On Albania’s membership in NATO
In 2009, Albania became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) upon the completion of the ratification of the Membership Protocol by all the allied countries and the deposit of the instrument of accession to NATO in the State Department, which is the legal holder of the Treaty of Washington. By becoming part of this Treaty and a member state of NATO, Albania fulfilled a strategic target and a primary objective of foreign policy, by significantly progressing towards the materialization of its national interests.
Albania’s accession to NATO was a result of an important decision on enlarging the Alliance, rendered on the 3rdof April, 2008, by 26 heads of States and Governments of the Alliance, during a special session of the NATO Summit in Bucharest, in which Albania and Croatia were invited to start accession talks. This decision was rendered after the completion of the 9th cycle of the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) for Albania and after the conduct of a series of reforms aiming at meeting the necessary criteria for membership in the Alliance.
On the 25st of April, 2008, Albania and Croatia officially started accession talks to join NATO. The agenda of these talks included political, military, security, and legal matters which were dealt with by both countries with experts of the Alliance, with a view to reconfirm their will to fulfill all future obligations related to the full-fledged membership in the Alliance.
Through a series of bilateral meetings between expert teams of NATO and those of Albanian institutions, the interest, willingness and opportunities of Albania to fulfill the political, legal, and military commitments and obligations of the NATO membership were dealt with and officially confirmed. The final outcome of these discussions was a calendar with time limits for the fulfillment of the criteria and necessary reforms.
The preparation period for accession served to intensify the efforts of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Albania to extensively deepen the defense reform, thus speeding up the materialization of priorities in compliance with NATO standards. Therefore, priority was given to the fulfillment of the framework of reviewed basic strategic documents, such as the Military Strategy, Long-term Development Plan of AFRA 2007-2020, Instruction on Strategic Planning 2008, etc.
On the 9th of July, 2008, the 26 NATO member states signed, during a ceremony in the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, the accession Protocols for Albania and Croatia, with these legal acts being added to the Washington Treaty, thus taking an institutional step for the accession of both countries to the Atlantic Alliance.
For the first time, Albania participated as full member of NATO in the Alliance summit held in Strasbourg/Kehl, on the 4th of April, 2009. On the 7th of April, 2009, at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, an official ceremony was held to mark the accession of Albania and Croatia to the Alliance, where the two countries’ flags were raised in the presence of their Prime Ministers. The next day, the Secretary General of the Alliance paid a visit to Albania, during which he was awarded the title “Doctor Honoris Causa” by the University of Tirana.
NATO membership has allowed Albania, through the active participation in the Alliance decision-making, to provide its contribution in dealing with matters related to the Euro-Atlantic security and, hence, national security as well. As a NATO member, Albania is in a better position to confirm its national interests and increase its national prestige and reputation. After accession to NATO, Albania’s efforts were focused on the transformation of the armed forces into a force of a smaller size, entirely professional, able to be dislocated and interact with NATO. The integration and modernization of the Armed Forces is accompanied by a commitment to reduce the ammunition depots and to demolish a large quantity of ammunitions.
Furthermore, Albania extended its contribution to the Alliance operations to maintain peace and security in Afghanistan, both in ISAF and the Resolute Support Mission, after 2014. During this period, hundreds of Albanian soldiers served with high commitment, professionalism and sacrifices in some of the regional commands of ISAF, thus best fulfilling their duties assigned by the ISAF Command. At the same time, Albania has increased its contribution to the NATO–led KFOR mission in Kosovo. It has paid and continues to pay special attention to the support of cooperation between NATO and Kosovo Security Forces, as well as the political-military process of re-dimensioning the role of KFOR in Kosovo.
In the 21st century, the main goal of the Alliance still remains addressing security challenges. As before, the security of NATO member states is based on the Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which also constitutes the Alliance’s fundamental principle of “collective defense”. This article, which provides that an attack against a NATO member state shall be considered an attack against them all, thus foreseeing collective defense, gained a special importance due to security risks materialized in 2014 and broadly discussed at the NATO Summit in Wales.
Through the adoption of the (RAP) Plan in Wales, allied countries undertook the necessary steps to reinforce the Euro-Atlantic security against threats coming from the East and South of the territories of allied countries. In addition to the support for Ukraine through the establishment of five trust funds, allied countries reaffirmed their commitment to support Afghanistan. Moreover, they engaged in stopping the decrease of defense expenditures and their increase for a decade, up to the level of 2% of the GDP, and they also highlighted the importance of strengthening the Trans-Atlantic tie.
By putting the emphasis on the importance of NATO’s “Open-Doors” policy, member states decided to open intensive talks with Montenegro in order to render a decision, within this year, on whether Montenegro will be invited to become a NATO member. In addition, the Allies offered Georgia an extended package of measures assisting in the preparation of this country to become a NATO member.
