Willkommen auf den Seiten des Auswärtigen Amts
Honorable Mr. President Meta,
Honorable Mr. President Nishani,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to start by thanking the George C. Marshall Center Alumni for having invited me to this conference on Security Challenges in the Balkans and the Role of External Actors. It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you also on behalf of the German Government.
Only a few weeks ago we all celebrated the 10th anniversary of Albania’s NATO membership. 10 years are a relatively short time span, during which, however, Albania has undergone tremendous re-structurizations of its Armed Forces and has developed unique capacities, valued today by all NATO partners as important contributions to NATO missions and thus Transatlantic and European security. We are very happy that, also, through the George Marshall Center, financed jointly by the German and the US governments, we have been able to contribute to this development.
The Marshall Center, situated in Southern German Garmisch-Partenkirchen, has over the past years proven to be an important partner of Albania and its neighbors in this region to create a more stable security environment by addressing regional security challenges and by advancing democratic institutions and relationships. Annually, Albanian military and civilian multipliers, decision-makers and security experts participate in training courses of the George Marshall Center in Germany or here in Albania, thereby not only contributing to capacity building of Albania’s armed forces but also to anchoring reliable and sustainable democratic structures in Albania.
You, Mr. President, just a few months ago in October of last year, visited the Center and stressed its important role for Albania’s Euro-Atlantic integration.
Against this background I welcome that the George Marshall Center Alumni have chosen such an important topic as The Security Challenges in this region and the Role of External Actors for their annual conference here in Tirana.
I am convinced that this is a very important topic, not least, because developments in this region have repercussions not only for the Western Balkans itself, but also beyond. The Western Balkans are part of Europe, surrounded by EU-member states, and therefore challenges to this region are of immediate concern also to in the EU. This is why already in 2003 EU Member states decided to give all states of this region a European Union membership perspective.
When discussing the role of External or so called Third Actors in this region there is often an underlying sense of rivalries for influence. I am sure, that the experts will give their analysis during this conference to what extent these Actors are in the process of increasing their outreach for the Western Balkans, including Albania.
However, looking at Albania, already a candidate for EU membership since 2014, polls have repeatedly confirmed, that over 90% of Albanians want their country to be part of the “European Club”. And that means to be part of a European Union, which was created as a Union of peace and which firmly stands for the realization of democracy, the rule of law, freedom of speech and the media and the creation of strong democratic institutions able to guarantee these standards and values.
In a week from today the European Commission will present its next report, inter alia, about Albania’s progress in getting closer to fulfilling the EU’s key reform priorities. On the basis of this report also the German government and the German parliament will take their decision on the next logical step of Albania’s EU integration, that is, the opening of EU accession negotiations. I am convinced that Albania has already taken important steps in the right direction. For example, the justice reform, which stands out also in comparison to progress made in this area in the neighboring countries.
Deep political polarization and boycott of democratic institutions and decision making processes, however, have markedly slowed the reform process and have, certainly, not been helpful in advancing the country on its EU integration path. I am sure, that these developments have also been closely followed by those External actors with an interest in this region. Therefore, I would like to remind all politicians of their responsibility vis à vis their people and their voters to act in the best interest of their country.
Coming to a close, I would like to wish you very interesting discussions and conclusions during the upcoming panels of today’s conference.
Thank you for your attention.