It is an honor to be in your nation's capital preparing to meet with many of you on both sides of the aisle as well as members of this administration and friends of Albania both inside and outside your government.
I arrive as the leader of a parliamentary body in a rapidly maturing democracy, one that is a good and loyal friend to the United States. That would have been unthinkable before the fall of the Soviet Union and dissolution of Yugoslavia roughly a quarter century ago. This spring we celebrated the 25-th anniversary of reestablishment of diplomatic relations between our countries. Thanks to your great nation's support we have gone a long way, and since 2008 Albania has been a member of NATO. Our servicemen stand side by side with yours in the war against terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.
We should all be proud of that; it reflects real progress in the acceptance of a basic American tenet: belief in democracy, the rule of law and an increasing embrace of those words from your Declaration of Independence -- "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" as "inalienable rights."
But while proud, we must also soberly and seriously confront and discuss our common challenges. My country and our region are staring both a humanitarian crisis and a potential security disaster in the face. And I don't mean that figuratively. The tide of desperate and needy immigrants is on our horizon.
Yes, we have high mountains to serve as partial barriers to their entry. But even mountains cannot stop this tide. Nor do we have any intention of building a wall to do so.
We Europeans know something about walls. We know that walls can't keep people out but also that they surely can set countries back. Walls can't distinguish between good and dangerous people, but smart governments can. And walls, ironically enough, actually enable escapism. They allow us to retreat from our collective responsibilities for mankind and for each other.
The chorus calling for retreat and retrenchment is growing louder and spans continents including yours and mine. What should our response be? My plea to you, my fellow parliamentarians, is, to coin a well-known American phrase, "let's face the music" together. Albania commits to working closely with our neighbors in the region and our partners in Europe and United States, and other nations, doing our best to address this migration crisis. But let's do so with compassion and generosity while, at the same time, facing security threats in a sober and wise way. Otherwise, we'll plummet together, make the same fatal mistakes together, and regress together to the folly of relying on muscle and might and nativism and, yes, more walls.
We will overcome these crises. And even before we do, there are many things we can do together to benefit both our peoples. Albania has a story to tell, a very good story. It's a story about a country that has a Muslim majority along with strong Catholic and Orthodox communities. But look as closely as you can at us. You will not find religion playing a role in running our government or directing our country or dictating the behavior of the Albanian people.
We, as Albanians, are proud of our unrivaled religious harmony. How many countries with our makeup can say that?
We have incredible untapped resources. Start with our people themselves. They are ready to be inspired. They are ready to move ahead. They are ready to be trained and deployed to produce cures for diseases, crops for the masses and machines for technological progress.
That's where our partnership with you comes in; it can benefit both our countries for Albania to grow and progress as rapidly as possible. There are some 535 of you, between House and Senate members. All of you have businesses, small and large in your constituencies. Tell your companies, whether agriculture or infrastructure or telecommunications or banking focused; tell them about Albania.
Come visit and you'll see a country on the move but one that can move even faster -- towards more transparency, more rule of law, more contributions from civil society and more economic development -- with the US as a partner.
My plea to you is loud and clear. The United States must not only stay engaged in our region; it must be the leader we all expect it to be.
Some of us spent a good portion of our lives in systems that shamelessly -- even boastfully -- denied individual freedom and liberty. In those days, we always looked up to your country with admiration and, yes, even with more than a bit of envy.
We pray that the United States remains the country that continues to be that beacon for people all across the world. This is the worst possible moment for your great country to retreat from global responsibility.
Our ancient and proud nation needs you more than ever.
~ His Excellency llir Meta is the Speaker of the Albanian Parliament