, of the Mediterranean one and beyond them as well. Albania’s geostrategic position is a challenging potential in the interest of NATO’s engagement but at the same time an envious and attractive ground for the ambitions and goals of other state and non-state actors aimed at weakening the Alliance, the division of the European Union and undermining the cooperation and mutual trust that unites us in NATO and in the European Union as well. Therefore Albania strongly supports the “Open Doors” policy to expand the Alliance with the other countries of our region. We are convinced that Montenegro’s accession into NATO was a just and necessary action taken to have a regional and geostrategic impact. The Alliance proved its strength, power and determination by successfully challenging serious attempts aimed at forcing this process to fail. We are happy today for the end of the lengthy saga of the dispute between Greece and the Republic of North Macedonia and the signing of the Prespa Agreement, because I am convinced that the membership of our neighboring country in NATO and in the European Union too marks another cornerstone of security and the stability of the Western Balkans. Albania thinks that the acceleration of Kosova’ steps and those of the remaining countries of our region towards NATO and European Union would serve not only the long-term security and stability of the Balkans, but also the economic cooperation and growth and the increase of foreign investments, mainly from the North Atlantic Alliance and of the European Union member countries. The legacy from the not so distant and bitter past, is still alive in the region. The prejudices, particularly the ethnic ones, continue to pop up and to hinder the indispensable process of reconciliation and cooperation among the countries and peoples in the region, – a vital challenge for its security and future. My country, which once was a consumer of security, today is a contributor to the stability and security in our region and beyond it. Albania will take over the OSCE Chairmanship-in-Office in 2020 and is prepared for that challenge. The increasing ambitions and the “geo-strategic expansion” of third actors, state or non-state actors in the Western Balkans and beyond it, remain a potential and challenging threat and danger for both the Western Balkans and the Alliance per se. Therefore, we deem that the NATO’s role and continuation of its presence in Kosova and our region, is crucial for the peace and Euro-Atlantic values. Our Euro-Atlantic agenda is faced today also with the increasing threat of the religious radicalization and terrorism, with violent extremism, with foreign fighters and the consequences of their war, with illegal migration and human and narcotics trafficking, which threaten and endanger our national interests and those of the Alliance. Yet again, the current world order appears to face major challenges of balances of powers. New potential conflicts, the crisis of multilateralism, new forms of international cooperation, cyber and hybrid attacks, and the emerging of new economic powers with obvious and noticeable ambitions for geopolitical expansion, are threatening the current and the future of our societies. The rapid pace of globalization, climate changes, the fight to establish the monopoly over resources and energy corridors are issues that have sparked intense debates in the framework of transatlantic relations trying to challenge them. Under such conditions, we need to strengthen our partnership and mutual trust within the Alliance, to enhance and increase our co-operation, to share our experiences and information, especially among the relevant specialized agencies and security structures. Albania guarantees to fulfill its responsibilities, about its engagement, commitment and solidarity enshrined in the principle of “the collective defense and security” of each NATO member country and of the strategic interests of the Alliance. Albania has made available its entire infrastructure to the benefit of collective defense and the Alliance’s operations and military exercises by demonstrating itself as a reliable partner and leader in all regional initiatives with a view to enhance the confidence among the countries of the region, strengthening the cooperation and sharing of its membership experience. In its 10 years of membership, Albania remains a major contributor to the implementation of United States and NATO initiatives and projects, contributing to peacebuilding and increasing mutual trust and stability in the region. After its accession, Albania increased its ambitions and contributions of the NATO’s obligations by receiving deservingly in 2012 its official appreciation as “one of the 5 model countries for reforms, its defense budget, fulfillment of obligations and contributions for NATO” thanks to the 500 persons at the same time contribution placed at the disposal of the Alliance. During its 10 years of membership, Albania has carried out important defense modernization projects such as the: Naval Space Monitoring, Patrol Ships, Helicopters, Special Forces, new Uniforms, High Security Course, Strategic Studies Center, digitalization of personnel data, the exemplary project of demolition of inherited ammunition (about 300,000 5 tons of ammunition), creating the museum and image of the Armed Forces; signing of several understanding agreements regarding Special Forces, Intelligence, Paris Protocol / SOFA, exchanging the classified information, etc. Ever since 1996, my country has contributed to international missions alongside allied countries with about 8,000 men and women in uniform, a significant figure for a country with modest opportunities and counting on a relatively small population. Almost all of our military personnel have contributed and taken part in NATO missions, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chad, Mali and Kosova. By actually contributing to the international operations of the Alliance and the European Union with 210 military personnel, we are ranked third when it comes to percentage of the population for contributions to international operations. Albania is seriously engaged in the Global Coalition for the destruction of the so-called Islamic State, and developing new capabilities and technologies to tackle the terrorist threat and to manage the consequences of a terrorist attack by substantially contributing to this very important challenge. In the framework of its commitment in the global counter-terrorism efforts my country has taken concrete steps to establish the Center of Excellence combating the phenomenon of Terrorist Foreign Fighters. The selection of Kuçova’s as the location of NATO’s modern air base is a strategic investment to the benefit of our national security, region and projects and also of the long-term goals of the Alliance in Western Balkans and beyond it, and also the expression of the mutual trust and appreciation of Albania’s contributions to the North Atlantic Alliance. Any commitment and project that serves the strategic goals of the Alliance and strengthening of its role in the Balkans will enjoy my support for the timely and serious implementation as a major and national obligation. I will urge and encourage the increase of the defense budget during the upcoming years because it is a priority and also as a commitment and engagement to the Alliance. I am convinced that in this way, we will efficiently and proactively respond and answer to the new threats, dangers and challenges of security and improving the spirit of solidarity within the Alliance. Ladies and gentleman, On March 24th, 1999, NATO’s intervention in Kosova marked an extraordinary mission that not only prevented a humanitarian catastrophe and brought to an end the killing and ethnic cleansing of Albanians, but above all, established the peace and contributed to the security and stability of the region. I reiterate my deep gratitude to the United States and to all the member countries that successfully completed that noble mission. “We won the war, but you are the ones who need to gain the peace.” – stated former United States President Clinton during his visit to Kosova, that took place in November of 1999. Albania, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, is determined not only to preserve this peace, but also to seriously remain committed to the common geostrategic challenges that the Alliance faces in the region and beyond it. It is ready to take on all the responsibilities required from it, and to particularly fulfilling its irreplaceable role as a factor of stability in the region, as a tireless promoter of regional cooperation and integration, as a firm supporter of the NATO’s “Open Doors Policy” and as an Alliance’ strategic partner by following and implementing a coherent and credible foreign policy. While expressing my warm congratulations on the occasion of the Alliance’s 70th anniversary and thanking you for your attention, I would like to extend to you the invitation to visit my country which, as you may know, enjoys a special cultural heritage, possesses a marvelous tourist seashore and mountainous environment, but above all, cherishes a unique hospitality that you cannot find anywhere else. *This speech was held at the NATO Defense College in Rome  [post_title] => “Albania’s NATO commitment is a commitment to the region” [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albanias-nato-commitment-is-a-commitment-to-the-region [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-04-19 10:23:14 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-04-19 08:23:14 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=141406 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object] => stdClass Object ( [term_id] => 30 [name] => Op-Ed [slug] => op-ed [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 30 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 837 [filter] => raw [cat_ID] => 30 [category_count] => 837 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Op-Ed [category_nicename] => op-ed [category_parent] => 0 ) [queried_object_id] => 30 [post__not_in] => Array ( ) )

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