NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly, which held works on May 28-30 in Tirana, gains an Atlantic and Albanian political importance due to the time and place in which it was organized. For Albania, it should be seen as the confirmation of a regional role and performance in these not quiet times for the Balkans and continent. This importance doesn’t derive from the fact that it was the first meeting of NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly in Albania’s capital city, where 260 parliamentarians from 28 member states of the Atlantic alliance. The importance comes from the fact that it gathered in Albania, the most Atlantic state of the region, at an important time, and especially because NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly gave from Tirana some new important messages for the circumstances in the region and around it, but even for actors and factors of potential destabilizations in the Balkans.
International conjunctures, which increase the importance of the meeting of NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly in Tirana and its current messages, are the intensified campaigns of Russia to increase interventions and its implications in the interior affairs of our region. In parallel with the important activity of NATO in Tirana, we underlined the new interest and special connections of Russia with two Balkan states. Firstly, with Serbia, the Prime Minister of which, Aleksandar Vucic paid an unannounced visit to Moscow on May 26, his first visit abroad after the victory in early parliamentary elections in April. Serb media confirm that the Serb prime minister was summoned to Moscow by the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, to hear Russian suggestions and to include in the list of the Serb new government cabinet Moscow’s favorite names. It is not the first time that Kremlin directly interferes in the formation of the Serb government. It did this even two years ago, when it made the Serb PM, Aleksandar Vucic include in the cabinet against his will, the known pro-Russian dolphin, Ivica Dacic as Foreign Minister. With this act, Moscow showed to the west, EU and NATO, its weight in Serbia. The second act was the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 27, which also underlined a manifestation of the Russian weight in Greek politics. Beyond the religious- spiritual emphasis of both parties, the Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, for the first time formulated the strategic definition that the connection of Greece with Russia is a strategic choice for Athens.
In such situation of political and diplomatic progress of Moscow, it was expected that NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly in Tirana was going to adapt to the new Balkan climate, where cold Russian winds are blowing. It was also more than expected to hear from Tirana the right messages to the right ears. The first clear message for states and people of our region was that NATO in the region and at European and international level is prepared and should prepare more for the threats coming from Russia. NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly President, Michael Turner clearly underlined in the Atlantic Forum of Tirana that ‘Moscow is working against us for its own interests. Let’s take measures against Russia’s threats.’ It is a clear message for Russia, which has escalated in the recent day the military threats against regional states like Romania and Montenegro, to direct Russian missiles to the address of cities of both Balkan members of the Atlantic alliance. But it was a message even for some filo-Russian circles in the politics and states of the Balkan region, which try to close their eyes in front of the threats and always greater intervention of Russia in the interior affairs of the Balkans. NATO is clear that like always Russia constitutes an existential risk for the members of Atlantic alliance.
The second message closely linked to this situation was the message of the Atlantic forum of Tirana for the necessary enlargement of NATO. The Assembly greeted the invitation of member addressed to Montenegro as a contribution for the strengthening of stability in the region and that is not the end of the enlargement of the alliance in the Balkans. But it also gave the meaningful message that enlargement should continue with other countries and first of all with Kosovo. Kosovo’s Atlantic integration, as representatives of Albania and some other states highlighted, constitutes a valuable investment for the consolidation of Atlantic architecture of safety in the region. It is important to make it clear that Kosovo’s Atlantic integration has no reason to be linked to the virtual Atlantic integration of Serbia, as one of the Albanian organizers of the forum wrongly asked. Kosovo has a government and people, which are ready to enter NATO since tomorrow, while Serbia, not only refuses to enter NATO, but it continues to celebrate as an official holiday the ‘Anti-NATO Day’.
The most special and newest message of NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly came from the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, who in his greeting speech to the Assembly on May 30, spoke about the achievement of the dream of a NATO base in Albania. It is the first time that a Prime Minister of Albania, in 24 years of post-communist period, publicly and officially pronounces the request for a NATO military base in our country.
The senior Atlantic auditorium was not chosen by chance for the public presentation of this request of the government. The diplomatic logic makes one think that such request must have been addressed previously in official diplomatic channels of the Atlantic alliance, to reach to the phase of making it public.
It is a new interesting development, with regional, European and Mediterranean effects, which is related to the joint protection from increasing risks and threats from the East to our region.
Albania’s readiness to offer residence of a NATO military base in its territory should be related to the needs for safety of the alliance and freedom and sovereignty of Albania, which are rightfully sought under the Atlantic umbrella. But it is also an Atlantic contribution of Albania at a time of regional and European aggravations. Therefore, Albanian messages of NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly in Tirana give this forum a historical note.