Distinguished Mr. President,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Your Excellencies,

Allow me to express my best wishes on the occasion of your election in the office of the President of the 57th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, as well as to congratulate the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea, Mr. Han Seung-So for presiding with competence the proceedings of the last session. At the same time, I take this opportunity to hail the Swiss Confederation and East Timor for becoming new members of the United Nations Organization. I would also like to greet the return of the USA to the UNESCO, which we consider as an important event that will contribute positively to the future activity of this UN organization.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

During this year, Albania witnessed many positive developments in its political, institutional and socialeconomic aspects. The new climate of dialogue, which prevails recently in the Albanian politics, is encouraging the reforms, which aim at the acceleration of country's integration into Euro Atlantic structures.

The political and social stability of the country is being consolidated, thus creating the conditions for positive developments in all fields. The continuous improvements of the democratic standards, which characterize today the Albanian society, are a result of the reforms undertaken to strengthen the rule of law and the building of the institutions.

In the process of implementing the commitments of the Millennium Summit declaration, the Albanian government is taking the required measures to integrate the millennium development objectives into the national goals of development.

The National Strategy for the Economic and Social Development, drafted recently by the Albanian Government, with the support of the World Bank, has accommodated appropriately the development indicators in various fields with the Development Objectives of the Millennium. We have the political will to continue on the long and difficult road of implementing these objectives. We consider this to be an indispensable process for the country's sustainable development. Albania has already presented the report on the implementation status on the Millennium Development Objectives.

For these stated purposes the Albanian Government is undertaking an extensive campaign targeting the state administration, the civil society and the whole Albanian public opinion with the purpose of making them aware of the role they have in implementing these objectives. We would highly appreciate the cooperation with the Secretariat of the United Nations, Department for Economic and Social Affairs, as well as with the other specialized Agencies of United Nations, for the support they have given to the implementation of these objectives.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Recently, the Albanian Government has undertaken a comprehensive action against the phenomena of illegal trafficking, smuggling, corruption, and abuse of power. Being in the cross road between East and West, Albanian territory has been attractive for criminal activities, local or international, to be exploited as a bridge for trafficking of human beings, drugs, arms and goods. The crises and conflicts that our region has been forced to experience had contributed to that attraction.

For this purpose the Albanian Government has taken concrete commitments to cut off the human and all forms of trafficking from and through its territory by severely punishing the perpetrators, with the full power of the law, as well as by erasing the causes that create the conditions for such phenomena.

The political stability in the country has also witnessed very positive developments. The recent Presidential election, which for the first time was conducted with the broad consensus of all the parliamentary parties, is further contributing to this stability.

The overall reforms we are undertaking have had as point of reference the standards of the most developed western countries. The ultimate aim is the integration of Albania into Euro Atlantic structures. Joining the European Union has been a permanent major objective of my country.

The expected opening, this autumn, of the negotiations for the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU, would be the best encouragement for the comprehensive reforms conducted in Albania. The whole Albanian political spectrum, the government and the opposition are committed for the achievement of this target.

Albania pays a special commitment to the Atlantic dimension of the integration. Our aspiration for the full membership of the country into NATO, goes in line with the NATO's strategic interests of strengthening the peace and stability in the Southeastern Europe. We believe that the wider the geographic spread of this organization, the more secure the international peace and stability will be.

We hope that our ongoing fruitful partnership between Albania and NATO will be recognized in the Prague Summit.

Mr. President,

During the last years, the region of Southeastern Europe has experienced a new area of positive changes. The new liberal mentality is settling importantly in the conscience of our societies. We are confident that this part of Europe will soon become part of the European common future.

But, unfortunately, the traces of extreme nationalism and xenophobia, which are still present, remind us that we have a long way to go for escaping from the past and the genuine democratization of this region.

Albania is strongly convinced for the need of strengthening the regional cooperation, based on the principles of friendly and good neighborly relations, respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as protection of human rights and liberties.