In a defining moment for the Euro-Atlantic security and in the face of threats and challenges stemming from many directions, Wales commitments were restated and furthered during the Alliance Summit in Warsaw on 8-9 July this year. All decisions taken in Warsaw are characterized by a defensive and transparent nature and not intended to fuel tensions in Europe.
In Warsaw, allied countries reaffirmed their commitment undertaken in Wales to increase defense expenditures. In 2015, after a long period of decline, allied countries witnessed a slight increase in overall defense expenditures. Also, NATO countries pledged to reinforce their computer networks, as part of comprehensive efforts of NATO countries to increase the resilience of their responses to cyber threats. Also, NATO took command of the anti-missile defense system built by the US in Europe to protect ally territory from missile threats outside the Euro-Atlantic space.
Allied countries also addressed the need for more discouragement and prevention east of the Alliance, by further expanding NATO military presence there, through the placement of four multinational battalions in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. This placement represents a substantial, proportionate and defensive contribution to the common security of NATO countries, and, simultaneously, is a clear signal that allied countries are committed to protect each other in compliance with the European security architecture. NATO countries also agreed that discouragement should be accompanied by a thorough dialogue with Russia, with a view to achieve reciprocal transparency and reduce risks. NATO remains open for dialogue with Russia and considers that the NATO-Russia Council, as a forum, has an important role for dialogue and exchange of information to reduce tensions and increase reliability.
With regard to the design of stability beyond the borders of ally territory, an initiative was adopted in Warsaw to start trainings in Iraq with a view to establish and strengthen the capacity of Iraqi military forces facing ISIL / Da'esh. Also, allied countries decided that NATO AWACS aircrafts (Radar) shall serve to provide detailed information to the International Global Coalition against ISIL/Da'esh. Allied countries agreed on a more focal role of NATO in the Central Mediterranean, by further boosting cooperation with the European Union, in addition to the current cooperation with SOPHIA operation in the Aegean Sea, aimed at cutting ties of human trafficking. Moreover, they agreed to launch a new initiative in order to prevent migratory flows from North African countries – an initiative called See Guardian.
Given that the European Union is a unique and essential partner to NATO, the Alliance and the European Union signed in Warsaw a joint declaration on partnership between the two organizations with a view to intensifying cooperation in important fields such as the fight against hybrid threats and maritime safety. Also, NATO countries reaffirmed their commitment to continue the "Resolute Support" mission in Afghanistan beyond this year and carry on with financial contributions to Afghan forces by 2020. Allied countries reaffirmed their commitment to help Ukraine be an independent, sovereign state, firmly committed to democracy and the rule of law. Furthermore, they committed to support the aspirations for Euro-Atlantic integration of Georgia defense capabilities of Moldova, thus enabling them to withstand pressure from abroad and advance democratic reforms.
Regarding Albania, this Summit marks a step forward in promoting the modest and substantial contribution that our country offers, both in view of Wales’s commitments and the Alliance's initiatives in its northern and southern borders. Alongside its commitment in the framework of discouragement and prevention east of the Alliance, Albania pays special attention to our contribution to the Alliance's commitment in facing challenges that come from the southern flank. Thus, Albania pledged to contribute with naval assets to the NATO mission in the Aegean. Moreover, In Warsaw, our determination to assist Afghanistan for as long as it is necessary was again reiterated. In this context, Albania declared the doubling of our troops in the "Resolute Support" mission and the continuation of this contribution in 2017.
The Warsaw Summit underlined the importance of the Alliance's commitment to strengthen partnerships and increase security capacities in countries of the Middle East and North Africa. NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg praised Albania following our country's commitment to provide a contingent of military trainers in Iraq, which, according to him, should be seen as as a good example also by other allies.
With regard to the fight against terrorism, our country has taken concrete steps to soon establish a center of excellence on the fight against the phenomenon of foreign fighters, whose contribution reflects our commitment, both as part of the Alliance and as participants in the Global Coalition on the fight against terrorism.
Last but not least, one of our objectives at the Summit was to promote the “open doors” policy, confirming our support for the membership of Montenegro, encouraging other neighboring aspiring states to become members, as well as for more NATO attention towards the Western Balkans, including Kosovo, with a view to eliminating gray spots in the region and consolidating peace and security.
In this context, the communiqué adopted by the Heads of State and Government, thanks to our insistence and contribution, underlined the need of the measures taken by the Alliance for a greater, concrete and substantial NATO commitment in our region. Also, with regard to Kosovo, the adoption of the text of the Final Warsaw Summit Communiqué, among other things provides positive opportunities in terms of Kosovo - NATO relations.
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