Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Written Evidence


Written evidence submitted by the Embassy of the Republic of Albania

THE ALBANIAN STAND TOWARD NATO

  The Republic of Albania, the Albanian Government and all Albanian Political spectrum, appreciate as inalienable, the role of North Atlantic Alliance towards the strengthening of the security, peace and stability in the region. This realistic approach is based as well on the radical change of security situation in B-H, as a result of NATO presence, and stopping the genocide in Kosova, thanks to the NATO military intervention in 1999.

  The Albanian stand for the indefeasible role of NATO in the region is confirmed to the highest forums of the Alliance, as recently at the EAPC countries Summit of Istanbul. It is also manifested with the support given to the Istanbul Communique of the Heads of States and Governments of NATO countries. The Albanian stand is clearly and firmly expressed in the annual documents of Albanian MAP towards

NATO.

  The above mentioned political Support is materialised also with the active participation of our country in the forums and mechanisms that NATO has incited to strengthen the security and stability of the region.

  Washington Summit, 23-24 April 1999, gave a clear evidence on showing how important are for NATO, the developments in the region of SEE and particularly in Kosova, as well as further commitment of NATO, supporting SEE Countries in their efforts towards the democratic societies, peace and stability in the region.

  Reflecting to the new developments and challenges, the Washington Summit, inspired and set up the foundations for many institutions, initiatives and instruments, helping the countries of the region to join the European trend.

  After the establishment of NATO initiative for SEE, which included a wide range of programmes and initiatives for the regional cooperation and long-term stability in Balkan, Albania, has been one of the first countries as member of SEEGROUP (derivate of SEEI), steering actually this forum during 2004.

  The value of SEEGROUP, consists not only on the strengthening of cooperation and leadership of the countries in the region, but also on the inclusion of Serbia & Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina (as members of this group without being partner countries to North Atlantic Alliance) in common programmes.

  The continuity of NATO presence in the region may be treated as well in a bilateral corner-sight from out-in and vice-versa. The contribution of NATO presence in the countries mentioned by the British Commons Foreign Committee, despite the respective specifics, will stimulate and speed up the materialization of reforms and the fulfilment of necessary obligations by each country that aims to be a NATO member or partner.

  The materialization of reforms and obligations fulfilment creates a more stable framework, allow the implementation of essential political processes and strengthening of the institutions and open the road towards membership. The effect of NATO presence in the region, is related to the fact that the trust of the people to NATO troops for the security and stability, is much higher than the presence of other International Organisations (the previous experiences support this fact).

  Further more, a NATO presence in the region is a key factor for the foreign investments, which bring in the same time an increase of economic prosperity of a country.

  The speed of materialisation of these respective aims in this reciprocal relation state-NATO, is mainly conditioned by the achievement of obligations by each country, the success of democratic standards, and the accomplishment of reforms, not only in the defence field.

  Keeping in mind that this is a long term process, the role and the presence of NATO in the region remain of a very high importance.

THE ROLE OF THE EU, INCLUDING THE IMPACT OF ENLARGEMENT

  European integration is today the main strategic objective of Albania society. This objective has on its basis the full support of the social and political forces, aiming at tying Albania to the European values and developing Albanian society according to democratic principles, rule of law and market economy.

  Having clearly expressed its will to join the European family, Albania has been working with determination and passion since the early 1990s to turn this aspiration into reality, although through periods of progress and regress.

  A new impetus to the whole process of getting closer to the EU was given in 1999, when after the violent conflicts in our region over the past decade, the EU established a new political and strategic vision for the five countries of South Eastern Europe, including Albania: the Stabilization and Association Process (SAP). This process will remain the framework of our European Course, the way to our future accession.

  During this five-year dialogue with the European Union, set up firstly with the EU-Albania HLSG and later with Joint Consultative Task Force, Albania has been committed to carrying out the reforms required by the process of moving closer to the EU. Since 31st January 2003 Albania has been negotiating with the European Commission the Stabilization and Association Agreement, which will be the framework for the deepening of the relationship between Albania and EU. Through a series of political and technical rounds of negotiations, the first reading of the text of the agreement has been completed, thus approaching the conclusion of the negotiations and paving the way for the implementation of the agreement.

  Meanwhile, it has become ever clearer to us that the most suitable strategy for a sustainable development of Albania and the entire region should be based on two main pillars: European integration end regional integration. In the framework of its policy of regional cooperation, Albania, and the other countries of western Balkans, elaborated and presented a coordinated position at the Thessalonica Summit, which marked the beginning of a permanent political dialogue between the European Union and the SAP countries.

