Defender Europe 21 multinational military exercise underway in Durres

The US Army-led Defender-Europe 21 multinational military exercises kicked off at Albania’s main port of Durres on Tuesday with the largest landing of troops and military vehicles in the Adriatic and the Western Balkans since World War II. Under the command of the U.S. Army for Europe and Africa, around 28,000 U.S., allied and partner troops will conduct simultaneous military drills across a series of training areas in many nations from the Baltic, the Western Balkans to Black Sea, demonstrating operational readiness and interoperability between the United States and the NATO allies and partners to deter aggression and ensure security in the Balkans and the Black Sea regions.


Speech by Prime Minister Edi Rama at opening ceremony for DEFENDER-Europe 21:

“Dear and much distinguished General Wolters!

I am especially happy to have you here with us and I would like to thank you at the very onset for the words you addressed not only to this audience, but to the entire Albanian people and for the special mention and appreciation for our proud and successful effort against the pandemic.

Much distinguished General Cavoli and General Harrigian!

It is indeed a great pleasure and honour for us to have so many stars together in this small place and it is my conviction that this exercise is much more than just a landmark event of the entire our shared work we have been doing in view of enhancing and demonstrating our capacities, because I believe this exercise is yet another critical point in taking our relationship to the highest level.

We constantly appreciate and consider these relations as excellent, but it is also true that they can be even more excellent, thanks to a great trust and constant mutual interaction.

Our generation was born and grew up throughout half of its lifetime cherishing the idea that you must never set foot in this country and we were all shaped and hardened by the propaganda of the past regime to be convinced that you were the most malicious evil that could ever fall not only upon Albania, but also upon entire world.

Indeed, our generation is somehow truly a miracle, because we have divided our life between two worlds; that small world I already mentioned; a dark and completely isolated world, and this world, where we can proudly and respectfully welcome our many friends and partners, and our U.S. friends and partners in particular.

I wish to very much believe that with your landing in Albania, you too will experience the same thing everyone does when coming to Albania; that you would wish to come back again. Albania is not a country they advise you to come in due to the stereotypes that actually stand in the way of the country’s relations with the rest of the world, but Albania is country where everyone who comes wishes to return back. I very much hope and I actually believe this is going to be the case with you as well, not only in your highest capacity, but also in your capacity as highly respected friends of this country.

The last I would like to say is that I believe that what we must take into account altogether and keep in mind is the obligation to pass to the next generations this very important testament for the future of our country, but also for the future of the world we have chosen, the world of nations that wish to live in freedom and democracy.

It is the testament of this strategic relationship for the freedom and democracy, not only of Albania, but also whole this world by investing all together to do even more for the next generation in all respects and give younger generation in Albania, in the region and wherever they are, the opportunity to be educated at the very onset with the highest values, principles and standards of the NATO armed forces.

Thank you very much for your presence!

It is truly a landmark moment for all of us.

It is a moment that fills us with pride, but also with the highest of responsibilities. We will continue to loyally stand side by side with you as a country that that size-wise perhaps cannot offer a lot to this Alliance, but value-wise and from the perspective of the values that make this Alliance unique to our world, we wish to be even more precious and dignified within this Alliance.

Thank you everyone and I wish every success in this military exercise that is a unique event in our relationships that I hope will be followed by other events to convey a very clear message to the region and beyond, to everyone who needs direct answers when it comes to our determination to stand within this Alliance, side by side with the United States and together with all other countries that have decided to pay every price for freedom and democracy.

Thank you!