Willkommen auf den Seiten des Auswärtigen Amts
Honorable President Moisiu,
Members of Parliament,
Dear Mr. Rakipi and Mr. Fiesinger
Dear colleagues and friends,
First of all, I would like to thank the Albanian Institute for International Studies and the Hanns-Seidel-Foundation for having organized this important conference. Thank you also for having invited me to this distinguished panel.
On 4th April 2019, NATO will mark the 70th anniversary of the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty. At the same time, Albania will celebrate 10 year of its membership in NATO – two important anniversaries which, indeed, deserve to be commemorated.
Going back 70 years to 1949 Germany was a war torn country, situated exactly on the border between East and West. The iron curtain – up until 30 years ago – ran through the middle of my country. Germany became a member of the alliance in 1955, once the Bundeswehr had been founded. During the Cold War, the importance of the security shield which NATO provided to Germany and its Western European neighbours, cannot be overestimated. Germany was always able to rely on its partners, and first and foremost on the US, even when the Cold War was at its hottest.
When finally the Cold War came to an end, and in 1991 the Warsaw Pact was dissolved, some saw (or wished?) the same fate for NATO as well. But NATO adapted to new challenges and - moreover – became a reliable ally also to some of its former “enemies”.
Up to this date, the dispute over whether NATO promised to Russia not to expand towards former Warsaw Pact territory for some is still on the agenda. However, as a matter of fact, it was not NATO expanding towards Middle and Eastern Europe, but, on the contrary, these countries were asking to become members of NATO because they wanted to be part of NATO’s security shield, and, more than that, be part of the transatlantic alliance which – other than the Warsaw Pact – has always been more than a mere military or defensive alliance but rather a transatlantic community of values.
And it is precisely this feature which made NATO attractive also to Albania and to the countries in this region – although, of course, NATO’s role in the Balkans remains a controversial to some! Still, while NATO and European military deployment in Kosovo and Bosnia played a critical role in de-escalating these conflicts, it was ultimately the impact of NATO’s and the EU’s enlargement policy that helped build and maintain peace in this region.
As early as 1994 Albania became a member of the Partnership for Peace-programme through which it learned about the values and objectives of NATO, as well as the expectations placed on member states’ ability for cooperation. Leading up to its entrance into NATO in 2009, Albania also undertook significant domestic, political, and military reforms.
Albania has since significantly contributed to security and stability in this strategically important region in South Eastern Europe. In addition, Albania has also contributed to international NATO led missions, i.e. Albania deployed over 3.000 troops with ISAF. It has also been an active supporter of the campaign against terrorism since 2001, and continues its participation in the face of new and emerging threats such as the Islamic State.
We welcome very much that in 2017 Montenegro became NATO’S 29th member and Northern Macedonia will follow early next year. And it seems that even relations between NATO and Serbia – 20 years after the NATO bombardment during the Kosovo crisis – are slowly getting better.
Today, NATO at the age of 70, is facing many new challenges to which NATO is formulating adequate and adapted answers: conflict in Eastern Ukraine/Crimea, the post-INF scenario, but also Cyber and Hybrid warfares. And it is precisely against the background of newly developing crises also in Europe that the EU is - in support of NATO - increasing its operability in crisis management and its defense capabilities through PESCO – the Permanent Structured Cooperation, which was created by 25 EU Member States in late 2017.
Coming to a close, I am convinced, that today is far from being “outdated” as some have stated. We Germans know very well how important the transatlantic partnership remains for international cooperation and multilateral understanding, especially in a world of growing uncertainties.