Joint press point

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the President of Albania, Ilir Meta

  • 28 Oct. 2019 -
  • |
  • Last updated 04-Nov-2019 10:43

(As delivered)

Joint press point with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the President of Albania, Ilir Meta

President Meta,

It’s great to see you again. It’s great to see you here at the new NATO Headquarters. And Albania has been a staunch and committed member of NATO for 10 years. And you continue to different NATO missions and operations, to our shared security, in different ways. You are playing a key role in our peacekeeping and our mission in Kosovo, bringing greater security to the Western Balkans. You are part of the Train, Assist and Advise mission NATO has in Afghanistan to help to fight international terrorism and you are also part of the increased military presence in the Baltic region, sending some troops and forces to our battlegroup in Latvia. And all of this shows Albania’s strong commitment to our Alliance.

And NATO is also committed to Albania. This includes a major investment in a new  airbase in Albania, which is now underway.  Upgrading this critical infrastructure will enhance the security of your country.

Next year Albania will take an important role in international security when you chair the OSCE. The OSCE is a crucial forum, an important platform, to discuss arms control, military transparency, and confidence building measures. All NATO Allies remain committed to effective arms, control, disarmament and non-proliferation. And as we look to adapt the arms control regime to new realities, NATO’s cooperation with the OSCE is very important.

During our meeting, we also discussed the importance of burden sharing within the Alliance. And I welcome that Albania has started to invest more in defence and has declared commitment to reach the goal of spending 2% of GDP of defence by 2024. We also discussed the situation in the Western Balkans. And NATO’s commitment to stability and security in that region. And I thanked Albania for playing a key role in promoting cooperation throughout the region. You know the region and you play an important part in helping to uphold stability and peace. Albania is a strong advocate for NATO’s Open Door, and for integrating your neighbours into the Euro-Atlantic family. Albania has already ratified the Accession Protocol for North Macedonia. This process is on track across Allied capitals. And I look forward to North Macedonia joining NATO soon. So once again, welcome to the NATO HQ, it’s great to see you and great to continue our cooperation.

Thank  you so much.

Ilir Meta [President of Albania]: Thank you very much, Secretary General. It was a great pleasure to meet you and also to have a very good exchange of views on important issues. This year marks the 70th Anniversary of our Alliance and also the 10th Anniversary of the membership of Albania.

In seven decades, NATO has stood unprecedentedly as the most successful area of peace and prosperity. We understand very well what it takes and means to be part of a family, founded upon the principles of security, freedoms and democracy. We will honour the defence investment pledge as a firm commitment to our transatlantic bond.

I was pleased to note a well deserved recognition of Albania's presence in NATO operations and missions, including in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism. We are proud of our women and men serving to peace and freedoms within and beyond the borders of the Alliance.

During the meeting, I mentioned the importance we attach to selection of Koçovë air base, as also you underlined, for further NATO investment as an added value, not only for Albania but also for the region.

Upcoming accession of North Macedonia is another important achievement for the whole Western Balkans. Two days ago, I met with North Macedonia's President Pendarovski and we both underlined that NATO's Open-Door policy and enlargement towards this region continues to be strategic and instrumental for peace and stability.

I still remember when I personally signed on 1st May 2003 the US Adriatic 3 initiative, aiming at accelerating Albania's, Croatia's and North Macedonia's NATO accession process. We cannot be but proud that this process has been successful and further extended to … [inaudible] format which coincidentally is chaired by Albania this year.

In my discussion with Secretary Stoltenberg I also encouraged continuity of NATO's mission in Kosovo and the strength and presence in support of Kosovo's security institutions. Kosovo's legitimate right to gradually transform Kosovo's security forces into NATO interoperable and multi-ethnic army, through legal, transparent and democratic process, is a source of strength and security for the region. I encourage the re-establishment of Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, aiming a final, legally-binding agreement, which is durable, implementable, recognises Kosovo's reversible independence and sovereignty, contributes to peace and stability of the region, and fully normalises relations between the two countries. We had a very thorough discussion on latest developments and fully agreed on increasing challenges in our security environment. That is why we need to preserve cohesion and unity. We should unite all strategic efforts to keep the Western Balkans a west-oriented area, living in peace and sharing the values of the Alliance. Thank you, once again.

Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: OK, we'll go to the lady over there. ABC Albania.

Question [ABC Albania]: One question to Secretary General. The Minister of Defence of Albania has sent an official letter to NATO Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, where it is requested to set up naval military bases in Albania. Now, is NATO considering these naval military bases and is it in the interest of NATO to have such bases in Albania?

And for the President of Albania. Did you share the concern over the political crisis in Albania with the Secretary General and what's your solution to overcome this crisis? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: First of all, Albania plays an important role in NATO. This is important for Albania, it's important for NATO and, as I mentioned, we now have a programme where we invest in an operating air base in Albania. So far no decision has been taken on any additional investments in a naval base, but this is something which is assessed by our Military Authorities and our military experts and, based on that, NATO will make decisions.

Ilir Meta [President of Albania]: We have discussed with the Secretary General about the importance of the continuity of EU enlargement in our region, because NATO and EU are very complementary and in this frame, we both expressed our disappointment with the lack of decision of the last EU Council about opening of the accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia. But as we underlined, both with the President of North Macedonia two days ago in Tirana, we are determined to double our efforts to continue to fulfil this strategic goal of our two countries, which is the membership in the European Union, and to work closely with all member countries, to address all their concerns.

And about the political situation in Albania, I think that we have to take still in consideration the right messages the Secretary General was giving during his visit in spring in the country, underlining the dialogue and strengthening the importance of understanding that in the heart of NATO is democracy. And I am sure that we will double our efforts to work in this direction. And as we are a very reliable NATO member, to be very soon also very reliable for continuing our path for membership in the European Union.

Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: OK, last question over there.

Question [TV Channel of Belarus]: I have question to Secretary General. It's about the situation near eastern borders of NATO, I mean border with Belarus. So, some days ago, President of Belarus said that American troops in Lithuania and upcoming exercises, European Defender 2020, create tension in this region and so Belarus has to make some counter-measures of it. And I know that some of them were decided just today. Maybe you have some messages to your partners from Belarus. Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: NATO is a defensive Alliance and of course all nations have the right to exercise their troops, and that’s also the case for NATO Allies. And we exercise together. That’s exactly what NATO has done for 70 years, since we were founded in 1949.

What we do is that we of course have seen that, because we are confronted with a more unpredictable, more challenging, more difficult security environment, we have stepped up our efforts when it comes to exercises. We have bigger exercises and we have increased the readiness of our forces. The important thing is that when we see increased military activity along our borders, then it is important that we have predictability, transparency, and that’s exactly what NATO always ensures, that we are transparent, we are predictable when it comes to our military exercises. And also NATO Allies are predictable and transparent in the way they conduct exercises. So, a defensive Alliance exercising their forces should not be any concern for any neighbour.

Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: Thank you very much. This concludes this press point.

Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Thank you.

Ilir Meta [President of Albania]: Thank you.