  The Thessalonica Summit aimed at enriching the SAP with new elements from enlargement experience. Albania welcomed this message of support; in particular adoption of elements of the pre-accession strategy to the Western Balkan countries, such as the European Integration Partnerships, the opening of the community programs, enhanced cooperation in the areas of political dialogue and CFSP, etc.

  The offering of a more clear European prospect acts as a stimulus for progress in the required reforms. The successful process of the recent enlargement with 10 new member States contributed to the consolidation of peace, stability and democracy in Europe.

  We are aware that substantial progress of reforms determines Albania's progress in the SAP. We are convinced that these reforms, as well as European integration itself, are in the first place in our own interest, as they contribute to the country's economic and political development.

  The clear perspective that the EU has opened to Albania is a considerable contribution to keeping the peace of reforms undertaken by the Albanian Government in the political and economic aspect. The integration process and required reforms in this framework are necessary for the overall development of the country, not least for its integration into European structures.

  The identification of these short and medium-term reforms is the main purpose of the EU's European partnership and the Albanian Government's Actions Plan, recently adopted.

  In the framework of the cooperation with EU, Albania would ask for the support of the UK, as a member state, in restructuring the CARDS Program. An increase in the financial support to the SAP countries, within the 2007-13 Financial Perspective, would be a clear message of the European future of these countries. A message of this sort is the inclusion of SAP countries in DG Enlargement of the new Commission.

  A review of CARDS Program should aim at striking the right balance between financial assistance for institutional reforms and for the needs of economic and social development. It is vital for the development of the region as a whole the improvement in the infrastructure sector.

  We also think it is necessary to advance in concrete terms the issue of the progressive liberalization of the EU's visa regime for the SAP countries through the submission by the EU of a list of concrete steps to be taken, so as to have a positive response from the union. The liberalization of the visa regime is the point of the Thessalonica Agenda where no progress has been made.

  Since January 2004, Albania aligns itself with positions of the European Union in Common Foreign and Security Policy. This is an expression of Albania's willingness to cooperate closely with the EU in all areas including CFSP, in compliance with the Thessalonica Agenda for the Western Balkans. In the framework of our cooperation in the area of security, the Albanian Government has expressed its willingness and readiness to participate in the military mission "ALTHEA" of the EU in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

THE ALBANIAN ASSESSMENT FOR KOSOVO AND ITS FUTURE PROSPECTS

The relations between Albania and Kosovo

  Relations with Kosovo are characterized by a constructive spirit of cooperation, in compliance with the UN Resolution 1244 and Constitutional Framework of Kosovo. Albania has already intensified its economic, social and cultural relations with Kosovo and to facilitate the free movement of people, goods and capitals.

  For this purpose:

    —  During this year, 33 high level visits have been paid, especially the visits of President H.E. Mr. Alfred Moisiu and Prime Minister H.E. Mr. Fatos Nano in Kosovo and the visits of UN Special Representative Mr. Holker and the Speaker of Kosovo's Parliament Mr. Daci in Tirana. These political contacts have been of a very special importance for the coordination of the stands and actions on behalf of the stability in Kosovo and in the region as well.

    —  A visit of Kosovo's President Rugova, took place this summer and Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Mr. Kastriot Islami will visit Kosovo as well.

    —  About 12 bilateral Agreements and Memorandums of Understanding have been signed referring the Free Trade Agreement and boosting the cooperation in different fields, especially education, health, transport, trade, sports, etc We foresee that in the near future to sign the Agreement for the Elimination of Double Taxation between our country and Kosovo and three other Memorandums of Understanding.

    —  To intensify the cooperation against cross-border crime and smuggling, the General Police Director of Albania has already visited Kosovo and is on going process an agreement related to the cooperation between the Police Forces of Albania and UNMIK. Five border crossing points exist between Albania and Kosovo and another is expected soon. These are serving to the intensification of the economic cooperation and exchanges between two countries and will prevent the illegal border crossings. We have started the proceedings for a normal function of the customs services at the actual cross-border points. In January 2004 the Albanian Government made the decision to open a new cross-border point.

THE ALBANIAN ASSESSMENT FOR DEVELOPMENTS IN KOSOVO

The transfer of competences and responsibilities

  While appreciating the important role and support given by International Administration in Kosovo, we support the reorganization of UNMIK structure. If we really wish to have progress and to create responsible and effective governance in Kosovo, is the right time to give more power and responsibilities to local institutions and authorities and better involvement of these institutions to the reserved competencies. Taking these measures is the proper action to progress. The Government of Kosovo does not posses actually the proper means and the necessary information to act effectively.

