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Obama praises new NATO members Albania and Croatia

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STRASBOURG, FRANCE – Croatia is NATO member No. 27. Albania is No. 28. The two Balkan states formally joined the alliance April 1 in Washington. But street protests in Strasbourg, the overseas debut of Barack Obama, and troop debates for Afghanistan – partly overshadowed here the final lap of these two states, in what has been a long quest for security.

President Obama’s last question at NATO before heading to Prague was from an Albanian journalist from Tirana. Obama praised both Albania and Croatia for “making extraordinary efforts at reform to see this day come about, “ and to the people of both states for their “hard work” that has helped stabilize the Balkans.

The full membership of Croatia and Albania, agreed at the 2008 summit in Bucharest, inches the Balkans closer to the borderless idea of Europe, and further from the brutal wars of the 1990s. A decade ago, parts of Croatia were still in embers. Albania had barely emerged from the imprisoning reign of Enver Hoxha, who made his barricaded country the North Korea of Europe.

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