Albania commemorates 15 anniversary as Alliance takes stock of present and future challenges

AIIS’ international conference gathers decision-makers and experts in Tirana to discuss regional security

Tirana, April 25, 2024

Two significant anniversaries set the stage for an international conference organized by the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS): the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Albania's 15th anniversary of NATO membership. With a touch of irony referencing Albania's communist history, the event was titled "From Enemy to 15 Years of Membership: Albania's Inspiring Journey in NATO."

Against the backdrop of these milestones, decision-makers, experts, and diplomats convened to address pressing questions in today's geopolitical landscape and the ongoing efforts necessary for NATO's consolidation, fostering confidence and vision for the future. Many of these issues will take center stage at the upcoming NATO Summit in Washington DC in July, where reflections on the anniversary will guide discussions on the alliance's future.

Dr. Albert Rakipi, Chairman of AIIS, inaugurated the conference by affirming that Albania's NATO membership, attained 15 years ago, stands as the nation's most significant achievement in international relations since its modern inception. This achievement, he emphasized, stemmed not only from reforms within the armed forces but from a broader process of democratic state-building.

According to Rakipi, “for Albania, with the heaviest totalitarian legacy, joining NATO was an extraordinary step to get out of isolation, through the construction of a democratic state, the development and modernization of society, and, at the same time, a great obstacle to not slip back , in a totalitarian political culture from whose legacy it seems we have not yet definitively parted,” as he stressed.

Rakipi underscored NATO's role in promoting democratic values and stability across Europe, integrating new member states, and fostering security cooperation continent-wide. He highlighted NATO's pivotal involvement in crisis management and peacekeeping operations in the Balkans and Afghanistan, enhancing stability in conflict-affected regions.

Prime Minister Edi Rama highlighted the stark contrast between Albania's NATO membership and its isolationist past under Hoxha's regime, characterized by paranoia towards an imagined Western enemy. Rama also addressed challenges posed by Russia's aggression in Ukraine, exploring strategies for Albania to revitalize its armaments industry and potentially become a producer and exporter in the field.

David Wisner, Charge d’Affaires of the United States of America to Albania, praised Albania's dignified presence within NATO and its contributions as a reliable ally in global missions throughout the world, including the recent opening of the Kucova Air Base, and its commitment to meeting is NATO obligations. He acknowledged the significant importance of the NATO Alliance today, echoing President Harry Truman’s 1949 remarks that NATO is a shield against aggression.

The conference's first panel featured Ambassador Rainer Rudolph, Vice-chair of the prestigious Munich Security Conference, who highlighted Albania's increasing presence on the international stage in recent years, including its mandates in the United Nations Security Council and its hosting of the 2023 Berlin Process Summit.

Subsequent panels, featuring members of the Parliament, academics, and experts, delved into Albania's journey as a NATO candidate and member, as well as NATO's role in promoting peace, stability, and European integration throughout the Western Balkans. Presently, three out of six countries in the region are NATO member states.

AIIS stands as one of Albania's most esteemed think tanks, recognized internationally for its expertise in security and foreign policy. Last year, AIIS became an associate member of the European Security and Defense College (ESDC), further solidifying its standing in the European security landscape.