Joint press point
with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and the Prime Minister of Albania, Sali Berisha
JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): Ladies and Gentlemen, the Secretary General, the Prime Minister will each have opening statements, will have time for some questions. Secretary General.
JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (NATO Secretary General): Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. It was a pleasure once again to see coming to NATO Prime Minister Berisha, the foreign minister, defence minister but also in a broader delegation, distinguished members of the opposition, members of parliament. I think we had a good meeting for the past two hours.
And I think I should start by commending Prime Minister Berisha, the government in Albania for the progress made in the different necessary areas needed for reform and needed for the qualification to get an invitation for NATO membership.
As you know those tickets are not being punched yet, no decisions have been made yet on invitations in Bucharest. But at the same time I should underline that many ambassadors commended Albania for the progress made.
What is important? Important is that the reforms become irreversible; that continued effort will be taken, will be made, I should say, in important areas like judiciary reform, electoral reform. Prime Minister Berisha came with a broad delegation to show that great strides have been made in developing a political culture which was, as you know in the past, a point of concern and criticism.
I think the meeting this morning showed that indeed there is a political culture where government and opposition of course have differences. I mean that happens in every democracy. But rather as a culture together, based on a very broad support for Albania's NATO membership in doing things necessary because as you know for reforms, sometimes more just than a parliamentary majority is necessary. So political culture is of the essence.
It is clear that I... and with me the ambassadors praised Albania for its participation in ISAF, in Afghanistan and there's more to come in this regard.
Albania's voice of moderation in the region is I think also a very important element in these very volatile and tensed times in the region, given the discussion on the future status of Kosovo. Also, that is very important indeed.
Now, the most important thing is to see that Albania can finish the marathon... I used this metaphor before. It was used many times in the meeting as well. I told the prime minister in closing the meeting that if Albania would now rest on its laurels, Albania would be wearing them on the wrong place. But I think the ambassador and I were convinced that Albania is not going to rest on its laurels, that it is... that it is going the final mile. Reform should... should be irreversible.
I think we've had a good meeting, Prime Minister, a useful meeting. Please say what you have to say. Welcome.
SALI BERISHA (Prime Minister of Albania): Thank you, Mister Secretary General, it was a great honour, privilege for me to meet you. And I'm very thankful, and also to address the council of ambassadors of NATO members. I came to brief the North Atlantic Council on Albania's progress in the Ninth Membership Action Plan cycle.
I definitely showed all the progress, all our efforts and why... and assure the ambassador that we consider vital... Albania as a working democracy, as a working market economy, as a country which has reformed its armed forces in order to achieve NATO requirements, criteria and to deserve the invitation in the Bucharest Summit.
What it is very positive in my assessment in Albania is a clear evidence of let's call it NATO culture, democratic culture which is the place for the consolidation of the reforms.
In Albania, government and opposition are working together, pledge publicly they will take any step, they will pass any law, they will make any reform to make the country eligible for the invitation in Bucharest Summit.
There has been a clear appreciation of our efforts. But there has been a clear demand of the irreversibility of reforms in our efforts. And I pledge that to the audience. It's... You, Secretary General, talked about marathon. And I definitely agree that the last mile is not an easy one. No, but I pledge also that we'll do every best. And the support that we got today is a great energy and encouragement for us to make it a successful race and to perform better to present the country in Bucharest Summit to be really accountable, eligible for NATO invitation.
APPATHURAI: First question.
Q: (INAUDIBLE) Channel. For Secretary General: You mentioned three fields: judiciary reform, electoral reform, political culture. Do you, and the ambassadors of NATO, think today that Albania has made real progress on this? And how near we are from this point which can be an historical point for Albania and the other two countries? And for the Prime Minister: What the Albanian government can do into the MAP in order to convince the NATO that she deserved this invitation thank you.
SCHEFFER: Let me say that... and repeat basically what I said that I say that great strides have been made. But Albania isn't there yet. And I mentioned the issues. I mentioned the areas. I mentioned the key word: irreversibility.
