UK is building a stronger relationship with Albania by working side-by-side on NATO exercises and beyond, the Defence Secretary has said.
During a two-day visit to the capital Tirana and the mountain training area of Biza, Michael Fallon met Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Defence Minister Mimi Kodheli and witnessed British forces participating in Exercise Joint Effort, a ten-day exercise aimed at improving mutual effectiveness on operations.
In talks with Mrs Kodheli, Mr Fallon said the UK was a firm partner of Albania with deep links through NATO. He said that the UK would be appointing its first ever resident Defence Attaché and would work with Albania to meet security challenges in the Balkans.
He met soldiers from the Army’s Grenadier Guards and Royal Marines from Kilo Company 42 Commando as they joined Albanian troops and personnel from the US, Kosovo and Montenegro in Biza. Around 150 UK personnel are taking part in the combined field training exercise.
It is the first major exercise to be held in Albania after the announcement that Albania will contribute a Light Infantry Company to the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) when the UK leads the force in 2017.
Albania is an important training destination for the UK. Next month approximately 1,500 Royal Navy personnel will take part for the fifth consecutive year in the amphibious exercise Albanian Lion. Joining 250 members of the Albanian Armed Forces, UK participation will include Royal Navy capital ships HMS Ocean and HMS Bulwark, RFA Mounts Bay and MV Eddystone. The exercise will also include lead elements of a Royal Marine Commando group, Royal Navy divers and Commando engineers.
Albanian troops have also recently participated in Exercise Venerable Gauntlet in Germany, bringing together 3000 troops from 14 NATO nations in another major exercise before the UK takes its leading role in the task force.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
“Albania is a key partner in Southern Europe, an ally which is meeting its security challenges through its NATO commitments and more. Troops from both of our countries enjoy the first class training facilities here, and I look forward to our countries working together further when the UK takes over the Very High Readiness task force next year.”