Albania has given a precious, internationally recognized contribution towards the strengthening of peace and stability in the region. With a strong conviction that Albania's internal stability is essential to the stability of other neighborly countries of the region, after we have completed our tasks at home, we have promoted in the region the philosophy of cohabitation and tolerance instead of that of hatred, interethnic and religious differences.

With its vision towards the future, Albania has conducted serious efforts for the regional integration of Southeastern European countries, based on the model of the European Union. We believe that this model of reconciliation and cooperation designed and implemented after the World War II, is the model which the Balkans should embrace and implement with courage, leaving in the past their bloody interethnic conflicts.

In this context of cooperation and integration, the free movement of people, goods and capitals in our region should become a tangible reality for our countries and their citizens. We have to be aware that what we have in common today and what will have in common in the future, is more important than the bitter heritage or differences from the past. This is the philosophy of building on the common values for a common future.

As it was stated two days before by the Foreign Commissioner of the European Union, Chris Patten, Kosova has undergone such important changes that could not be imagined three years ago.

The building of self-governing democratic institutions in Kosova was a tremendous achievement for the people of Kosova and the international organizations led by UN. The normal functioning of these institutions, with the partipacition and representation of all its citizens will create the necessary conditions for the further normalization of political, economic and social life in Kosova.

It is our conviction that the local election to be held this October, will be conducted in full compliance with international standards and will contribute further to the consolidation of the institutions, democratization and europianization of Kosova.

The Albanian Government hails the cooperation with UNMIK and Kosova elected institutions. We are convinced that these relations will be strengthened further in the future to the benefit of all citizens of Kosova.

Supporting the Resolution 1244 of the Security Council, Albania strongly supports the activity, efforts and commitment of the special Representative of the Secretary General in Kosova, Mr. Michael Steiner.

Albania views the relations with Kosova in broader perspective of the regional stability, cooperation and integration. Albania encourages and supports a stable, sustainable Kosova, which is a constructive complementary element of the stability and integration processes of the region. This means that Kosova should be open in its relations not only to Albania, but also to Serbia and all other countries of the region.

Albania sees the future of Kosova in the perspective of the regional and European integration processes. This future requires democratic standards, such as the consolidation of the democratic institutions, strengthening of the rule of law, return of Serbs and the normal functioning of the multy-ethnic society.

The future status of Kosova has to satisfy a number of elements and principles at the same time, such as:

- the right of all its citizens to express themselves on this matter, despite their ethnic background;
- the will of the international community;
- the guarantee of the stability of Kosova and the region itself.

The status of Kosova should be linked to its stability status.

In compliance with the long-term vision of regional cooperation and European integration, Albania has been committed to the further promotion of the relations with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The recent upgrading of the diplomatic relations to Ambassadorial level, as well as the initiation by Albania of a number of bilateral agreements, are concrete examples of this committment.

We have welcomed the recent democratic elections in the Presheva valley and we strongly believe that these elections will contribute to the strengthening of stability in this region. The integration of the Albanians in all levels of the central and local administration, the protection and respect of their rights will no doubt bring positive developments for this area, for Serbia and the region at large.

Mr. President,

The Albanian Government is interested to develop cooperation relations and good neighborliness with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

We welcome the recent democratic elections conducted in this country. We are looking forward to see a stable and long-term government to be created soon, having as the major objective the full implementation of the Ohrid Agreement, which would be the essential condition for the maintenance of peace, stability, democracy and the continuity of the reforms in our neighbor republic.

The European integration processes have increased the awareness of Albania and the other South Eastern European countries towards the role and importance of the regional organizations and initiatives. They are considered efficient instruments, which bring the countries together not only in the political dimension of the cooperation but they also intertwine their interests in many fields such as trade, transport, culture, education, Fighting the organized crime is another dimension of this cooperation. Albania has successfully concluded in March of this year the Chairmanship of the South East European Cooperation Process, while in April it has taken over the Presidency of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation.