Standards and status

  We reconfirm our help and support towards the implementation of the policy of standards and the plan for their implementation as a main base for the future of Kosovo, which will contribute to further increase the stability and the security in the Western Balkans region, and to intensify the spirit of cooperation and mutual integration. We believe that the discussions for the status of Kosovo parallel to the standards that means following a policy "standards with status" will bring a real progress not only to the political process of Kosovo but also a further normalization of the situation in the region.

International Commitment

  Albania appreciates the commitment of EU and NATO for the general security situation and for the progress of political process in Kosovo. We congratulate the creation of the Support Group for Kosovo as an important step to intensify the cooperation among Western Governments-EU-NATO-UNMIK-Kosovo's Government, especially in this moment when the need to speed up the implementation of the standards is emergent. We wish and believe a real contribution of this group for the implementation of the standards. We think that a better coordination of international factors would help to further improve the progress of political and economic processes in Kosovo.

Decentralization

  In principle, we support the efforts made for the decentralization of local authority in Kosovo which must not consist and not bee understood as an ethnic territorial division. We emphasized that:

    —  The implementation of this plan should be materialized in due time.

    —  This should be done in accordance with the vision for a multinational and multiethnic Kosovo and not to allow any kind of disintegration or partition on ethnic basis.

    —  To consist on the agreement of understanding between institutions of Kosovo and different ethnicities, especially between Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo (not out if it).

  We are for the decentralization but we think that discussions about this process should not avoid or derail the joint commitment of international and local institutions towards the fulfillment of standards.

Dialogue

  We express our commitment to encourage the leaders of Kosovo for an intra-dialogue within communities, keeping in mind that the March events have considerably damaged the inter-ethnic confidence in Kosovo. We support the dialogue at political and technical level between Prishtina and Belgrade as well.

  Albania is for good relations and constructive dialogue with its neighbors where Albanians are present. This dialogue and cooperation plays a good role in the actual stability of the neighboring Macedonia. The statement of Macedonian officials that Kosovo does not poses a threat for Macedonian stability and their commitment to open a Liaison Office in Prishtina is welcomed. Albania is also committed to develop the progress and dialogue with Serbia in order to create a good and constructive climate between Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo and in the region, because this will also serve to the regional integration.

Integration

  We think that Kosovo should be included as integral part of the common aspiration towards regional and European integration, as it was supported by the international community and materialized at the EU Thessalonica Summit.

Serbian plan

  The Serbian Government Plan is prepared for internal political effects and its aim is to export the crises situation from Serbia to Kosovo. It is more of a political character than of a practical one. This way of the decentralization based on ethnic grounds, will create more problems rather than generating democracy and harmony. That means "division" of two main ethnic groups of Kosovo, deepening the disagreements between them, which are against the principles of multiethnic coexistence and the European integration.

  It seems a paradox the fact that even in the Resolution 1244 Kosovo is quoted as a part of former Yugoslavia, which now means the Union of Serbia and Montenegro, the plan has been approved only by Serbian Parliament and has not yet passed for approval to the Parliament of Serbia and Montenegro.

New Administrator

  We believe that the assignment of Mr Soren Jessen Petersen, as the new Special Representative of UN in Kosovo, will positively affect the progress of political and economic processes there. In accordance with the actual circumstances, the reorganization of the UNMIK administration is indispensable, and a permanent unified support and a clear orientation from the international community is adequate.

Albanian commitment

  Albania remains committed to positively influence the Albanian political factor and other political factors as well, to encourage the democratic and integration processes in Kosovo. We fully support the close cooperation with UNMIK, KFOR and international community for the implementation of standards and the consolidation of comprehensive institutions, the creation of a multiethnic society, the encouragement of political dialogue with Belgrade, strengthening of a stable market economy, the prevailing of the rule of law and the openness toward regional cooperation.

The events of 17-18 March

  We reconfirm our decisive stand against violence and violent acts, despite the motives which incite them.

  We have condemned the distraction of the religion and cultural objects expressing that such actions are against the progress that has been achieved towards the strengthening of the peaceful coexistence between different ethnicities, the development of further dialog, the consolidation of institutions and the fulfillment of the standards.

  We welcomed the measures taken by the Government of Kosovo to repair the damage and to bring before the justice the culprits.

  We fully supported the Special Representative of UN in Kosovo and KFOR and have requested from political leaders and from the people of Kosovo to restrain and act in a mature way, to cooperate with legal local and international authorities to restore the order.

We have appreciated the immediate intervention against the violence of the important international factors, especially UN, EU and NATO, which influenced to calm down the situation.

  We express our confidence that the recent events, even they were difficult; will not interrupt the progress of democratic processes, which is good for a multiethnic Kosovo with its place in Europe.

Embassy of the Republic of Albania





 
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