(Speaker's notes, may differ from delivered version)
Thank you for accepting my invitation to attend this event to celebrate the official birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. Her Majesty is ninety years old this year, and has reigned over the United Kingdom since 1952. The Monarchy has been a focus of the loyalty of the British people, and a unifying factor in times of rapid social change and political division. It is an institution of continuing relevance and importance. Her Majesty’s long lifetime of service to the British people is a source of admiration and pride to us all.
Over the last year, the relationship between Albania and the United Kingdom has continued to widen and deepen. Our diplomatic and strategic relations remain closely aligned within the framework of the NATO alliance. This enables us to face with confidence challenges from negative forces on the periphery of the NATO area and from the threat of violent extremism.
The military relationship between our two countries continues to grow. We have Albanian cadets performing successfully at all our major training institutions. Joint military exercises in Albania grow in scale and complexity, to the benefit of both armed forces.
The cooperation between Albanian and British law enforcement agencies remains excellent in the battle against organised crime, drug trafficking and illegal migration. This cooperation has been successful in breaking up numerous criminal networks across Europe and enabling the arrest of hundreds of dangerous criminals. We hope that the conclusion of the judicial reform process will enable this cooperation to be still further developed. We have opened new areas of cooperation in prison reform.
Our British Council team have been heavily involved in assisting the Ministry of Education in its ambitious programme of higher education reform, which we believe to be one of the undoubted successes of the current government.
Our top British companies in Albania, are prominent in the Albanian market. They represent a model of modern business practice and corporate social responsibility.
The relationship between our two countries is developing fast, and has the potential to develop still further in the years to come. I am sure that my successor will take forward this relationship to still greater achievements.
This is the fifth and last occasion on which I will have the honour of hosting this event. In three weeks I will leave for a new diplomatic posting. It has been a great privilege to serve the United Kingdom in your beautiful and fascinating country. I am sure that I will continue to follow your exciting and complex politics in future years.
Internationals here live protected and comfortable lives. But we must never forget that for many Albanians life is tough, confronted with economic hardship, corruption, crime and unfairness. This should encourage us to work harder and to ensure that our cooperation and our interventions into Albanian political and economic life are of genuine benefit to the Albanian people.
I would like to thank all of you who have helped the Embassy and me personally over the last four years. Albanian friends and my diplomatic colleagues have been generous in sharing their experience and views in frank discussion. I have learned a lot from you, not just about Albania but also about the strengths and weaknesses of the British system. So it has been a real two way exchange of ideas and opinions. We have worked together on projects of importance to Albanian and British interests, to Europe and to the NATO alliance. This has been the most worthwhile and fulfilling period of my diplomatic career. I wish you all every success in the future.
I would like to thank the sponsors who supported this event so generously. I would also like to thank the staff of this Embassy: hard working, high achieving and a pleasure to work with. Finally I would like to thank my Deputy Steve Hickling for his loyalty and support, and of course my wife Alice, without whom I could not have achieved so much in my career.
I would like to ask you to join me in a toast to the Queen.