Speech of Defence Minister, Mr. Arben Imami, at the conference “Smart Defence” - regional cooperation and coordination among Southeastern Europe countries”
Honored President of NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Mr. Lamers,
Honored colleagues, ministers,
Honored Chief of General Staff of Armed Forces,
We live today in a world which is changing rapidly, whose dynamics of development require firstly, understanding, discussion and effective solution. In this context, conferences of this kind, forums to exchange ideas and experiences are necessary. I want to congratulate the Parliament of the Republic of Albania and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly for organizing this event, in the vigil of a very important decision-making of the North Atlantic Alliance members in summit of Chicago.
Allow me to submit and share with you some thoughts about this major reform, the framework of principles which we call “Smart Defence”.
The reason that has driven all the Alliance countries to enter in this reformation process in the defence sector, beyond the context of financial crisis, undoubtedly is related to the Cold War and nature of relations between state actors or blocs of states created at that time. Constant tension between Soviet Union and Western liberal democracies, forced the states to raise and maintain large military capacities, often inflated and oriented towards the concept of conventional defence concept, because the main risks of that time, were conventional. With the dissolution of Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, countries were liberated from the nightmare of the great crash and certainly began major reforms to eliminate excess capacities and their orientation in the necessary directions. But administrative inertia, bureaucracy, especially in the security and defence sector has left its imprint and has slowed the process of reforms.
20 and a few years after the end of the Cold War, many trends and tendencies have taken shape in the system of international relations, outlining an international political and economic system, different from the one after the 90’s. Many countries before the 90’s were not integrated into the global economy, but now are important players and the extent of its economic interest certainly brings even greater commitment by these countries, to increase military capabilities and ensure the interests of economic circumstances. In addition, the nature of the threats and risks is already diversified, making security far more complex. Many threats of the 90’s were less popular, now they are a priority, and this could include: terrorism, organized crime, energy and cyber security, etc.
In such a context is also present the global financial crisis, which eventually raises the urgency of reforms in the defence sector. If during the Cold War, the guiding principle was ‘all about security’, by not considering the financial effects and that inertia in many cases continued until today, now, the guiding principle is to balance needs with defence resources by considering the principle of cost-efficiency. Here I must clarify a very important element, which is often misunderstood. This reform is not aimed at cutting the capacity in principle, but on the elimination of redundant costs, orientation of capacity needs and building new capacities, in terms of a new security context and of the new economic and financial environment.
The majority of NATO member countries are making sweeping reforms based on these principles, and here I can cite UK, France, Germany, Italy, but also the United States of America. In this framework, Albania is entering in the phase of the structural reform implementation. The General Staff of the Armed Forces has drafted a new structure of the Armed Forces, which will be the future structure of these forces. During the drafting process of this structure, we are not guided by the principle of budget cuts, but by the principle of cost-efficiency. In this sense, there will be no defence budget cuts, but its reorientation according the Armed Forces needs, having in mind the efficiency maximization of these forces.
At its core, this is the concept of “Smart Defence” raised to the level of cooperation between countries of the Alliance. “Smart Defence” principles are prioritization-specialization-cooperation. Setting national priorities and their interrelation with the Alliance priorities, in the framework of this new concept, would be an opportunity, not to be missed. This is a chance for an open, transparent and oriented cooperation towards cost-efficiency, to meet the basic requirements of the Alliance for capacities.
One of the most important elements of “Smart Defence” is specialization, in terms of planned and consulted reductions of costs and capacities. This would allow continuous coordination between member countries, to orient in the proper manner national capacities, in order that they might be complementary to each other. It is essential for NATO member countries having a joint plan in this direction, so that in the finalization stage, we would not have capacity reduction, in order for NATO to maintain and develop necessary capacities for deterrence and defence.
In this context, cooperation between our countries will enable us to access each other’s capabilities, which individually are unaffordable and have high cost. It can be done through cooperation between smaller groups of member states or through strategic cooperation between countries that are close in all dimensions. The agreement between Great Britain and France for strategic asset allocation, and let’s take it as an example in this context, is quite encouraging and should be followed by other members of the Alliance.
Albania, as I said at the meeting of NATO defence ministers, but also in regional initiatives meetings, fully supports the “Smart Defence” concept and I encourage more cooperation with regional countries in the framework of various initiatives, like Adriatic Charter A5 or SEDM. It is imperative for us to move toward the increase of interoperability of our Armed Forces and creation of specific frameworks for a particular concrete cooperation in the field of maritime security or civil emergencies.
In this regard, we start a long-term and consolidated cooperation between our Armed Forces, in order to provide direct contributions to NATO operations in the European Union or, where is necessary. Linking military capacities of the regional countries will also increase quantity and quality of operations where we are engaged, and simultaneously reduce financial cost. Such cooperation, highly successful, is the joint operation of military police of several countries of the region under the leadership of Croatia, in Afghanistan, operation that has given positive results. We are ready to expand and extend this cooperation in other areas.