Minister of Defence, Mrs.Olta Xhaçka at the National Security Parliamentary Committee

Defence Minister Mrs. Olta Xhaçka was at the National Security Parliamentary Committee, summoned to a hearing session, informing the MPs of this Committee about one of the proposed members of the negotiating group for the sea agreement between the Republic of Albania and the Republic of Greece. Following is the full statement of Minister Xhaçka in the Committee:

Honorable chairman of the Commettee,
Honorable colleague Members of Parliament!

I have met Artur Meçollari for the first time in my life at the end of November 2017. I found him stationed in Kabul, where he was working for 11 months as the highest military representative of Albania, at the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.

I did not come here today to make anybody's apology, much less the Navy Captain Meçollari. It is up the military staff to evaluate their colleagues, their career prospects and no doubt that there have been other ministers who have closely observed his career and progress as a military, in many duties and education assignments home and abroad but I accepted the Commettee's request for this hearing, because I judge, I must clarify some statements, deliberately cast up and down, with the utmost care to humiliate not an individual, but an entire process that has to do with the future of our country - the geographic future, but also the historical one, of defining what belongs to us and what belongs to neighbours.

The issue of delimiting sea space is a complex and subtle issue. It combines diplomatic, juridical and technical elements, including maritime navigation, cartography, or other maritime elements, upon which none of us here is an expert. Therefore, in these cases, the involvement of several institutions is required to have a thorough analysis of the process, with all its elements. Aiming at that, in diplomatic meetings with the Greek side, support with expertise in the field of maritime law and maritime affairs has been necessary. Captain Meçollari, along with other experts, have a long and solid, practical experience. They have been studying the issues of Maritime Law and applying it to our country. The Navy Captain has given his contribution and has offered his consultancy to different Defence and Foreign Ministers, especially in analyzing the situation before and after the decision of the Constitutional Court of 2010, and also when the Ministry of Defence and Foreign Affairs was led by today's opposition. Our country has few prominent experts in the field of Maritime Law, one of whom is Artur Meçollari. The Albanian state military support whenever necessary with their expertise, Albanian state institutions and this does not constitute any violation of the laws and regulations of the country.

Let me dwell upon the reasons of the captain’s discharge from the military in 2012, for which I have also been summoned here today. He was unjustly dismissed from the Armed Forces because he refused to sign out of dislocation plan some of the naval installation. He refused to hand them over to the Doctor’s friends and family. I have not come here to resume the old stories, but the retrospective is also necessary to understand that the attack on Meçollari at the time when the press spoke of the mega affair with the Military Base of Bisht-Palla, the sale of property in Porto - Romano among Prime Minister Berisha family members, with Damir Fazliç and, all that followed, had a great cost on Meçollari and continues to persecute him today.

Soon you will understand that what followed was just a personal revenge that had nothing to do with fulfilling the duties, or worse, with the secret agencies at the expense of the National Security.

In 2012, with a series of compromising documents between the Ministry and General Staff, “Kepi i Palit” base was deliberately degraded to turn it into a benefiting source for private individuals with specific interests over that area, located in the north of the city of Durrës. The first attempts started at the end of 2010, followed a year later with discharge from the Armed Forces of Rear Admiral Kudret Çela, Commander of the Naval Force of time, who did not become part to the process. Immediately after this, the Deputy Commander of the Naval Force Artur Meçollari, was charged with the task of the Commander and was officially required to remove the Naval Base from the dislocation plan by changing the Organic Table (an illegal process since the proposal must come from the Commander of Force to the General Staff, not vice-versa from General Staff to the Force Commander).

Through a formal classified letter, at the disposal of the MoD/GS addressed to the Chief of General Staff at that time, it was verified that Captain Meçollari, along with 15 Naval Force leaders, did not comply with the political orders and did not sign for the removal of the Naval Base from the dislocation plan as this act violated the National Security according to their arguments. Meçollari was released from duty, not only as a commander in charge, but also as Deputy Commander of the Naval Force after only 18 days being charged with the command and only one week after the above mentioned document.

I emphasize, in January 2012, Meçollari and his 16 military colleagues refused to be political soldiers, showing integrity and morality in full accomplishment of their mission, i.e.to guarantee the country's security.

