(Original script, may differ from delivered version)
Thank you for accepting the invitation to join me tonight at my residence to celebrate the official birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. It is a great honor and pleasure for me and my wife to have you here.
Her Majesty celebrates eighty-nine years this year and has reigned as Queen of Great Britain and some other countries for sixty-three years. Our kingdom remains a focal point for loyalty, strength of moving foreword and national unity in rapidly changing times. Recently in my country there has been much debate on the relationship between the United Kingdom and the EU institutions, and the relationships between different parts of the UK. The importance of the role of the monarchy, however, remains unquestionable.
Bilateral relations between Albania and the United Kingdom continue to thrive and expand. This is underlined by three high-level visits in London at the end of 2014. The President of the Republic conducted a landmark visit, meeting with government representatives, the Royal family and financial and commercial districts. Ms Mimi Kodheli, Defence Minister visited London and some military units to discuss with British Secretary of Defense how to expand our military cooperation. Mr. Saimir Tahiri, Minister of Interior, together with his colleagues held important discussions with the Secretary of the Interior, Ms Theresa May and senior officials of the security and law enforcement institutions. These visits opened new areas of cooperation as well as regional and bilateral.
Our diplomatic policies remain closely linked within the NATO alliance, and our diplomatic missions work together at the United Nations, OSCE, Council of Europe and other institutions to promote peace, freedom and an international system based on respect for the international rights. We have a common goal, that is to fight the forces of religious extremism in the Middle East. In this context, I wish to reiterate my government’s appreciation for Albania, which generously donated munitions to Iraqi forces and the Kurdish regional government forces.
Our military relations continue to expand. The “English Lion 14” exercise that was organized last summer was more complex than the previous years. There was a high turnout of the Albanian Armed Forces from designing and planning stage to the deployment of land, air and naval forces, British and Albanian, in a challenging scenario. For the first time, we have Albanian cadets, training in all our three academies: Army, Navy and Air forces.
Last summer, the process of Albania’s accession to the European Union entered a new phase when the Member States unanimously decided to give Albania candidate status. The new government in London, formed last month, reiterated its support for the expansion of the European Union, through strict but fair conditions. There are still many challenges ahead in this process, but there is a possibility to speed up, through internal reforms outlined by the European Commission.
I am convinced that the key to the process of accession is a radical and comprehensive judiciary reform. Corruption in the judiciary hinder Albania’s path to the EU and creates an environment in which even more corruption and organized crime flourish. Judicial corruption discourages foreign investment and domestic entrepreneurship. It creates social problems that affect the daily lives of citizens. Therefore, we strongly hope that all political and institutional forces to support justice reform program and to contribute to its successful completion. If this is achieved, it will be a transformational reform in Albania.
Bilateral cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking, organized crime and human trafficking is seen in London as a model for other countries in the region. Our National Crime Agency has made numerous arrests in Britain and has cut the activity of large groups of Albanian and British crime with the help of the Albanian State Police, General Prosecutor’s Office and other agencies.
Cooperation between the State Police and other forces of order is important to us in the fight against drug, human trafficking and organized crime. A British organization, has given a great contribution to the reduction of smuggling, tax evasion and corruption in customs service. Our experts are also cooperating well in connection with the prison reform.
Another area of cooperation that has been extended over the past year is the support that Britain is providing to the ambitious education reform in Albania. I am pleased that the British Council and education agencies from the United Kingdom were able to give their contribution to this long-needed reform. I believe that the reform in education, especially the higher one can bring economic and social benefits to the country. This is an opportunity to mobilize the dynamic and ambitious Albanian youth in the interest of national development. I hope that we will be able to further expand our cooperation in this field during the next year.
The largest British company in the Albanian market, has also taken significant steps this year. In the commercial field, they introduced a money transfer service that has major social influences for the poorest in the community. Regarding the role of their social responsibility - with which I have the honor to be related to, they have introduced, among other projects, the Digital Police Station that supports the work of the police against crime and lawbreakers.
To finish on a historical note, recently Albania has been active in promoting good relations with countries in the region with which relations have been difficult in the past. Mr Rama has said that in this he is inspired by the history of reconciliation between France and Germany after the Second World War. There is an older example. Today is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo in which a coalition of countries led by Britain fought against the French Empire. Since that day, France and Britain have been united by a shared commitment to liberal and democratic values and have fought as firm allies against tyranny and oppression.
I am pleased that we have with us this year the Nottinghamshire Band of the Royal Engineers. 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.