Joint press conference
by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and President of the Republic of Albania, Mr. Bamir Topi
De Hoop Scheffer: Good morning to all of you. Let me say that it gives me great pleasure to receive President Topi of Albania for the first time at NATO in his capacity as head of State, because the president has been here before.
I remember quite vividly my visit to Tirana last year, July, having the privilege of addressing Parliament there and meeting the now President Topi on his turf sort to say.
What we discussed? It goes without saying that we discussed Albania's aspirations to come closer to NATO and finally to become a NATO member. We discussed the scrutiny, the increased scrutiny with which the Allies look at the necessary reforms.
I told the president that these invitations do not come automatically, that it is a process based on performance. And I mentioned more specifically the implementation of the very necessary reforms in the electoral system, the electoral code and the justice system. Not only the necessary law-making but also the implementation of these measures which will be scrutinised by Allies.
And we discussed the importance the Allies attach in this regard to a healthy political culture in Albania where opposition and government can have of course difference of opinion -that's in any democracy- but where you have a healthy political culture and climate.
We discussed defence reform. I commended the President and the Foreign Minister also present for Albania's participation in ISAF in Afghanistan, highly appreciated, as the position and the assistance and help from Albania in the framework of NATO's naval maritime operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean Sea.
We discussed, of course, the region and the moderating voice... the voice of moderation Albania wants to be and, I think, it is, in the difficult process of finding a solution for the State of Kosovo where the Allies, as you know, support the Troika process as it is taking place as we speak at this moment.
In brief, the necessary investments and further reforms are of great importance. The invitation tickets are not punched yet. Further reform is necessary. And I told the President that we, us, me, myself as Secretary General will help and assist in this reform process wherever it is asked and necessary.
Mister President, you're more than welcomed, thank you.
Topi: Greetings. Today, I have a special pleasure which I also expressed during the meeting with the Secretary General to be here for the very first time in the quality of the President of the Albanian Republic. It's a very significant moment for Albania and the Albanian society. At the moment, Albania is getting closer and closer to the institutions, the Euro-Atlantic institutions.
I especially thank Mr. Secretary General for the opportunity of this meeting today and brought back to the attention exactly that excellent address of Mr. Secretary General at the Albanian Parliament who, with his encouraging messages, was a spokesperson of the open doors policy that NATO is applying for the countries who have entered the path of the consolidation of democracies such Albania is, but also other countries in our Balkan region.
I made (INAUDIBLE) a review, a detailed view of the political climate in Albania, the necessity to balance the political climate in reaching its maturity, about the necessity of the collaboration between all the political forces and institutions, not simply to just to express the wish and aspiration for integration, but also to effectively collaborate to meet all the obligations and standards. It is a very significant moment when 94% of the population... of the Albanian population supports very clearly the aspiration to be integrated as soon as possible in NATO.
It is a very significant moment when all the political forces be them of the ruling majority or the opposition are working to serve of this objective. This is the reason why today... during the meeting with the Secretary General are present here Mr. Bufi and Mr. Bea distinctive representatives of the ruling majority and the opposition. There is also the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Basha, and many other colleagues. This demonstrates we're working for this purpose.
I guarantee, Mister Secretary General, that we will deepen the reforms, be them in the justice system, the electoral system as well, by focussing our attention in the fight against organized crime and corruption where realistically there's been more progress.
I also guaranteed him that the role of Albania in the region is a moderating one. Albania at the present is a factor of stability and today is an active participant of the anti-terror bloc by giving its active participation to peacekeeping missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina. And naturally, we have the wish to continue these missions and to enlarge them.
We discussed the bad days of Kosovo where due to its delicate nature, Albania has been in full accordance to the position of the international institutions which have been involved in this process. And Albania would refer the solution of this problem to the plan of President Ahtisaari. We're hoping to have a solution as soon as possible serving to the stability in the region.
Lastly, I express the wish to have Secretary General conduct a future visit of Tirana. Mister Secretary General who is much admired with the Albanian society, also serving to this very significant model for Albania. I would like to thank once again Mr. Secretary General for this opportunity by assuring him about very serious and correct cooperation for us. Thank you.
Q: First question for the Secretary General. Albania is very optimistic about getting an invitation in the next summit with Macedonia and Croatia. But have you, and the member States seen enough results in order to justify this optimism because we just have four months now before us? And the other question for the President, we, the Albanian government and the Opposition have overcome the period of fights but still remains some issues related to the justice reform. And I wanted to know how have you explained to a Secretary General this complicate issue of a general prosecutor?
