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Leksion i mbajtur nga Ambasadori Fabrizio Bucci në Senior Course on Security and Defence Studies

Ambasadori i Italisë në Shqipëri, Fabrizio Bucci, mbajti sot, më datë 23 mars 2023, një leksion në kuadër të “Senior Course on Security and Defence Studies”. “Senior Course on Security and Defence Studies” ka nisur më datë 6 mars 2023 pranë të sapothemeluarit “Defence College” të Akademisë së Forcave të Armatosura shqiptare dhe do të përfundojë më datë 26 maj. Në kursin e Trajnimit Ushtarak të Nivelit të Lartë, të përqendruar kryesisht mbi tema rajonale, marrin pjesë, përveç përfaqësuesve të institucioneve shqiptare ushtarake dhe jo vetëm, edhe oficerë të lartë të Vendeve aleate si Italia, Greqia, Kosova, Bullgaria, Maqedonia e Veriut dhe Gjeorgjia.

Vijon i plotë leksioni i mbajtur nga Ambasadori Fabrizio Bucci  

“THE EUROPEAN ASPIRATION AND ALBANIA’S ATLANTICISM”

Authorities, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me start by thanking the Albanian Ministry of Defense and the “Armed Forces Academy” for the invitation to be guest speaker at the 13th “Senior Course on Security and Defense Studies”. It is truly an honor.

It might be taken for granted that I am now speaking in a country that is a full-fledged member of NATO. But if one takes a closer look at where Albania is coming from, one cannot but realize how big of an achievement this is. Albania’s entry into NATO marked a turning point and a crucial event in Albania’s recent history.

Allow me now to briefly run through the relations between Albania and NATO. It all began 31 years ago, in 1992: Albania was the first among the countries of the communist bloc to publicly announce its desire to join the Alliance, submitting the admission request to the North Atlantic Partnership Council.

Albania’s accession process took a new turn in 2003, following two important events: on the one hand, the signing of the Adriatic Charter between the three candidate countries for accession (Croatia, Albania and North Macedonia) and the USA and, on the other hand, Albania’s participation in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan.

In 2008, on the occasion of the Bucharest summit, Albania was invited to start negotiations to join the Alliance, and signed the membership protocols. Meanwhile, the cooperation with Italy, Turkey, Germany, the United Kingdom, gave the Albanian Armed Forces the opportunity to become increasingly capable of operating in multinational contexts and to participate in missions to help populations hit by emergencies and disasters. A year later, the Strasbourg-Cologne summit on April 4th 2009 officially sealed the end of this process.

All along this journey, Italy has accompanied Albania. Albania’s membership in the Alliance is indeed an important achievement for Italy as well. Due to our geographical proximity and to our historical, cultural, economic and commercial ties, Albania is a crucial partner whose connection with the West fully coincides with Italy’s national interests.

Let me briefly recap our main military and humanitarian activities in Albania between 1997 and 2009:

– Mission Alba, led by the Italian Army, with 7.000 soldiers belonging to 11 countries composing a Multinational Protection Force in favor of Albanian people;

– Operation ALBIT, carried out by the Italian Air Force;

– Operations by the 28th Naval Group, with the Italian Navy;

– the role of all Italian Experts, to sustain and support the development of the Albanian capacities in the Defense sector.

Through all these efforts and activities, the experience and knowledge gained in various joint multinational exercises have enabled Albania to grow effectively over the years and to achieve the full range of technical and operational standards required by NATO. One remarkable achievement in this specific field was the “Biza 22” Exercise and the eventual certification of the “Light Infantry Battalion Group” (which belongs to the 2nd Infantry Battalion of the Albanian Land Forces) as Combat Ready by NATO on the basis of the so called CREVAL (Combat Readiness EVALuation) criteria.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

as NATO and the EU remain our common cornerstones in the international arena, Russia’s aggression war against Ukraine underlines once more the importance of closer and closer cooperation in the foreign and security domains. As a result of the conflict, there is finally renewed attention and greater emphasis on the integration of the Western Balkans in the European Union.

Indeed, together with its NATO’s membership, the accession to the European Union is the other major strategic objective for Albania. We therefore welcomed with particular satisfaction the opening of accession negotiations last year: a “mission finally accomplished” also thanks to the continued support of Italy.

Again on the war in Ukraine. The urgency to close ranks and the need to bring the region closer and closer to Europe is bearing positive consequences, some of which deserve our attention and praise. Last December 6th, right here in Tirana, we held the EU-Western Balkans Summit, the first being organized in this region. It was a long overdue sign of attention by the European Union to this crucial region of our Continent. Among the positive shockwaves fueled by the Ukrainian war I shall also mention the impact on the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. In this respect, Italy welcomes the agreement reached in Ochrid last week.

All in all, there is a “before” and an “after” the 24th of February 2022, the day the war began. There is THIS side and THAT side: the side of the assaulted and the side of the attacker. It is encouraging to see that all actors of this region are coming to terms with this new geopolitical reality and realize that they must take side.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In this age of geopolitical shifts and turns, the stabilization of the region is more and more a necessity. To give Albania full credit, the Albanian government has always played a constructive role to stabilize the Western Balkans. Over the years, our two countries have worked hand in hand to this end.

Let me recall our common endeavors.

I will start by mentioning the Defense Cooperation Initiative (DECI), led by Italy, which focuses on cooperation between countries in the Adriatic and Balkan areas (comprising Albania, Austria, Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Hungary). Albania’s recent transition from “observer” to “member” status underscores the importance of its commitment underlining its resolute alignment with the West in the face of the latest geopolitical developments.

I shall also recall the ADRION Initiative involving Italy, Albania, Croatia, Greece, Montenegro and Slovenia. It is a crucial tool for optimizing the presence and ability to act together.

Another example is the Kuçova Albanian Air Force base, which has been recently implemented thanks to the funds granted by the NATO Support Procurement Agency to make it a brand new NATO Air tactical base.

I will also mention the most challenging military exercise ever hosted by the country: “Defender Europe 21”, led by the US Army and carried out for almost two months throughout Albania. Overall, about 6.000 US troops took part in the exercise in several phases to test basic interoperability with other military forces located in other countries on the Adriatic (from Croatia to Greece) up to Romania, where also an Italian Army Battlegroup took active part in the training area of CINCU at the so called Joint Power Demonstration Day.

Incidentally, this year as well, Durres will be the entry point of the 2023 Joint and Combined NATO Exercise. Accordingly, Durres becomes a “de facto” candidate to be NATO’s future strategic port connecting the Adriatic sea and the Black sea, also known as the Pan-European Corridor 8.

All these examples that I briefly recalled speak volumes about Albania’s pivotal role in the Adriatic area and the Western Balkans.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me conclude my remarks by stressing one crucial point. Democracy and Freedom come at a cost and we must be ready and willing to pay for it. The Russian aggression against Ukraine is a dramatic reminder that we can never lower our guard and that our traditional toolbox of “hard power” – that is, military might – remains key and vital for our defense and security interests. As the Romans used to say “si vis pacem, para bellum” (if you want peace, prepare for war).

Against this background, reinforcing our cooperation, investing in security and supporting our Institutions, like this brand-new Defense College, are key to achieving success.

We have no other choice but to act and to be together. In all these endeavors, Italy will always be on Albania’s side.

Thank you for your attention.

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