Albania sets up first NATO base in Western Balkans

NATO Copyright AP Photo / Armando Babani
Copyright AP Photo / Armando Babani
By Euronews with AP
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Tirana also offered and was discussing with NATO a naval base in western Albania.


NATO member Albania on Monday inaugurated a refurbished Soviet-era air base, the alliance's first in the Western Balkan region.

The air base is named after the small town of Kucova, 85 kilometres south of the capital Tirana.

Officials said the new air base will serve as a modern hub of operations, for training and hosting an array of fighter jets.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama welcomed the reactivation of the air base, which was officially closed in 2005, as "another element of security from our region of the Western Balkans, which we know well may be endangered from the neo-imperialist threats and ambitions of the Russian Federation.”

After the speeches at the ceremony, two US F-16 and two F-35 fighter jets from Aviano Air Base in Italy flew over while two Eurofighters landed.

NATO funded the base upgrade with around 50 million euros. It included renovations to the control tower, runways, hangars and storage facilities.

“The makeover of Kucova air base is a strategic investment and shows that NATO continues to strengthen its presence in the Western Balkans, an area of strategic importance to the alliance,” said NATO's acting spokesperson, Dylan White.

Rama said that Tirana also offered and was discussing with NATO a naval base in western Albania.

Albania joined NATO in 2009 and is a candidate for EU membership.

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