So far, I believe we agree that Meçollari and his colleagues at the Naval Force have not worked against the interests of the country, on the contrary their activity is in full compliance with their duties, the integrity of the military and the constitutional obligation in the defense of national security. Here commences the revenge not only against Captain Meçollari, but to the entire Naval Force Command chain. After the discharge of Rear Admiral Kudret Çela from the post of Commander of the Naval Force, dismissing deputy commander Meçollari after only 18 days, in a rush, it was appointed in violation of the Constitution, another commander from the Ministry of Defense, completely bypassing the authority of the president of the Republic of the time, a decision which was revoked by the then Minister of Defence himself only three months later, after a lot of media coverage of the unlawful decision. It seems that the massive property of the “Kepi i Palit” base, where the interests of the PM at that time and his family were so clearly expressed, should definitely be sorted out.

But if there is a great injustice in this story, it has not been done to Artur Meçollari more than all those who, at the time of the governing of today’s opposition, disobeyed the political order.
And that’s when the embarrassing spy game starts. There was gossip about talks and conversation, which have never been verified. It launched a data collection campaign agaist Artur Meçollari to prove that this man was active against the government of that time. There was an absurd and ridiculous insemination of facts manipulated by the administration of that time against Meçollari. So ridiculous that the former Military Intelligence Service (today AISM) refused to file evidence in court. Even when the judges of the case went to the agency to get acquainted with the fabricated documentation, no access was granted.

I must clarify that: the whole court proceedings commenced at the request of Artur Meçollari and the Ministry never initiated a criminal proceeding for the so-called spy who threatened national security, as foreseen by the law in the cases of dissemination of classified information. Moreover, the surveillance process that required the Prosecution's approval based on false arguments for contacts with non-friendly attitudinal services to NATO countries not only resulted to be a soap bubble, but the tapping machine did not stop even when in the telephone tabs officials of embassies of NATO's strategic countries also came out. Meanwhile, like any NATO member country, Albania exchanges all the information related to its planning, capabilities and personnel through planning processes at the Alliance Headquarters. And it is absurd to think that member states seek such information through Albanian officers.


Honorable colleague MPs:

This is the discharge from the Armed Forces order for Capt. Meçollari, on whom education and training are invested in country and abroad. Even the former Chief of Staff at that time stated that the soldier was over-qualified. The discharged officer in October 2012 could see the two official documents only in court, six months after his dismissal, without ever knowing what violations he had committed, as the Defence Ministry claimed at that time. He was discharged only by two signatures, to return to the AF after the 2 court rulings in 2014 and the final one in May 2015.

Artur Meçollari lawfully followed the issue of his unmotivated discharge. He turned to the Court and followed the process to the end, though the benefits he deserved as a reserved soldier were removed. I emphasize, it was Artur Meçollari who addressed the Court and none of his current accusers. It was Artur Meçollari who asked for justice to the courts rather than the system which, if it had any evidence, would have to bring him before prosecution charged with what they unjustly address at him today. And again, the standard changes, after his return to the Armed Forces, the officer that has ruined the sleep of the opposition today again. From the 2 documents and 2 signatures for his discharge, authorities in the MoD of the HQ appoint him on duty in accordance with the Court's ruling in a 18-document practice signed by 23 authorities of the MoD and the GS, which are again available to you.

The Albanian military Artur Meçollari is issued with the NATO security clearance "Cosmic Top Secret". To put it simply, this officer has the highest level of access to secret information, not only for Albania, but for each document produced by NATO and its 29 member states. To have this level of security, there have been many and many background checks by our most specialized security agencies. For this certification all the verification structures in the country have to express themselves, not only AISM, but also SIS or the State Police. This certificate, is not possessed by many present here. If there was a single proof, even a reliable indicia, Meçollari would not enjoy this level of security today.

Artur Meçollari has been one of the most elaborate voices against the previous sea agreement. He has proved with facts and arguments that this agreement was against our national interests. He has measured with the accuracy of Maritime Law as to what we are entitled to and what we were losing. Recent days attack against the personality and integrity of Artur Meçollari, proposed as a negotiator with the Greek side, is nothing more than an attempt to break the process, which is being developed in full accordance with the law but also the national interests of the Republic of Albania. It originates at his fault to refuse to eat the spoiled soup at the expense of Albanian state property.

Meçollari is simply a detail in this great embarrassment that Sali Berisha is trying to recreate in the failed attempt to delegitimize a fully transparent process that would restore the injustice caused by the unconstitutional agreement of April 2009. I emphasize, any unfounded but also intentional charge against the military is not only a violation of the individual, but a violation of the country's image, a worthy NATO member and the image of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Albania.
There are few people who have sold Albania's territories and have violated national interests. All the details clearly show that this is not the case with Artur Meçollari who has done the job of a good patriot in whichever case when circumstances have tested him.



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