At a certain stage, NATO will take a political decision, will make up the balance... the balance sheet sort to speak. But I say again, let's not take anything for granted, because it's performance based. And that final piece which is still necessary isn't there yet. But the ambassador and I have shown confidence that Albania will be able to go the extra mile. But there's no guarantee, no tickets punched, no decisions made.
BERISHA: We are now focussed mostly on two major reforms. Judiciary: I expect the law or organization of judiciary which two thirds of articles are reviewed by the commission, legal commission of Parliament in full consensual spirit to be passed before the Bucharest Summit, to be voted in Parliament before the Bucharest Summit. We are... I'm sure that before the summit we'll reach full agreement on the electoral reform. I could not tell that all articles will be voted because it's a process that needs also consultation of ODIHR-OSCE. But what is crucial is to have agreement for the system and other matters and all of us are against "Dushk".
"Dushk" became famous (COUGHING)... as a matter of fact in Albania...(INAUDIBLE)... "Dushk" is an enormous element created by splitting the votes for party, votes for candidate, which is not going to happen more.
APPATHURAI: Next questions.
Q: Paul Ames from the Associated Press. Prime Minister, could you tell us if Albania is considering sending more troops to Afghanistan and also to the European Union's mission in Chad? And Secretary General, could I ask you to comment on the comments by Prime Minister Harper in Canada on the need for more assistance to the troops they have in Kandahar?
BERISHA: Yes, we are considering to send two OMLTs in Afghanistan to help training the military. I met President Karzai last week. He was very happy about... We're working with NATO member countries in order to send our small units, OMLTs are small units. We are considering. We are talking with EU mission to send in Chad also a unit, a company to help there as well.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: My answer would be that I spoke to the Manley Panel, the Manley Commission, Committee. I saw their report. I saw....I noted of course Prime Minister's Harper reaction to the report. We wait now for the parliamentary debate in Canada and for the result on the proposals made by the Manley Commission. And you can rest assured that the results of the Canadian parliamentary debate will be taken very seriously in NATO, will be closely followed as we do in all 26 member States. In other words, let's wait for the parliamentary debate and then we will certainly have bridges to cross, which we will certainly cross.
APPATHURAI: Thanks, there...
Q: Aris Bulgul (?) from the Albanian Satellite Television. Secretary General, you have met also the Prime Minister of Croatia, Macedonia1. No tickets are punched for the three countries. And this is a performance based process. But where does Albania stand if we can compare with the two other countries. Will they all together come in NATO? How far we are really from this decision? And for the prime minister, this has been a long run, marathon done by a reform, done by many governments. I'm sure that we have the invitation, you will say that this was the merit of your government. But if you don't get the invitation, which will be your part of responsibility? Thank you.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Let me start by saying nice try, I'm not going to answer your question for reasons you'll be able to understand. The only thing I can say is all jokes apart that as you know this is performance based, but it's not package deal. This is based on individual performance. So you cannot start comparing the one with the other. It's on individual performance. But the question was a very good one. That's the reason perhaps why you don't get an answer.
BERISHA: Today, I'm here with a very strong representation of the Albanian opposition which reflects the.... not only the contribution but also the overall Albanian support to NATO membership. Now, definitely, we spare no effort to deserve the invitation. We'll lose never our... our will to be a NATO member. This is our Atlantist orientation could not wait. No, it's a definite one of several of the decisions.
APPATHURAI: Last question.
Q: Secretary General, question....Mark John from Reuters, the OSCE's election, observation mission has complained about restrictions being placed on its observers in Moscow, in terms of number and duration. Do you share that concerns that the election in March may not be adequately observed?
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well, my answer will be that I hope it will be adequately observed. In one of my previous incarnations as Chairman of the OSCE, a few years ago, I had of course a lot to do with ODIHR and with the observation of elections. And I hope what is relevant for other nations will be relevant for Russia so that a sufficient number of election... observateurs can be sent in other words. Thank you.
APPATHURAI: I'm sorry that's all the time we have for.
BERISHA: Thank you.
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