Joint press conference
with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama
Prime Minister Rama, Edi, it is great to see you again.
Thank you for that warm welcome. It is a pleasure to be back in Tirana.This year we mark NATO’s 70thanniversary. And ten years since Albania joining the Alliance. So I really appreciate this opportunity and am glad to be able to mark this important anniversary together with you.
Ever since you joined, Albania has been a committed and highly valued NATO Ally. Albania has forces serving in NATO’s multinational battlegroup in Latvia. And I want to pay tribute to the two brave Albanian soldiers who lost their lives in the tragic accident in Camp Ādaži last month. So please accept my condolences. My thoughts and deepest condolences go out to their loved ones, and to the people of Albania. Your troops also help build greater stability as part of NATO’s KFOR mission in Kosovo. And you help us fight international terrorism by contributing troops to our training mission in Afghanistan.
NATO is also committed to the security of Albania. We are investing 51 million euro to modernise the existing facilities at the Kuçovë air base. Including projects on fuel storage and logistics. This will help all of us to be more effective, more resilient, and more secure. And it shows how NATO, through its investment programmes, is investing in NATO countries such as Albania.
Through hard work and dedication, Albania is setting an example in promoting peace and stability in the Western Balkans. The European Commission has recommended that the EU open accession talks with Albania. It is important that this progress continues. NATO is an Alliance of democracies. In democracies there will always have differences and debates. This is not a weakness. It is at the heart of what makes our democracies strong.
But political violence contradicts our democratic values. It is absolutely unacceptable. So I call on all political actors to behave responsibly and with restraint. And to show the political consensus necessary for continued Euro-Atlantic integration; and to resolve any difference through dialogue and established political processes. Because this contributes to a better future for the people of Albania, and for the whole region.
Prime Minister, Dear Edi. It is great to be here. Thank you again for Albania’s strong commitment to our Alliance. And for your personal commitment to our Alliance and your strong leadership in guiding Albania on its Euro-Atlantic path.
Question [Top Channel] [Translated]: [inaudible] Top Channel Television. A question for both Mr Stoltenberg and the Prime Minister: in the last months, we have seen a number of protests in Serbia, Montenegro and Albania, where opposition has handed over the parliamentary debate and has refused to take part in the upcoming elections on 30th June. From your information, are there data that suggests that there is a Russian influence in these protests, which seeks to have destabilised Balkans far from Euro-Atlantic standards? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: So, political debate, political disagreement, that’s part of democracy and that is not a sign of weakness, that’s actually a sign of strength. But what is not acceptable is any use of violence and any attempt to undermine democratic institutions. And therefore I call on the full respect for our democratic institutions in all member countries. NATO is a political military alliance which is built on some core values, democracy, the rule of law, democratic institutions are of course an important part of that and therefore any disagreements have to be resolved through political dialogue and through participation in democratic processes, and elections are of course a core part of democratic processes in our member countries, in NATO Allied countries, including in Albania.
And therefore I call on all political actors to participate and to contribute in a dialogue and to resolve differences through dialogue and not by undermining democratic institutions. We have seen attempts by Russia to try to meddle in our democratic institutions and domestic political processes in different countries, including try to meddle in democratic processes in NATO Allied countries. When it comes to the situation in this country, in Albania, I will leave it to the Prime Minister to comment on that specifically. But any attempt to interfere, to meddle in domestic political processes, is always unacceptable. What we have to do is to support our democratic institutions and solve disagreements/differences through democratic processes and through political dialogue.
Edi Rama [Prime Minister of Albania] [Translated]: First, it's not a secret or maybe it's the biggest public secret I would say, that Russia's approach to NATO, to the European Union, to integration processes is not a friendly approach. Second, I would like to underline the fact that in no NATO member country there has been or there has happened what is happening here, and what some main opposition forces are warning of and apparently will try to stage it here, it would be unquestionably an indelible stain for our country as a NATO member, which is not a military Alliance, but it's a military Alliance of a number of countries that share values and principles that are not negotiated. Third, of course something like this is not in favour of a country, does not coincide with the interests, values, principles, neither of NATO or the European Union, and as such [inaudible] it will lead to the mill of those, it will bring water to the mill of those who don’t want the full integration of the Western Balkans, either in NATO or in the EU.
Question [Report Television] [Translated]: Report Television. A joint question: how do you rate the political situation in Albania from internal domestic or external actors? Is there any risk to instability and, in this condition, will NATO speed up its investment in Kuçovë base?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: So, we will move on with the programme, with investments in the air base as planned. The political turmoil, the tensions we have seen will not affect that decision and will not affect the way we implement this decision. Because this is a decision made based on advice from our military commanders, from our military planners, and we have a budget, we have a programme and then we invest or upgrade military facilities, including this air base in Albania. And we will continue with that. So, for me, this is just an example of how NATO is important for Albania, but also how Albania is important for NATO. We support each other. NATO is a way to bring countries together, 29 Allies, and as long as we stand together, as long as we are united, we are safe.
And the reason for NATO to be strong and to also invest more in defence is that that’s the best way to prevent a conflict. Deterrence and defence has kept us all safe for 70 years and will continue to do so in the future, as long as we continue to stay united. So, I once again thank Albania for its contributions to our Alliance, for the contributions to NATO missions and operations, and also for the people you send to different NATO activities, including the people you have at the NATO Headquarters, the ministers, the people that participate in NATO decision making, because you are around the table together with 28 other Allies. So, once again, thank you for your strong contribution to our Alliance.
Edi Rama [Prime Minister of Albania]: Just as Secretary General said, the decision to invest in the air base of Kuçovë and the investment programme to transform that base into an integral part of NATO infrastructure cannot be discussed. And I will add to that, that in Albania we will never allow to happen any form of destabilisation that might affect the image of our country, beyond the affection brought to this image by the organisation of violent manifestations, in a small perimeter and without popular support. I am sure when I say this, because I am sure that every citizen and every Albanian who loves this country, irrespective of what they think about this government, whether they vote of not, for the majority they are not going to participate in the process which would prove the notorious thesis of Albanian's enemies that Albanians are incapable of building a state and not respecting their own rules.
And the last thing, this is not a manifestation of major concern, popular concern, it is a political staging and it has no possibility or chance of going beyond the political stage. We are going to hold elections as an [inaudible] democratic process. If the opposition or whatever opposition party deliberately or legally is prevented to join elections, elections will not be democratic. But if someone does not like to join elections, this doesn’t make elections undemocratic. It's time that we put an end to a very protracted history of political whims vis a vis the democratic process. Once again, I want to thank the Secretary General and, as I have assured him during our talk, I want to assure him again that all our commitments vis a vis the Alliance are commitments that we will abide by to the end. On the other hand, I am certain that even in this artificially staged process, Albania, as a NATO member, is not going to stain its image or the calm of Euro-Atlantic Alliance. Many thanks.