We are confident that during the Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of member states of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, to be held in Tirana in October of this year, the participating countries will reconfirm their readiness to strengthen the political and economic cooperation and concretize it into programs and projects.

Mr. President,

One year after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, our hearts still feel the pain for the loss of innocent lives. Endangering of peace, freedom and the democratic values, challenges that face all the UN member countries, call for the creation of a unified front. Terrorism has become a common enemy, of which none of us is immune. Nevertheless, our determination is strong and enduring to fight this enemy, and give us a chance for a more secure and peaceful world.

Albania was among the first countries, which aligned itself with the international coalition against terrorism. In compliance with the UN Security Council Resolution 1373, during this year Albania has undertaken legislative, executive and administrative action to fight against this phenomenon. At present, Albania has a complete contemporary legal framework that enables the control, investigation and punishment of potential terrorist acts, of persons linked with or who support such acts. Albania has become a party to the 12 UN conventions, which are related to the fight against terrorism. The Albanian Government has also taken action for setting up and strengthening specific state structures, which deal with the prevention as well as the fight against terrorism. These structures are also responsible and capable to offer full cooperation on an international level.

Albania has highly praised and supported the activity of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan and currently is a participant with its troops there.

We have followed with deep concern the developments in the Middle East, and the threats that the regime of Sadam Hussein incurs to the security, peace and the global solidarity against the state-backed terrorism. The Albanian Government reiterates its position, which demands the full compliance by Iraq with the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions. Any hesitation or indecisiveness to implement the UN decisions and its Resolutions regarding Iraq is a challenge to the international community and could bring about grave consequences to the peace and global security. We are convinced that, at this moment, as President Bush reiterated a few days ago, "we can not stand by and do nothing while dangers gather. We must stand up for our security and for the permanent right and the hopes of mankind".

In line with the international community, the Albanian Government follows with concern the escalation of the Israeli -Palestinian conflict. Our position is that there can be a solution to this conflict, which can bring a sustainable and long-term peace. Albania hails the steps undertaken by the international community to bring peace and stability in the Middle East, and expresses its confidence that both parties in the conflict will join the international community in its efforts to bring a permanent solution to this conflict.

Mr. President,

Our area is full of challenges, which our countries have to face jointly. The United Nations has an important role to play in bringing together the efforts of individual members to create the necessary synergies to deal with such challenges. The armed conflicts, terrorism and international organized crime, poverty, violation of human rights, contagious diseases such as HIV-AIDS, natural calamities and environment pollution, are problems which require not only the commitment of all our countries, but also a coordinated and efficient joint action by the United nations Organization, based on the principles of its Charter.

The United Nations must strengthen their role in preventing and resolving the conflicts, as well as in enforcing the peace and stability. In this respect, the cooperation with the regional security organizations should continue on the basis of the best examples of the past.

In promoting peace and development, the United Nations should use more efficiently the financial resources available, aiming at their better management, but also at tailoring its projects and programs to the specific needs of the beneficiary countries.

The Albanian Government hails and supports the efforts of the Secretary General of the United Nations Organization for reforming of the organization and hence, for the enhancement of its efficiency.

I take this opportunity to thank also the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs, as the United Nations Development Program and the other specialized agencies of United Nations that are carrying out their activity in Albania, for its assistance given to Albanian Government in implementing its development programs and projects.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to emphasize that this is a special year for the United Nations Organization. Many important events have taken place on such issues as the rights of the children, ageing of the population, nutrition, the fight against poverty, environment protection etc. Albania has given its contribution to these events.

On this occasion, on behalf of Albanian Government I would like to hail the outcomes and initiatives of the Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg, a few days ago. We are convinced that the commitments taken by our countries in these UN activities will be soon implemented in concerted efforts with each other, in order to make a better world for all.

Thank you.