IBNA Op-Ed/ Former US ambassador in the NATO, Victoria Nuland, a diplomat par excellence, which is known worldwide about expressing her positions in a very open way, told us without any doubt that at the end of 2007, if a voting took place for your NATO accession, it’s hard to receive even half of the votes in favor.
By Lulzim Basha
Leader of the Democratic Party of Albania, mayor of Tirana and former Foreign Minister in the period when Albania became a NATO member
In the afternoon of April 2 of 2009, as we were coming back with an official delegation of the Albanian state, government and opposition representatives, while the plane was landing in Rinas and while I was looking outside the window at a view known for every traveler and for every foreign minister, I had a feeling which I can only describe through one sentence; I’m going back to another country. This is another Albania. This is something that I shared with my fellow travelers, especially with the head of the Albanian government, Mr. Berisha. We’re coming back to another country, we said to each other almost at the same time.
It was Albania that we had left a few days ago, it was Albania that we left before the Strasbourg Summit, where the NATO accession was finalized, but it was also another Albania. An Albania which after several centuries had left behind the existentialist dilemmas, which today and in the future will be even hard to be understood or be grasped by the new generation, thanks to God, thanks to the efforts successfully crowned of this generation for NATO accession.
Existentialist dilemmas can be encountered in the Albanian folklore, in the Albanian prose and poesy, of the Albanian with its rifle as an extension of his spine, of the numerous invasions, from antiquity up to the Second World War, of the existence as the main nightmare of the nation in every level and at every time, from the level of families, heads of families up to the levels of regions, state, governments, which obliged them to prepare for every case to preserve the existence of the nation which led to a ridiculous paranoia, such as the construction of hundreds of thousands of bunkers.
Thus, a nation which not only for decades, but also for centuries had been wavering in existentialist anxieties, which had now put an end to this anxiety once and for all.
Today I want to recall that April 1, 2009 didn’t only find Albania with a finalized process of NATO accession, but it also found Kosovo free thanks to the NATO contribution and now independent.
Thus, another nation was waiting for us as we were coming back from the historical Strasbourg summit. This was the feeling, this was the emotion which I’m sure is being shared by many of us here. I’m sure that for many representatives of easter countries, this emotion was not unkwn. It’s not pathetic, it’s not pathos, but it’s true.
The truth is a little bit deeper. Albania was not transformed those two days. The country that we found upon our return from Strasbourg was in many aspects different, not only as a result of the decision that was taken there and the invitation made the previous year in the historical Summit of Bucharest.
The truth is that Albania had started this path of change and had continued with determination, perseverance and almost stubbornness.
Since the very day of the articulation of our aspiration to become members of NATO, as the first nation of former communist eastern Europe, up to the decision to attach ourselves as a pioneer country of the Peace Partnership, the signature of the Adriatic Charter in Tirana, the launch of the difficult reforms to transform the armed forces, the consistent preservation of the standards that were reached and taking them forward by succeeding governments and what’s most important, the completion of our homework.
Because it often happens that NATO is associated with images of military, equipment, personnel, high technology and without any doubt, NATO is that force, it is that military potential, but before being such, NATO is a political alliance of the countries that share and adore the ideals and principles of freedom, democracy, human rights and human dignity. Therefore, the accession in the alliance, although it’s a technical condition that has without any doubt the capacity to offer security, is in fact a very significant reforms. Reforms like the ones that the country knew and successfully achieved before deserving the invitation and which continued in that significant final period between receiving the invitation and the full accession.
Albania undertook transformations in three main pillars of the consolidation of the rule of law, functional democracy, fight against crime and corruption. And of course, in the domain of security and military reforms, there were more quality and clearer steps of the 23 years of Albanian democracy.
It was the results of these reforms and not only reforms on paper, the strong institutional support of the majority, but also the will to work with the opposition and the entire political and social factors, that convinced our allies about the accession of Albania in the NATO.
Something that prevailed over opposing circles-because we cannot talk about countries that objected Albania’s accession in the NATO-that convinced the skeptics, something which proved the capacity and potential of a nation united around a decision, an objective; Albania in the NATO.
Therefore, on April 2, 2009, Albania was another country, but it had started to become another country years ago, when the rule of law was consolidated, when the principles of functional democracy strengthened, when the fight against corruption and crime saw significant and sustainable improvement, when democratic institutions were consolidated in compliance with the legal and constitutional framework of the country.
Based on these reforms, the country changed and was transformed. How did it transform? It was not only NATO’s seal. It was not only the fact that NATO’s flag waved not as an aspiration, but also as a legitimate right and a new flag holder,but thanks to these reforms, thanks to these transformations, Albanians started to see the benefits.
Albania’s accession in the NATO buried once and for all the existentialist worries of Albania. It turned the country once and for all in one of the safest countries of Europe. It enabled Albanians to enjoy, along with NATO accession, the logo and the brand of being a member of the Alliance, thus an improved image and reputation in relation to every other factor.
In particular with economic factors, foreign investors, foreign countries and foreign tourists. This coincided with a period when the global financial crisis has started to intensify and its consequences were felt in the majority of NATO member countries, but in our country, it led to an increase of foreign investments, an intensification of economic growth, exports, creation of jobs, progressive growth of wellbeing and standards of living.
Although today we’re proud about this moment, although the work to justify the presence and our status as NATO member country, never stops, we have other challenges in front of us.The country is behind in the path of the European integration. 5 years have passed since the accession in the NATO. Albania should have finalized the phase of the status, Albania should have started the negotiations for accession. Albania should have made today a lot of progress in the path of European integration.
NATO’s teachings which are even today very significant and realist for all of us, Albanian policy and decision makers, it seems that they were not a priority in the path of the European integration of the country.
The will and sustainability of reforms which must be demonstrated before them, must be very clear and expanded in time. Therefore, I believe that we must all share the responsibility and the autocratic sense for what we have not done to move forward toward the European integration of the country.
We must complete the status stage.
We’re not required more than to overcome the worst of our self and embrace the best of what we are and what we have shown to be.
Political consensus, cooperation for important reforms, preservation of achieved standards, further consolidation of institutions and no efforts to intimidate them or control them. Application of the law, unegotiatable respect for the rule of law. Functional democracy, free vote, the check and balance system that Constitution and the people have decided through elections, regardless of the position, majority or opposition, must not be damaged.