This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
I would like to thank you for accepting my invitation to join me at my Residence tonight to celebrate the official birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. It is a great honour and pleasure for me and for my wife to receive you here.
Her Majesty is 88 years old this year and has reigned as Queen of the United Kingdom and several other countries for 62 years.
Over the last year we have seen considerable political debate in the United Kingdom over the relationship of our country with the European Union and over the relationship between the different parts of the United Kingdom. This has underlined the importance of the monarchy as a focus of loyalty and force for national unity in difficult times. This has been demonstrated by the public joy at the birth of Prince George, great-grandson of Her Majesty and third in line to the Throne, in June last year. This happy event symbolises the continuity of the Royal Family across the centuries of our country’s history.
Bilateral relations between Albania and the United Kingdom continue to flourish and widen. Our diplomatic policies remain closely aligned within the framework of the NATO alliance, and our diplomatic missions work together in the United Nations, OSCE, Council of Europe and other institutions to promote the cause of peace, freedom and an international system based on respect for the rule of international law. Political exchanges have increased over the last year, as the Albanian leadership maintains contacts across the political spectrum in London. Three British Ministers have visited Albania this year. Just last week, both the Albanian Minister of Integration and the Deputy Minister of Interior were in London for very fruitful and useful talks with British ministers and senior officials. Next week, the European Council will discuss the next stage in Albania’s EU accession. I am optimistic that those discussions will make a significant and positive contribution to that process.
Our military relationship has expanded in recent years. In September last year, there was held in Vlora our largest ever joint military exercise, “Albanian Lion 13”, with the participation of four major Royal Navy warships and 3,000 British sailors and marines, working in cooperation with Albanian and Dutch colleagues. We expect further exercises later this year, to the mutual benefit of both armed forces. This year, for the first time Albanian officers will attend the Royal Naval Academy at Dartmouth, and an Albanian Ministry of Defence official will attend the Royal College of Defence Studies, our most high-level strategic study centre.
Bilateral cooperation in the struggle against drug trafficking, organised crime and people trafficking is viewed in London as a model for other countries in the region. Our National Crime Agency has secured numerous arrests in Britain and disrupted the activities of major Albanian and British crime groups with the assistance of the Albanian State Police, the Prosecutor General’s office and other relevant agencies. I would like to pay tribute to the efforts that the Albanian government is making in the reform of the police force and the struggle against drug trafficking, and the determination in this area shown by Mr Saimir Tahiri and his colleagues in the Ministry of Interior and Albanian State Police. As a former police officer myself, I wish to express my solidarity and support to the police officers currently conducting difficult and dangerous operations in the Lazarat area.
This year, our bilateral cooperation has expanded into new areas of activity. The British organisation Crown Agents has become involved in the reform of the Albanian Customs Service, an important project that addresses the rule of law and the fight against corruption, and also will increase government revenue to support projects for the benefit of the Albanian people. Our British Council colleagues have been working with the Ministry of Education on plans for reform in the higher education sector. The creation of a better educated workforce, through improved universities and vocational training, is vital if Albania is to meet the challenge of European integration. We are also continuing our cooperation with Albanian legal and judicial institutions, and stand ready to play our part in support of the much-needed process of judicial reform and reform of the prison service.
Our British companies, in particular Vodafone and Glaxo Smith Kline, remain successful and prosperous in the Albanian market. They are models of modern management techniques. We hope that their success will encourage other British companies to join them in the Albanian market.
This year we have also seen a greater interest in Albania from our Commonwealth brothers. Delegations from Canada, Australia and New Zealand have visited to explore areas of diplomatic and economic cooperation. This is a development that we strongly encourage and support.
So this last year has been a good year for British-Albanian relations. But there is lots of work to do, and many internal and international challenges to face. My Embassy will work hard to make sure that next year is even better, and that our work contributes to greater security, justice and prosperity for the citizens of both Albania and the United Kingdom.
I would like to offer a warm welcome to those of the British community who have joined us tonight, and of course to thank the companies that have so generously sponsored this event this year, as in previous years. I would like to invite you to join me in a toast to Her Majesty the Queen.