Presidenti i Republikës së Shqipërisë

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Remarks by the President of the Republic, H. E. Mr. Bajram Begaj at the Prespa Forum Dialogue

Dear President Pendarovski,

Distinguished colleagues,

Dear Prime Minister Kovačevski,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to participate in this panel, an important regional platform on the benefit of peace, security, and prosperity.

It is truly a pleasure, as well as  a responsibility, since this forum comes at a very delicate, but also important moment for our region, for the Euro-Atlantic space, as well as for the entire world in general.

This regional forum reminds us the historical Prespa Agreement, and

show us, how courageous and visionary leaders can and should take responsibility.

Above all, that agreement expanded the Euro-Atlantic security space.

But, getting back to the topic of this panel and the dilemma, between peace and democracy on one hand, and the war and autocracy on the other hand, I can say, that starting from Albania’s experience during the period of communism, my country was in a kind of peace for almost 50 years, but there was no democracy.

Peace is almost guaranteed when countries are and have democracy.

After the end of the Cold War, there was a general optimism that war would no longer be an option and that democracy was triumphing and expanding its reach around the world.

But only three decades later, we witnessed a brutal unprovoked and unjustified military aggression by one of the member countries of the United Nations Security Council, against another sovereign and member country of the United Nations.

The effects of this aggression are multiple, from the threat of using nuclear weapons, even whether they are conventional, to food security for about one billion people.

The increase in the cost of energy, the uncertainty of the global markets, the almost frightening increase in inflation, are negatively affecting our countries, and have increased the feeling of uncertainty about the future.

This war, also has a direct effect on our Western Balkans region, where we are still trying to build a region, where the spirit of understanding and cooperation prevails.

At the beginning of this intervention, I referred to the Prespa Agreement, but we still have vivid images that led to the Dayton Agreement to stop the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The images that led to the achievement of the Kumanovo Agreement that ended the genocide and the cleansing operation of Milošević in Kosova.

Or the Ohrid Framework Agreement, which has produced a very good spirit of inter-ethnic cooperation here in North Macedonia, between Albanians and Macedonians.

The last public agreement reached in Ohrid, between Kosova and Serbia, was another moment of optimism, but it soon turned into a disappointment.

I don’t want to go into much detail, as our European and American partners are making a tremendous contribution for the parties to reach a compromise for the normalization of relations and mutual recognition.

Today, no one can question the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kosova. Kosova is an irreversible political reality!

But I do assess, that it is the right time for the leaders of these two countries to undertake historic responsibilities, like those of North Macedonia and Greece five years ago, to advance the process of reconciliation, as well as the normalization and of mutual rectognition among them.

We have established many organizations and regional initiatives concerning this objective, but it still seems that we are far from what we would like: a region in peace, a safe region and a developed region.

Albania is committed to its mission as a stabilizing factor in the Western Balkans region and an exporter of security in the region and beyond.

As a member country in NATO, but also as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the 2022-2023 term, it is in solidarity and is contributing as much as possible so that the aggressor in Ukraine does not triumph.

Over the last three decades, we have tried to build and consolidate in Albania, functional democratic institutions, having the support of our best partners, the United States of America and the European Union.

I see this trend in other countries of the region as well, and the region in general is experiencing a new moment and a promising dynamism.

Half of the countries of the Western Balkan region are active NATO members today, and all countries have made progress towards European Union integration.

For the very first time, the European Union organized a summit with the leaders of the region outside its territory, in Tirana.

And for the very first time ever, one of the countries of the region, Albania, has assumed the Chairmanship of the Berlin Process.

All these developments, but also those of economic and trade cooperation between the countries of the region, are very encouraging.

We are facing such fundamental challenges that require measures and national, regional and international commitment. In front of all of these, we must unite for solution and change.

There is an substantial element in this regard that puts democracy and stability against each other, and this is the weakness of democratic institutions in many countries of the region.

Therefore, I would like to underline that today the values of democratic governance are more important than ever, as well as the critical importance of continuing our investment in transatlantic relations.

But, I also note with regret, that in the recent years, due to geopolitical developments and the increase of influence of the malicious third actors in our region, the dilemma is increasingly taking place: democracy versus stability.

We have learned from history that democracy is not irreversible. It depends on many variables, known and unknown, which must be kept in mind.

Tolerating them, or worse, the lack of immediate and coordinated action, makes the slide from democracy to autocracy just a matter of time.

In this era of strategic competition, traditional challenges have become sharper and new challenges more complex. Therefore, I would like to underline that the values of democratic governance today are more important than ever.

Together, even from this forum, we can and must convey the message that regardless of geopolitical situations, the future of this region will be in the European and Euro-Atlantic family.

We must make those who aim to return this region to its conflictual past fail.

Since we are a relatively small region, where cultures and traditions are closely interconnected, the Balkans have real opportunities to create positive energy, especially in the context of more intensive and expanded economic cooperation.

The Balkans has a contribution to make, an experience to share, and a hand extended in friendship to its neighbors and allies.

Thereby our conflicts can become our lessons.

To conclude, I would like to thank once again President Pendarovski and the government of North Macedonia for the opportunity they gave us in this beautiful city on the shores of Lake Ohrid, where interethnic harmony is a model to follow.

Thank You!