Security in Southeastern Europe: An Albanian Perspective
His Excellency Fatos Nano
Prime Minister of Albania
At a time when the European security zone has been sensibly expanded, when NATO represents the most successful political and military union in history, and when our nations are taking responsibility for collective security and for building a new security architecture in the Euro-Atlantic area, we all feel more secure and more motivated to make our contributions, no matter how modest. I am pleased to confirm that Albania is at the forefront of these nations.
I would like now to touch briefly on some of the contributions Albania has made, as well as some of the changes we are experiencing and our efforts to stand convincingly on our feet.
CHANGES IN ALBANIAS DIRECTION
Though it began in the early 1990s, the total transformation of Albanian society has not yet been achieved. In fact, the profound and multidimensional crisis of 1997 brought us back to ground zero. The rapidity with which state structures were dismantled proved that a rebuilt state is only an illusion if old practices remain in force, if state institutions are not based on sound democratic foundations, and if the new society relies not on freedom and sustainable economic progress but rather on the rhetoric of faked success and old-style propaganda.
Albanians, especially Albanian political leaders, will no longer buy into these old and detrimental ways. The general elections of June 1997 revived our energies, reopened the avenue to positive development, and re-established cooperation with the international community to an extent never seen before. And we know now that the primary responsibility for progress lies with us. Any effort by the international community will be successful and produce the desired results only if we join in with energy, efficiency, and material and human resources.
Since the general elections of 97, numerous and very positive efforts have been undertaken. Normality has been restored throughout the country, the authority of the state is felt everywhere, and the country is quickly and convincingly developing. Not long ago we signed the ESAF 2 Agreement with IMF and we are entirely committed to implementing it in spite of many rigorous restraints. We are ready to sacrifice in order to fulfill our mandate of stabilization.
DOMESTIC-AND FOREIGN-POLICY PROGRESS
Several of the efforts we have undertaken involve working closely with partners on specific projects in a number of priority fields. For example, we are restructuring and reorganizing our armed forces and our police together with NATO and the WEU. We are also in the last phase of eradicating the notorious financial pyramid schemes, closing a painful economic and social chapter and enabling the return of some of the savings that were lost.
Though our foreign policy is based on a number of essential elements, they are all structured around a primary pillar: complete integration with the Euro-Atlantic community. Such integration will give Albania the place it deserves in the developed world and enable our citizens to play a role in European and world affairs, which are more and more characterized by multidimensionalism and interdependence.
Together with our international partners we have drafted and approved the International Strategy for the Development of Albania and are entirely committed to its quick implementation, especially the conclusions reached at the Rome and Brussels conferences and those by the cooperation programs. In July 1998 we will host a high-level follow-up meeting in Tirana to assess the strategys progress to date.
RELATIONS WITH NATO AND NEIGHBORING STATES
In all of these efforts, special attention has been paid to our relations with NATO. I have the pleasure to state that on all questions and issues we are in accord with the organization. An intensive NATO-Albania cooperation program, our Individual Partnership Program (IPP), was implemented in fall 1997, and another, enhanced program is underway in 98. To assist in this work, a NATO/PFP office, the first of its kind, was opened in Tirana.
At present, Albanian and NATO experts are working together to focus the modern defense concept on the specific circumstances in Albania, where political factors predominate over classic military ones. This focus will serve as the basis for our entire hierarchy of fundamental defense-related documents. To enable this goal, Albanian and NATO teams are carrying out a bottom-up review of our IPP in light of our current circumstances. This means that the 16+1 process has entered a new phase and that Albania is conducting itself as an active and a reliable partner. The decisions made at the NATO Council Meeting on May 28, 1998, in the Statement of Kosovo, as well as those made at the Alliance Defense Ministerial in London in June 98, make us hopeful for quick and positive progress.
Our policy toward our neighbors derives from our desire to build good relations and mutual trust. It demonstrates that we are ready to discuss what unites us and those issues of mutual interest. I am pleased to be able to say that, for the first time in our history, outstanding efforts have been made and major steps have been taken to reinforce good-neighbor relations that, in our view, are major contributions to peace, security, cooperation, and stability in our region. There are many examples of such work that I could mention, but I will only note the most recent and a very encouraging development, namely, the creation of the Multinational Peace Force in Southeastern Europe.
