Presidenti i Republikës së Shqipërisë

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Press statement by the President of the Republic, H. E. Mr. Bajram Begaj with NATO Secretary-General, H. E. Mr. Jens Stoltenberg

Mr. Secretary-General,

Dear Jens,

Ladies and gentlemen,

First, give me the pleasure to express my deep gratitude to the NATO Secretary-General, Mr. Stoltenberg for the fruitful meeting we held today.

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I appreciate Your leadership and the extraordinary work you are doing at this time of great challenges, which have not been seen for decades in our continent.

It has been more than a year since we witnessed a conventional war in Europe, as a result of an unprecedented act of the unprovoked aggression by Russia against a sovereign country, Ukraine.

This act has shaken the peace, stability and the European security architecture.

NATO has demonstrated cohesion, solidarity, unity, determination and reaction force to protect every centimeter of the territory of the Alliance and its member countries.

In this time of challenges for Euro-Atlantic security, it is essential to implement the strategic framework of defense and deterrence, as well as updating the Alliance’s defense plans.

Strengthening the eight battlegroups in NATO’s eastern flank is particularly important.

The current situation makes it imperative, to focus on maintaining the order of international peace and tranquility.

For this reason, the expansion of the Alliance is an obligation. Therefore, the membership of Sweden and Finland is welcomed and necessary.

I am delighted, that the Parliament of Albania is one of the first to have ratified the NATO membership protocol of Sweden and Finland.

In full coordination with the Alliance, Albania stands by its side and will continue to support Ukraine in the political, diplomatic, military and humanitarian aspects as long as it is necessary.

As a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, in cooperation with the U.S. and the EU, we will continue to be proactive in maintaining international cohesion for Ukraine.

At the Madrid Summit, the allies reaffirmed the strategic importance of the Western Balkans.

Despite the progress made towards Euro-Atlantic integration, the region continues to be characterized by complex geopolitical and security developments.

Russia poses a significant and direct threat to NATO and the Western Balkans. It has increased its influencing efforts using methods of hybrid warfare, political subversion, illegal financing, etc.

Its aim is to disrupt peace, stability and block the Euro-Atlantic reforms of the countries of the region.

We have been following with concern the events in the north of the Republic of Kosovo, at the end of last year.

Albania welcomes and supports the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue. Since 2008, the Republic of Kosovo is a sovereign and independent country with a clear vision to integrate into the Euro-Atlantic family.

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The European plan for the normalization of relations is a positive step, that should be centered on mutual recognition between the two states.

I highly value the commitment and dedication of NATO in the region and the KFOR mission, as a success story.

KFOR is the guarantor of peace and security in Kosovo and the region.

We are going through times of great challenges, which require bold and fair decisions.

In this context, it is my belief that it is more than justifiable to consider the membership of the Republic of Kosovo into the Euro-Atlantic Alliance.

Albania considers the threat coming from Iran to be worrying. Last year, in July and September, we faced a severe cyber attack undertaken and sponsored by the state establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Albania, in close cooperation with its strategic partners and NATO, managed to stop and recover from this attack, as well as terminated diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Albanian government has an ambitious plan for strengthening digital and cyber defense capacities. Cooperation with NATO in this direction is highly appreciated.

As a member of NATO and a candidate country for the EU, Albania welcomes the signing of the joint declaration of NATO with the EU, evaluating the role of the EU’s strategic partnership in defense of Euro-Atlantic values.

Albania will continue to fulfill all its obligations in the framework of collective defense. Albania’s commitment and contributions to NATO will continue to grow.

We are currently present in the KFOR mission, in Latvia and Bulgaria, as part of the advanced presence.

Albania has increased the defense budget to 1.86% of the gross domestic product.

We predict that next year we will reach the level of 2%. Meanwhile, Albania will continue to modernize the Armed Forces and equip them with new combat capabilities, combat support and logistical capacities.

I discussed with the Secretary-General, regarding the progress of the construction work at the Kuçova Tactical Air Base, which is proceeding according to the approved program.

The Albanian government has expressed its ambition, presented the project and welcomes a NATO naval presence, in the naval base of the new integrated port in Porto Romano.

This naval base in the integrated port provides naval presence for the Alliance in the Adriatic-Ionian region, as well as access to the main axes of corridor eight. This helps increase the speed and mobility of the Alliance in the eastern flank and the Western Balkans.

Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

Allow me to once again thank you for the open and important discussion we had today.

I am confident, that the Vilnius Summit will be another success and will materialize the great decisions of the Madrid Summit.

Thank you!