by H.E. Mr. Lulzim Basha Minister of Foreign Affairs of Albania at the signature of the Protocols of Accession of Albania and Croatia
Mr. Secretary General
Mr. Foreign Minister of the Republic of Croatia
Excellencies Ambassadors of the Member Countries of NATO
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with a profound sense of honor and privilege that I address the North Atlantic Council on this very special day.
Three months ago at Bucharest, NATO invited Albania and Croatia to start accession talks that would lead to the fulfillment of a paramount national aspiration of Albanians, full membership into NATO. Today, we bring that process one step closer to completion by marking the successful termination of the negotiations between Albania and NATO and signing the Accession Protocols.
Today, marks the crowning of Albania s long and determined efforts as well as her achievements. It has taken a lot of hard work and perseverance, unwavering commitment as well as precious help from our friends and partners in the Alliance.
I take this opportunity to reiterate to this Council our gratitude for the outstanding support and cooperation offered throughout these years. My gratitude also goes to the Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer and the International Staff for their tireless and precious contribution.
Throughout these years, Albania has marked substantive progress in all its reforms. It has strengthened its democratic institutions and consolidated the rule of law. Albanian economy is one of the fastest growing in the region with immense potential for the future. Business climate is very favorable and increasingly attractive to foreign investors. The electoral and judicial reforms are progressing rapidly backed by strong political consensus.
Albania is a pillar of stability in the region. Albanian foreign policy projects moderation, dialogue and regional cooperation as its core values. Albania and Albanians believe in, and strongly support the European and Euro Atlantic project of the region.
Albanian armed forces have undergone substantial transformation and modernization and serve proudly today side by side their NATO allies.
The Bucharest Summit invitation confirmed these achievements.
I carry with me the resolve of the Albanian Government and indeed of the entire political establishment and of the Albanian people to continue down the path of reforms so as to further consolidate the democratic institutions, the rule of law, human rights and freedoms as well as to further progress towards a modern and developed economy based entirely upon free market values.
I take this opportunity on behalf of the Albanian Government and the Albanian people to express our full faith for a rapid ratification process.
With Albania and Croatia well on their way to full membership in NATO our region has become safer and more secure than ever before. The continuation of NATOs open doors policy conveys a strong message of encouragement to reformers in the other countries of the region that we soon hope to welcome in our midst.
Mr. Secretary General
I would like to confirm that Albania accepts in full all obligations and commitments of the North Atlantic Treaty, to meet the requirements of NATO membership as laid out in the 1995 Study on NATO Enlargement and to respect the obligations and positions that have been spelled out during the recent accession talks.
Albania adheres to NATO s Strategic Concept, intends to participate fully in NATO s military structure and collective defense planning and will continue to commit forces and capabilities for the full range of Alliance missions.
Albania undertakes to allocate sufficient financial resources for the implementation of its commitments upon accession to the Alliance and is resolute to maintain its current share of the defense budget at 2 percent of the GDP.
Albania recognizes and accepts that the Alliance relies upon commonality of views based on the principle of consensus and will work for consensus in the Alliance.
Mr. Secretary General
Seldom has a nation that fought for its freedom ridden so lonely into the horizons of its history for so long. Isolation, imposed or self inflicted marked my nation’s history. It is a history of relentless pursuit of the European dream. We fought hard and suffered a lot. But the future is born through sacrifice.
In our own twilight struggle for freedom we forged our national aspiration to once again ride together with the free people of the Euro-Atlantic family.
Today as accession protocols are signed Albanians rejoice at the profound significance of this moment in our national history. Never again will our quest to protect our freedoms be a lonely one.
We will ride and rise together, never again separated by tyranny or oppression; joined at the heap by our common values of love of freedom, respect for human dignity and equal opportunities under the law. These values we hold dear to our hearts, these truths that we hold self evident are the enzymes of our common blood, pillars of our common identity, it is what unites us and makes us stronger, it is what we fight for and lay the lives of our servicemen and women in harm’s way each time these values are threatened.