De Hoop Scheffer: The President can answer first. And I can think about my answer to you.
Topi: We would like to go back to the topic of the reform and the justice system. There was a willingness expressed by all the representatives of the parliamentary political forces about founding a special commission in the Parliament regarding the reform of the judiciary. There's been a concrete step taken when the Parliament began the procedures to found this commission. It has also determined the head of this commission. It is important to specify this that the head of this commission would Spiro Peci, the representative of the Human Rights Party, a professional politician who comes from the justice field. All the political parliamentary forces would be part of this commission no exception. We haven't discussed about specific moments such as the issue of the attorney general, because in the new philosophy of the Albanian institutions and Albanian politics there are no individual names who would determine the process. But they are the democratic processes. They are reforms. There's a joint political willingness which determined the democratic fortunes of specific (INAUDIBLE). What's important for us is to guarantee a democratic process and reforms in compliance of the family where we would like to become part of.
De Hoop Scheffer: I'm an optimist by nature. And I'll be the last one to blame the Albanian government and the Albanian people that they're optimistic. Here comes the "but". It's too early to say what will happen in Bucharest. It's too early. The Allies can't answer that question. I cannot answer that question. I can only say further reforms, investment in political culture, all the elements the President mentioned: implementation. But I'm an optimist by nature. But it is really too early to answer your question. It is mid-October. The summit will be in April. I think a lot of work will still have to be done and no guarantees can be given.
Q: Paul Ames, from the Associated Press, to the President first. You mentioned the high level of public and political support for NATO membership in Albania. What will be the impact on that support if you do not receive an invitation in Bucharest to join the Alliance? And for the Secretary General, could I ask your comments on the events last night in Karachi?
Topi: Thank you for the question. I think that... We expect with a great deal of optimism the coming invitation. Naturally, to look forward with a great deal of optimism does not mean to receive it for sure. But what I can guarantee is that regardless of the way the invitation would be, the Albanian institutions, the Albanian people would not stop working hardly... working hard in order to meet all the rules and standards in order for this process, even if it could be realized another day. However, I think that there are all the opportunities that meet there for this invitation to come on April of 2008.
De Hoop Scheffer: Of course, with you and Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and many others, I condemn and NATO condemns in the strongest terms this horrible attack which took place in Karachi last night. I also say this for two reasons.
First of all, the people of Pakistan they have the right... they have the right to democratically decide about their future and about their leadership. That is a right that could and should not be denied by terrorists who want to destroy that process. And that's important for NATO.
I was the first Secretary General, as you know, who went to Islamabad because there's a great importance in having a political dialogue between Pakistan and NATO given the fact that NATO is leading the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. So the strongest possible condemnation, the right of the Pakistani people to democratically elect their leaders, terrorism and these attacks are, apart from horrible, they are destroying that process and the need for a political dialogue. That would be my reaction.
Q: (IN ALBANIAN LANGUAGE) Mister President, you were elected in a very complicated situation. All the political forces has cleared expressed that their aspiration is to be integrated into the EU and NATO.
How concerned are you about the domestic political in-fight? Because this could realistically prevent our obstacle (to the) integration to NATO? If Mr. Scheffer could explain in what way the domestic political debate obstacles Albania to become a NATO member?
Topi: Thank you for your question. This issue was also discussed with Mr. Secretary General. The election of the President of Albania, of course, went through a difficult process. But it's very important that process took place in a constitutional line. This could be considered as one of the achievement of the Albanian politics and institutions.
Because in such a difficult and complicated process, we do not have the need for an international mediation. It demonstrated an increase in the maturity of the Albanian political class, regarding the domestic political debate, personally I'm not concerned at all, not because I'm not part of this debate. But in a democratic country, there's always the need or the attempt to strengthen the political debate, to have it more qualified.
And what I noticed with a great deal of pleasure is that regardless of the nature of the political debate, in a very natural manner, with the issue of Albania's integration in NATO or in European Union as well, all the political forces speak in one voice. So I believe that this is an element that needs to be pointed out, no matter how intensive the political debate would be for certain issues. Also speak in one voice regarding the NATO integration.
De Hoop Scheffer: Let me answer you. I did say already, I think that political... the political culture is an important yardstick. And that is not to say, I repeat, that opposition in government should not have a difference of opinion. That happens everywhere. That's the essence of democracy. But the way politicians and the political class deals with each other and treat each other, that is an important yardstick of course. One of the many important yardsticks by the way. Thank you very much.
- Turkey recognizes the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.