The European Union ambassador to Albania, Luigi Soreca, gave an interview for the economic magazine Monitor, in which he addressed several issues: from the earthquake of 26 November to the start of accession negotiations with the EU.
"The European Union and its member states immediately offered support to Albania after the tragic earthquake. It took only a few hours to activate the EU civil protection mechanism and form a team of experts to be sent to Albania. The generosity and speed of reaction of EU member states and their citizens have shown that Albania is not only geographically close, but also close to our hearts and concerns.
In a first phase, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism deployed search and rescue teams and equipment, to assess material damage, assist logistics and coordinate assistance from member states. We are now in the second phase, to examine a long-term plan and the reconstruction process.
The European Commission has already announced a 15 million euro grant for reconstruction and has offered Albania to organize a donor conference to mobilize and raise financial resources; the conference will take place on 17 February at the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels and more than 140 countries, international organizations, international financial institutions, individuals and representatives of civil society will participate.
Albania is still completing the general assessment of the consequences of the earthquake. It is too early to determine how much the general economy will influence. What we certainly have to expect is that in the areas most affected by the earthquake, the sectors of production and services - especially in tourism - will certainly be hit negatively in 2020. It is inevitable. However, these consequences will be partially offset by the recovery program. "- said Soreca for Monitor.
Accession negotiations and the Zagreb Summit
"2020 will be a very important year for south-eastern Europe and Albania. The European Commission will propose improvements to the current enlargement methodology, while actual enlargement will be discussed in March by the European Council. In the meantime, the Croatian presidency is planning a very important summit for May in Zagreb, which will be followed by the annual report of the European Commission.
President Ursula von der Leyen and the new Commissioner for Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, made it clear from the outset that our commitments to the European perspective of Albania and North Macedonia remain firm and unchanged.
I would also like to emphasize that in discussions on the future multiannual budget of the European Union, according to EU institutions and member states, European funding to the Western Balkans is of the utmost political and strategic importance. So, the door is open and the priority for Albania remains to focus on implementing the reforms, to fully convince the EU states."- continued Soreca for Monitor.
It is essential to continue strengthening the judiciary, its responsibility and its independence, through the full implementation of the reform of the judicial system. We have seen steady progress over the past 12 months, but many challenges remain for the future. To support this fundamental reform, the EU is contributing both financially and politically and institutionally. € 34 million have been allocated as a budget for the reform of the judicial system over the next three years.
The positive results in the campaign against cannabis will have to be maintained. Collaboration between the police, the judicial police and the prosecutor must further improve, as well as the proactivity of the prosecutor in initiating investigations into large criminal networks. I have mentioned several times in recent months the importance of "chasing money" and the wealth of criminal gangs. There are some first tangible results in the areas related to the seizure and confiscation of criminal assets and their reuse for social purposes, thanks to the EU-funded CAUSE project.
I would also like to speak briefly about property rights, which represents something important for every Albanian citizen as well as for many Albanian companies. It is also a key priority for Albania's European prospects. The EU delegation is currently preparing an important support project in this regard, but further efforts are needed.
The fight against corruption is a fierce battle that can only be won if everyone is involved: government, politicians, civil society, etc. There is no single solution to this problem, which needs to be addressed simultaneously from different angles. Better coordination between existing public authorities, clear political will and even a culture change is needed: a society that is willing to change its behavior, which respects honesty and integrity, also helps to achieve this goal ."- declared Soreca.
The potential of Albania
“Albania has great potential in terms of agricultural products, tourism, energy, extractive industry (mines and oil) and services. At the same time, dependence on natural resources, combined with dependence on unstable water resources, creates vulnerabilities. Albania's exposure to the quality of natural resources, the risks of natural disasters and climate change affects important sectors such as agriculture, energy and tourism. Furthermore, uncertainty over property titles remains a serious obstacle for investment, including in the tourism and agricultural sector, but also limits private sector investment and access to finance.
The Albanian government is expected to continue working on some structural reforms that will promote the country's competitiveness and growth. As foreseen by the 2019-2021 economic reform program, which Albania has submitted to the European Commission, Albania is encouraged to face the challenges associated with promoting investments and improving the efficiency of public investments.”- concluded the ambassador of the European Union in Albania in the interview for Monitor magazine.