Mr. Secretary General,
It's a great pleasure to be with you today. I want to thank NATO countries for the assessment of Albania made by the Alliance through the PARP 2007 Report. I take this opportunity to express Albanian support for the new PARP Ministerial Guidance, and the Chairman's report on Euro-Atlantic Partnership.
Euro-Atlantic integration is at the top of the agenda of the Albanian government. We are well aware of the principles of common burden, joint responsibilities and cost-sharing within the Alliance, and we are strongly committed to respect these principles.
Let me be more concrete in what we are doing.
Our national reforms have clearly reflected the messages of the Riga Summit. The core of the transformation of the Albanian Armed Forces is the commitment to build a fully professional force by the end of 2010, three years before our previous plans. Our organization is moving to the joint concept.
We have paid special attention to the future operational capabilities recommended by Riga Summit. Specifically, we have planned to develop 8% of the land component deployable at a given time, and 40% of the total land component ready for potential rotations.
NATO membership is a national endeavor supported by more than 90 % of the Albanian population and all political parties. The Albanian government has already devoted 2% of the GDP to the defense budget by 2008; two years earlier than previously planned, and is committed to maintaining that level of commitment until 2020.
Hand on hand with the fulfillment of constitutional missions, first priority of the new Military Strategy and Long Term Development Plan is given to operational capabilities in support NATO-led missions.
Our current participation in these missions has been a real test, providing considerable experience to our soldiers, serving shoulder-to-shoulder with NATO forces.
We will continue our commitments to peace-support operations in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
We know that Afghanistan is NATO Priority One; therefore the Albanian Government has decided to increase our contribution to the ISAF NATO-led mission by one additional company, together with the Italian contingent in Herat. I take this opportunity to once again extend my appreciation to Minister Parisi for the excellent cooperation.
Albania is committed to provide in the short term a fully operational battalion for NATO-led missions, and in the mid term, a battalion task force of some 1000 personnel, with all necessary National Support Elements. We are also putting emphasis on development of some specialized "niche" capabilities needed by NATO, including EOD, Military Police, CIMIC, a Medical capability and a Host Nation Support capability. On 24-th of this May, the Albanian Prime Minister signed with the Secretary General the participation in NATO-led operation "Active Endeavour* in the Mediterranean.
Albania has also declared 7 units to the NATO Pool of Forces, and has expressed the political will to participate in the NATO Response Force following completion of the NATO Level 2 unit evaluation. A Pool of military and civilian personnel have recently begun advanced training NATO, and less NATO in the Balkans, will soon become a reality.
In this context, we fully support President Ahtisaari's proposal as the basis for a long-lasting solution for peace and stability in Kosovo and the region. Further delays will not help at all.
During his visit to Albania, President Bush expressed a positive evaluation of the progress made by Albania and especially by the Armed Forces. We feel proud for that, we are fully aware that we still have a lot to do; we are providing all of the resources required to support our membership plans, but we still need your support to do it right.
We will do everything in order to receive the invitation in next Bucharest Summit Let me thank you and your countries again for the support provided to Albania and Albanian Armed Forces.