Presidenti i Republikës së Shqipërisë

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Mr. Minister of Defense,

Mr. Chief of General Staff, General Kingji,

Mr. Commander of Land Forces, General Xhebexhia,

Dear soldiers, NCOs, and officers,

It is my pleasure to be present today at the training of the Light Infantry Group-Battalion.

This training is a clear indicator of the high level of preparedness, capability, and readiness of the Armed Forces in fulfilling their constitutional mission to defend the country and contribute to collective defense.

Your unit is already NATO-certified and considered a ready force for deployment and operation in full interaction with our allies.

During this training, you tested operational capabilities and new equipment in cold weather conditions.

In this way, you will demonstrate operational abilities to act and conduct combat operations in any geographical terrain and under any circumstances.

Furthermore, the training of the group-battalion shows that Albania is ready and capable of defending itself and actively contributing to collective defense, especially on NATO’s southeastern flank.

This training is conducted simultaneously with NATO’s largest military exercise in decades, “Steadfast Defender 24”.

Through this exercise, NATO is demonstrating that it is a powerful alliance, capable and ready to protect the population and territory of its member countries in the Euro-Atlantic space from all threats, in a 360-degree approach.

Therefore, it is crucial that our Armed Forces are up to the challenges of our times.

Not far from here, the illegal Russian aggression against Ukraine continues for over two years.

The resistance and heroism of the Ukrainian army and people are a source of inspiration in defending the values of freedom, democracy, and independence.

Albania will continue to support Ukraine, in full coordination with our strategic partners and NATO.

Meanwhile, the situation in the Middle East is tense and risks involving other actors. The risk of escalation of these hotspots is real.

Our region, the Western Balkans, which has suffered from a history of conflicts and clashes, has a fragile security situation.

Actors with geo-political ambitions against Euro-Atlantic values may exploit weaknesses and ideological or ethnic alliances in the region to ignite new conflicts.

For over a year, security in the north of the Republic of Kosova has been repeatedly compromised.

Attacks on KFOR troops and the terrorist act in Banjskë a few months ago were provocations and a serious risk against peace and stability in the region.

The consolidation of the institutions of the Republic of Kosova and NATO’s role, through the KFOR mission, are essential for ensuring security.

Albania always stands by Kosova on its journey as Europe’s newest state.

We do this, not merely because we are two states of one nation, brothers of the same blood, but because support for Kosova is support for security, peace, and the future in the region.

The continuation of the Kosova-Serbia dialogue and the implementation of agreements reached in Brussels and their annexes in Ohrid are the only way towards normalizing relations between the two countries and mutual recognition.

In this context, your training takes on another meaning and importance. You, as participants in this exercise, and the entire Armed Forces, are the first line of defense and guarantee of security and peace.

Your role for Albania and Albanians is not only vital but also strategic.

Albania has been and remains Euro-Atlantic in spirit and action.

As a historically peace-loving people, our orientation is towards peace and security, making it important today not only to show solidarity with the values of other member countries but also to further strengthen transatlantic ties.

NATO, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, embodies the collective defense of a community of values, of which Albania is proud to be a part.

Our Armed Forces have developed significantly since joining the Alliance. Continuing their modernization today is a matter of national security.

This justifies the fact that the defense budget is at 2% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Funds must be spent efficiently to ensure qualitative growth in the capabilities of the Armed Forces.

I appreciate every initiative towards supporting the well-being of the Armed Forces personnel, because defending the country is not an expenditure, but an investment for securing the present and the future.

Besides the financial aspect, I wish to touch upon the aspect of the image and message that the Armed Forces convey to the public.

This image and message need to be updated. Our Armed Forces have developed significantly compared to 15 years ago.

This image and message should reflect the changes that have occurred and convey modernization, the increase in defensive capabilities, and the protective and peacekeeping mission.

Above all, it must transmit the deeply patriotic mission you fulfill. This communication should especially happen with the younger generation.

Being part of the Armed Forces today is not just a profession; it’s a matter of national pride and patriotism.

This year, Albania celebrates the 15th anniversary of its NATO membership, a success story thanks to your contribution, dedication, and professionalism wherever you have served and made us proud.

In closing, I wish to express my respect for your work and sacrifices, the high responsibility you show every day, and the fact that, despite difficulties, you continue to perform your duty honorably in service to the homeland.

Thank you!