MEFA, 23 January 2019 – Ladies and gentlemen,
Today, as I was walking into this building for the last time as Foreign Minister, I realized that I would no longer be part of its daily life, but I am lucky that I am going to be a part of its history.
The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs is among those few institutions that entail the symbolic responsibility of representing the State. It is probably for this reason that such institution has endured better than the other institutions the waves of transition and misdoings of politics.
From my very first day in office, I have considered the specific authority of the Foreign Minister’s position an honour and obligation, and during my entire tenure I have tried to rely on three values; integrity, trust, and respect.
Integrity does not imply only intellectual uprightness or personal virtue, but also inclusiveness. I have tried to demonstrate this by involving in the decision-making many colleagues in the Foreign Service based on their area of expertise and experience, as well as by taking into account the needs of this institution and the priorities of our work.
In my work, I have been guided by the Constitution of the Republic of Albania, and the Strategic Priorities of our Foreign Policy. The foundations underlying such policy stem from the establishment of the Albanian Modern State, which was redefined after the fall of the communist dictatorship, clearly establishing our European and Western belonging.
To me, integrity is also a matter of recognising and building on the work of our patriotic predecessors, each of whom has laid a stone in our state building.
Trust is the connecting thread in diplomat’s daily work, because the diplomat, more than any other employee, deals with the “other”, with the different, with the foreign, and with the novelty, especially in a world that no longer abides by the rules we already know. In this context, trust also implies courage to be able to open up and learn from one another.
I have tried to demonstrate this by opening up the Ministry not only to new approaches and ideas of researchers of foreign policy, but also to the new generation of diplomats.
I hope that every young diplomat that has joined the service over these years will serve and represent Albania with love, not simply for their country but for its people as well, wherever they are posted.
To me respect means to be able to listen. During my work in this institution, I have tried to create the right settings and the necessary environment to enable colleagues to talk to one another, and to participate and contribute in decision-making. I have always been willing to listen to you without prejudice because I have always believed that no one has the monopoly on the truth and as result the on foreign policy.
Guided by these values, I have tried to renew and update our diplomatic corps as this is the only way for it to be able to provide its irreplaceable input to our society and Homeland.
I believe Albania has grown into an ever more reliable partner and actor in the international arena, with a clear and unmistakable physiognomy in the mosaic of our Euro-Atlantic family.
Due to our joint efforts, we have succeeded in projecting a more dignified and proactive Albania, which approaches challenges as opportunities rather than as problems.
With this approach we have succeeded in:
• Consolidating the strategic partnership with the USA and the EU;
• Taking important steps ahead in the European integration process by getting EU candidate status, getting the clear recommendation by the European Commission to start accession negotiations, and the EU decision to launch the screening process, and the agenda of negotiations;
• Further strengthening our role in NATO, as a direct contribution for the Euro-Atlantic family to which we belong. Albania’s membership, for the first time, in the UN Human Rights Council stands as testimony to our social sensibility to respecting and promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as a contribution to multilateralism. For the first time, an Albanian representative was elected to serve in the UN Human Rights Committee;
• Reinforcing our authority across the region by pursing a proactive policy, and participating in the bilateral, trilateral, and quadrilateral initiatives, based on our maxim: Open in the Mediterranean, and locked in the Balkans. We succeeded in having the two first regional premises established in Tirana, respectively, for the Western Balkans Fund and for the Regional Youth Cooperation Office. We also succeeded in having an Albanian representative as chairperson of the Regional Cooperation Council;
• Projecting an Albania with greater authority across the region by consolidating relations with Albanians in the region, and turning this Ministry into a home for all Albanians;
• Enhancing Albania’s image and authority internationally, by getting for the first the chairmanship of an important organisation, such as the OSCE, in 2020;
• Modernising the consular services like never before, and reducing significantly corruption, costs and time of services, as well as increasing the quality of services provided for our citizens, wherever they are, while, at the same time, strengthening our ties with the Diaspora as a natural extension of our foreign policy;
• Opening the Ministry to a new generation of diplomats while hundreds of students do their internship are assist our diplomatic corps inside and abroad;
• Enhancing interaction with the world beyond these walls, by making use of the social networks, and turning of our foreign service into the most followed digital platform;
• Reinforcing the merit-based service, by radically improving the recruiting and career system across the foreign service based on the abilities, and the improvement of financial treatment for diplomats and their families;
• Improving the working conditions and infrastructure in a number of embassies and consulates, thus turning them into worthy premises for the representation of the Albanian State. In serving the institutional memory of the Ministry and the Albanian State, we reconstructed the archives, and started its digitalisation to render it accessible to the wider public.
The Ministry I am leaving behind is in a much better and much more solid to cope with the challenges of our times than what it was five and a half years ago. I am leaving behind an ambitious team that is working with dignity for Albania, is cooperating for a more prosperous region, and is contributing to a more secure Europe.
None of these achievements would have been possible without the trust, cooperation, and support of the Prime Minister Rama, and of my colleagues in the Government Cabinet.
Of great support in the achievement of these goals have also been international partners, with whom I have worked and shared the challenges of our times.
I would like to extend my thanks to all of my collaborators, starting with: Deputy Ministers with whom I have had the pleasure to work with since September 2013 to this day; the Secretaries General; the Directors General, the directors and all the team of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs;
The heads of all diplomatic and consular missions, and their teams;
The tireless staff of the Guard of the Republic, who protect this institution, and the supporting staff, who look after our common environment.
As is already common knowledge, I have shared my long hours of work with the close and dedicated team from my cabinet. I consider that with their willpower, perseverance, patriotism, and preparedness, they represent the best values of the Albanian young professionals. I am confident that each one of them will be an asset wherever they will be contributing across the Albanian society.
For my last thanks, I will have to refer to a personal confession by my esteemed former colleague and current President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, according to whom “the Foreign Minister is the one being missed most: missed by the Ministry team in the course of their daily work; missed by politics played on a daily basis; and missed by his family”.
And it is exactly the family that has endured the most and has excused unreservedly each and every absence of mine, assuring me of their support on my journey. I would like to thank them for their devotion during my absences, and apologize to them for the weekends I have spent absorbed, as I was, by the Blackberry and the Iphone.
There is no guarantee that what lies ahead of us is going to be better or easier than what we are leaving behind. As a result of our transformative work, there have surely been unhappy individuals and adversaries. However, one thing is for sure: that our challenges have rendered us stronger, more stable, and I hope, worthier for tomorrow’s Albania.
Thank you! Good luck!