Published on: 21 February 2017

Speech by Minister Bushati at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University

Good evening everyone,

Thank you President Hershkowitz, for your kind invitation and for giving me the opportunity to exchange some thoughts on Albania’s and South-East Europe’s contribution to security in the Mediterranen area.

I believe it would be difficult to find another region with so many disparities: Mare Nostrum is surrounded by developed and developing countries, by democracies and states with different systems and priorities, various levels of economic growth and potential, but also failed states with torn out societies.

But in the course of the last few years the Mediterranean has dramatically changed, becoming more unstable and less secure.

Geography has placed Adriatic Europe on the route whereby the fallout of the chaos in the South reaches North-Western Europe. 

During 2015 our region had to deal with the exodus of historic proportions of refugees across the Mediterranean because of the chaos and the unprecedented human catastrophe in the Middle East. The migrant crisis showed very clearly that no country is able to face these challenges alone.

And the number of challenges that we have to face together increased:   

  • Protracted conflicts in the South and Eastern shores have damaged governance and also durably affected social tissues,
  • Economic and financial crisis has diminished the capacity of the countries of the northern shores of the Mediterranean to act as the healthy economic partner the south now needs,
  • Terrorists and violent extremist groups exploit deep-rooted grievances in order to gain support and claim territory and resources and control populations,
  • Human disasters across our sea question everyday our collective means and instruments.

 

The risks of protraction of these crises are quite evident: 

  • Risk that the Mediterranean becomes an unstable area in the medium-term, with pockets of stability struggling to reduce pockets of chaos,
  • Risk that the area becomes a lake of refugees with all the durable and deep consequences it has for societies across the North-South divide,
  • Risk that from a political cooperation perspective we remain entangled in a crisis-management mode, 
  • And finally from an economic point of view, the risk that we grow less attractive and less prosperous.

 

To put it short, all this shows how intertwined life and security are between all parts of the Mediterranean region. 

It shows that no European security model is conceivable without a Mediterranean parameter. Because security in the Mediterranean means dealing with multiple array of issues, but terrorism and violent extremism are the most frightening manifestations of the risks the Mediterranean is faced with. 

The European security environment as a whole has already been shaped, in large part, by the unprecedented pressure by radicalisation, violent extremism and terrorism, mostly emanating from Europe’s southern periphery but not only. 

As we have witnessed in several cases, there is also home-grown terrorism which makes an already very complex situation worse. 

Of the thousands of foreign fighters recruited from Europe and the world, it is estimated that some 40% have already returned to their home countries. Therefore, the efficiency of counterterrorism actions and strategies will be crucial for the stability and security of individual Mediterranean states and the area as a whole. 

While we fight terrorism we need to design and implement prevention policies. We must invest more and continuously on soft policies which require more energies, long term commitment and dedicated participation of many actors. Let me brief you on what we are doing in Albania in this respect. 

Albania was among the first countries of the region to adopt a tailored strategy on countering radicalisation, toughen legislation and domestic procedures and strengthen cooperation with other partners, including in intelligence sharing. We then adopted a National Strategy to fight radicalisation and extremism which is now being implemented. 

Currently, we are working to develop two important instruments: one is a NATO Centre of Excellence in the fight against Foreign Fighters and the other is a regional hub of coordination on countering violent extremism. 

In addition, Albania has been among the first countries to have joined the Global Coalition to fight ISIL/Da’esh and has contributed with several sizeable military packages the Iraqi armed forces in fighting ISIL. Furthermore, we are active contributors in Afghanistan with the Resolute Support Mission and we are working to substantiate another contribution during this year with military personnel to Iraq for training and capacity building.

Yet we know that we need to invest more in the so called soft areas. Albania is known for its religious harmony and its proverbial peaceful and respectful cohabitation of different religious communities. It is something that has defined us since ages and has never changed. Preserving this high level of social cohesion is of fundamental importance, a matter of national security for us. 

Needless to say that special attention should be paid to both the educational and economic components of security, because the better the economic performance the higher the degree of security, both in terms of objective conditions and of people’s perception. 

The European Union and NATO have developed very ambitious approaches to southern threats, giving more importance to closer cooperation with neighbouring countries, its partners to build, develop and consolidate defence capacities. 

Albania is part of NATO’s operations to tackle the migrant and refugee crisis in the Aegean and is contributing with naval assets since November last year. The Alliance has acquired unparalleled expertise in the deterrence of maritime terrorist activity in the Mediterranean Sea, detecting and deterring piracy activity, capacity-building and maritime situational awareness. 

I cannot but take as a fruitful example the cooperation between NATO and Israel. This relationship between long-standing partners has been there for more than 20 years. Israel has been very active NATO partner through Mediterranean Dialogue, which is the only security forum that brings together NATO allies with Israel and Arab countries.

 

Dear Friends, 

Any real common approach to Euro-Mediterranean security should be able to deal with the whole range of issues, challenges and threats. 

Any such attempt should start by helping each Mediterranean country develop to its fullest potential and become net security provider. 

There is always space for joint success in key sectors, such as energy security. Let’s not forget that 65% of the oil and natural gas consumed in Western Europe pass through the Mediterranean each year. 

The European Union is looking toward Adriatic Europe and South-Estern Mediterranen as options to improve its security of gas supply and diversify its energy portfolio. 

Albania's underground gas storage capabilities and strategic location in Adriatic Europe might help enhance European energy security by increasing diversification and supply. 

Furthermore, both Albania, as part of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, and Israel, in its coordinated efforts with Greece and Cyprus, are currently investing into becoming contributors to European energy security. 

I am confident that Energy cooperation is exactly what can help us translate interdependence into stability and prosperity in the Mediterranean.

 

Dear friends, 

Euro-Atlantic integration is vital for Albania and our immediate neighborhood. All the countries of our region, without exception, pursue the same agenda of European integration. Albania is a candidate country and we hope to soon be able to open accession talks with the EU. 

We are also aware of the strategic importance our region has in the political agenda of both NATO and EU. Both these two major organisations are working to reduce vulnerabilities, increase resilience in the region so that all the countries of our region can be able to face properly the threats of security and in this way contribute to peace, stability, cooperation in the region and in the Mediterranean.  

Today’s challenges in a zero-polar world require that every country do its part, and show the commitment that the world that we intend to build is the one where democratic values and the principles of human rights prevail. 

Albania believes in the human ability to meet, accept and respect others, their culture and their beliefs. This is what we have always done in our history, even in the darkest times of World War II, by welcoming and protecting Jews from the nightmare of Holocaust. 

This is what we will continue to do also in our region, with our neighbours, and promote respect, equality and dignity for all, as the foundation for diverse and peaceful societies. 

It is our shared responsibility to stand up to everything that threatens our way of life, our freedom, our values, shared values, everything that we have achieved through centuries of hard work, perseverance and sacrifices. 

 

Thank you. 

Shalom. 

 

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