Defence news Embassy 16 April 2009
Newest in Nato
After a successful 60th anniversary summit, Albanian Ambassador Zef Mazi reflects on what it is like being the club's newest member.
In a festive and warm atmosphere of true partnership, NATO celebrated its 60th Anniversary. In a remarkable display of unity, the alliance warmly welcomed France back into its integrated military structures; fully supported the American new proposed strategy for Afghanistan, including more troop contributions in order to deal jointly with a real potential threat to the international community; unanimously welcomed into its ranks Albania and Croatia as its full 27th and 28th members; and, again with a sense of unity and purpose, elected its new Secretary General, the current Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
The long road to membership
Albania applied for NATO membership as early as in 1992, right after its first democratic pluralistic elections. It was too early then. The country had to work and walk a long way to be prepared to earn its membership of NATO.
Albania joined the Partnership for Peace in 1994 and, five years later it was invited to start the Membership Action Plan (MAP). On 1 May 2003, Albania, together with its neighbours Croatia and Macedonia, signed with the US the so-called 'Adriatic-3 Charter', as an important instrument to help intensify the efforts and speed up the whole process for NATO membership.
All these proved to be vitally important for Albania's focused and result-oriented efforts to get ever closer to meeting the requirements and be eligible for NATO membership.
In the 2008 NATO Bucharest Summit, Albania and Croatia unanimously received the invitation to join the Organisation. Albania worked hard to transform itself to strengthen and consolidate its democratic system, its democratic institutions and the rule of law; to move to a market economy, combat corruption and to achieve a sustained 6.1 percent GDP growth for the last ten years; to align itself firmly with our partners in the global fight on terrorism; and generally to push intensively and successfully forward with all-round reforms, including the reform of the armed forces, and meeting the NATO requirements.
Albania and Croatia signed the NATO Accession Treaty in early July 2008. The ratification process of the signed Treaty by the 26 Governments of NATO members was completed and the ratification instruments deposited in Washington _ in a record time of only nine months. This allowed for the NATO Secretary General to happily extend the formal invitation to Albania and Croatia to join NATO.
In NATO's debt
Joining NATO has always enjoyed the broadest public support of the people of all strata and across the political spectrum in Albania, a support which reaches figures higher than perhaps among NATO members!
Perhaps this is because Albania, its people, and the Albanian nation have experienced first-hand what NATO can remarkably do to ensure freedom, peace, security and to help consolidate democracy, in particular in a region like the Balkans.
NATO unanimously and vigorously acted to stop the carnage, severe and protracted human rights violations and expulsions of about a million people from Kosovo and freed Kosovo and its people from the brutal oppressive military machine of Milosevic's Serbia. Albania and the Albanians will be always grateful for that.
For Albania and its people, which emerged from a most orthodox Stalinist regime only 18 years ago, joining NATO is indeed a great, momentous and historic national achievement. NATO includes two more members, thereby enlarging and consolidating its democratic space. Albania anchors its democracy and democratic achievements, as well as its future, firmly and securely into the most successful and powerful politico-military Alliance that history has ever known.
Albania is proud it was able to earn the invitation to sit at the same table with the greatest champions of democracy, freedom, peace and prosperity. Albania is most cordially thankful to all the 26 NATO member states for having assisted and supported it all along its road to full membership. Albania is proud to be the newest NATO member. It is fully prepared and ready to take upon itself all the responsibilities and obligations that come with this membership, as a loyal member, fully justifying the trust of the Alliance.