Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear President Alfred Moisiu,
Dear friend Alfred, thirty years have passed since we met in 1992. Then we dreamed together with you, Solomona Passi, about the Euro-Atlantic integration of our countries. You were one of the pioneers of the Euro-Atlantic integration of your country Albania and the Western Balkans. A part of our Euro-Atlantic dream has come true. Both Albania and North Macedonia and before that Bulgaria became members of NATO.
Now we will wait for the second part of our dream to be realized: membership in the European Union. The European Union is different from the Alliance. Here we are already dealing with the establishment of relations between European nations, with different cultures. So, we non-Europeans should become part of the Europeans.
In ancient Greece, especially after the Persian Wars, the nations were divided into Greeks and Barbarians. All those who spoke the Greek language were considered Greeks, and those who did not understand it or did not speak it were considered barbarians. Today, in a convergent sense of meaning, the word barbarian refers to all those who break the most basic laws of common life, those who systematically approach violence and wars, those who behave maniacally towards other religions, minorities, towards the poor, those who instead of the common life they live in the world of Thomas Hobbes and the state of nature where "man is a wolf to man".
Did Brussels unjustifiably treat us as barbarians from the Balkans, and only after the candidate status of Ukraine and Moldova, did they remember the Western Balkans and we got a date for starting negotiations? Why and until when will Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina be marginalized by the EU? Albania and North Macedonia have had a difficult road to the European front.
Our peoples have lived for centuries according to the norms, rules, traditions and customs that have been passed down from generation to generation as a collective memory. In that way, each of the peoples of the Western Balkans built their own cultural capital. Identities were built under various political systems and persisted.
In 1989, when the Iron Curtain fell, a world order led by economic motives was established, freed from military conflicts and rivalries between the great powers. It was an order in which economic gain and mutual protection were guaranteed through international law, the self-determination of peoples, and the peaceful resolution of conflicts. International trade, cross-border investment, global value chains, free trade agreements were motivated by the pursuit of individual and collective prosperity. In such an international order, it is impossible to believe in violence and inter-state wars and invasions.
The invasion of Ukraine by Russia revealed new dimensions in international relations. It is by far the most massive military conventional attack since World War II. And secondly, it is so far the most serious questioning of the liberal order that governs international relations.
There are three lessons that we can learn from the Russian invasion of Ukraine:
- The great powers must learn to communicate better with each other when it comes to their capacities and respective ambitions. Namely, during Obama's time (2013) in relation to the chemical weapons of Bashar El Assad, the "red line" worked. Today, there is no "red line" between the White House and the Kremlin.
- States that are threatened with rapid degradation have a greater tendency towards open conflict.
- NATO members will not be able to take advantage of the benefits and will have to invest at least 2% of their annual budget.
Finally, some lessons for small countries. They are most stable and strongest when they are members of political, economic or military integrations. Neutrality as an option has proven over the centuries to be difficult to sustain and an inappropriate choice in crisis conditions. In the Western Balkans, solidarity and cooperation are essential elements for improving trust and prosperity as well as for overcoming the crisis that arose from the war in Ukraine.
That's why I look at the Western Balkans option with great hopes, although without our brothers from Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, the picture is not complete.