Since Albania is ready to take part in any good-will initiative aimed at resolving any problem, using democratic means and in accordance with international agreements to which we are a party, we have undertaken serious efforts to establish a dialogue with the Yugoslav Federation. To our regret this genuine offer has only resulted in total disappointment. Moreover the monstrous attitude of the Serbian political-military machine, demonstrated lately in Kosovo, has made direct communication quite impossible. This unfortunate situation is the Serbian choice, not ours.
ISSUES SURROUNDING KOSOVO
Regarding Kosovo, I must say that the ongoing events there do not surprise anyone, certainly not Albania, which for years has warned of the risk of explosion. Unfortunately, those who predicted the tragedy we are witnessing today have been proved right in their assessment. Did we not learn the right lessons from the Bosnian nightmare? Isnt calamity once again about to engulf the Balkans and perhaps an even wider area? The international community has the means to prevent tragedy from striking again. But time is running outwe are already in crisis. The punitive military operations that Milosevic ordered in Kosovo are a tragedy. They are a direct threat to all Albanians in Kosovo and the region as well as an open provocation to the international community, to preventive diplomacy, and to the concepts and practices of common security. Strong, unified, and immediate action, not words or empty threats, are needed to deal with Milosevic, a man the West wrongly believed to be an indispensable peace broker but who is actually the best qualified candidate to be tried by the Hague International War Crimes Tribunal.
The Albanian public and the political leaders in Kosovo have made it clear that the only acceptable solution to the problems is independence. But the Albanian government is in a very delicate position: on the one hand there is a legitimate request by an entire people for self-determination, which is one of the principles of the Helsinki Final Act; on the other hand there is the international community, to which Albania belongs, which has until now not accepted independence as a solution. Acting as we do to support peace, progress, and cooperation in the region, Albania is of the opinion that the problem can be resolved by respecting the peoples right to self-determination as well as the wish of the international community to preserve existing international borders by offering a solution within FRY. This opinion is shared by many. But the present course of events will only generate more conflict and further radicalize those Albanians who are demanding independence. The so-called terrorists are actually only simple people who are doing as much as they can to resist the monstrous Serbian war machine. The current shift in the balance of power is enabling them to enjoy not only the sympathy but the full support of the population. In the bloody land that is Kosovo, diplomacy, especially the so-called preventive diplomacy, is useless if it is not backed up by appropriate peace-enforcing means.
The Need for an International Military Presence
We believe that the current situation in Kosovo requires an international military presence. We have come to this conclusion after a thorough, multidimensional review of the situation over the last two months. Large-scale war broke out in Kosovo when NATO hesitated to respond to the Albanian governments request for a physical NATO presence on Albanian territory. We are certain now that such a presence is indispensable, because we dont wish to see Albania, Macedonia, and perhaps other areas become battlefields. Milosevic is using the same tactics in Kosovo as he did in Bosnia: shelling remote villages inhabited by unarmed civilians in an attempt to carry out ethnic cleansing. The result of these heavy-artillery and aviation attacks, besides many casualties, is the forceful displacement of more than 50,000 people who are now heading to Albania, Montenegro, Macedonia, wherever they can, or hiding in the mountains; it should be mentioned that some of these people may carry the conflict with them and spread it to other areas. It is certain that large portions of the population will continue to move away until the international community intervenes.
The decision to quickly organize the air exercise Determined Falcon in Albanian and Macedonian territories has been a welcomed first step. However we remain skeptical about the announced results of Milosevics meeting in Moscow, which in no way comply with the important requests to immediately end military actions and withdraw Serbian forces from Kosovo.
The High Costs of the Conflict
In addition to high civilian and territorial costs, the continuation of the conflict is causing serious problems for the Albanian economy. The costs to house and assist those displaced from Kosovo are increasing not only because of their growing numbers but also because of the need to re-establish a war infrastructure. But events tell us that the time for diplomatic preventive efforts is over. Firm military intervention seems to be the only choice. Bosnia and its outcome were bitter and costly in many respects. They were also testimony to the fact that any war begun by Milosevic will fail. Our common imperative is to make that day come in Kosovo as soon as possible.
MOVING AWAY FROM THE PAST
I would like to conclude by recalling an old saying: Nature abhors a vacuum. Albanias governing policy, as well as our foreign policy, is to try to prevent a security vacuum from returning to our region, since that would mean a return to the ugly past of totalitarianism and national conflicts. To that end, we are ridding ourselves of the ghosts of the past and are working to build a society that responds to current development needs, and one that is prepared for future challenges and is compatible with Western societies.