The interview of Defence Minister Olta Xhaçka for Deutche Welle

 

DW: The European Commission in the report "Albania 2018" assesses security and defense policies in line with those of the EU and NATO. What did Albania do to deserve this assessment?

Olta Xhaçka: Albania from a security consumer has become a security producer in the region and beyond it. It is a security guarantor at a time when the entire Euro-Atlantic area is facing new, complex threats that are precisely related to security. There are instability within and around the borders of the Euro-Atlantic area, change of forms of radicalization, violence, terrorism. There are government inconsistencies, interethnic tensions, organized crime concerns, cyber threats. All of these require an effective and coordinated response at European and a wider level. In this context, I do say that, Albania is giving its contribution as a security producer.
We did an actual contribution to coping with all threats coming to the Euro-Atlantic area from the East or South. We are among the first countries to be listed alongside the Allies in the global war on terrorism and now we make a real and important contribution to its prevention. Albania is present in all NATO commitments to prevent threats coming from the East. Recently, we did declare in full coordination with the Allies "persona non grata" two Russian diplomats in Albania, one of them, a Military Attaché.

During my recent visit to Pentagon, US Secretary of Defence James Mattis praised Albania saying that: "Albania had proven that the geographic size matters less than the size of its commitment", and added that "Albania punches above its weight as a NATO Ally", mentioning the high number of Albanian soldiers participating in foreign missions.

DW: You proposed to the US Secretary of Defense to establish a US military base in Albania, on the Adriatic Sea. What benefits brings such a possibility to Albania, the region and the EU?

Olta Xhaҫka: Let me first clarify that what I asked US Defence Secretary James Mattis was to explore opportunities for a NATO or US footprint in Albania. The request was addressed to the USA, a friendly country for all Albanians, a country that is the main contributor to NATO.
It came clearly after a thoughtful assessment of threats coming from East and South. What I asked was neither less nor more than an increase in the attention of our region, a region that belongs not only geographically but historically to Western Europe, a region that requires increased attention to fulfill its aspiration: unity with the Euro-Atlantic family.
Why Albania? Because as I clearly said in Pentagon, Albania is a country which has played and plays a key role in the stability of the Western Balkans. For almost 10 years it has been a worthy member of NATO, a country where the support for the US and EU is at the highest levels.

DW: How is Albania participating specifically in the security challenges at the regional, European and global level?

Olta Xhaҫka: We are part in all security related commitments, from NATO structures to troop missions: Afghanistan, Latvia, Kosovo, Aegean Sea, EU missions in Mali and Bosnia-Herzegovina, where our participation is assessed by allies and European partners. Deployment in the Aegean Sea is the first mission of the Navy Force abroad. It is an estimated mission that prevents immigration towards Europe. In Albania's engagement in the global war against terrorism, apart from the contribution of troops, we are in the process of opening an Excellence Center for the Study of the Phenomenon of Foreign Fighters. I have just approved the 2018 - 2020 Cyber Defense Strategy, which will soon have a military cyberspace unit available.

DW: What is being done by the Armed Forces to meet NATO standards?

Olta Xhaҫka: We are focused on capacity modernization that has national priorities and obligations to NATO. The modernization of the Armed Forces and the combat equipment will significantly increase the operational level and its interoperability with that of NATO allied countries. Among the greatest achievements in this regard is the return of the US military giant “Lockheed Martin” the world's leader, from which we have already contracted the purchase of radar systems for the Integrated Airspace Surveillance System. The expectation is to enhance the collaboration after the effective meeting I had at this company's headquarters during a visit to the US.



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