Honourable Prime Minister, Ministers, members of Parliament, Madame Mayor, fellow Ambassadors, dear citizens of Gjirokastra and Albania,
I am truly honoured and happy that I can address you today, on behalf of European Union, at the event that celebrates Europe at its best.
It is a particular feeling saying this in a city that is protected as world heritage, a city that has raised great artists such as Kadare and Tchabei, among others, who have have enriched European and world culture.
It is a very particular feeling to be saying these words on the top of this strategic peak, overlooking Drino valley. The hill and the castle that for many centuries served warriors and fighters out of necessity, but today serve art and beauty out of choice.
Can you imagine what would the generals of former times think if they could see us now? Women giving speeches? Their castle built for war turned into a stage for music? I am quite sure that they would be confused at best, to see assets of war turned into assets of creation.
This is, in essence, a story of the European Union for the past seven decades – the community of peace created to finally put an end to constant tragedy of fights.
This is the core European idea, to use our individual strengths and talents not to fight each other but to build together a society that would be kinder and better for each and every one of us.
It is easy to fight and destroy, anyone can do it.
But it takes real courage and wisdom to create and make choices that will be to the benefit of common good.
I feel very privileged to be representing European Union at this very particular moment for Albania: after quarter of a century one cycle of modern history has come to an end, and a new cycle is starting. One which will embrace your country in the Union of European democracies.
Albania is a brave country.
You have come a long way in the past 25 years and have undertaken some of the hardest and most complicated reforms a state can go through. Justice reform has not only brought renewed hope for the new and much more just society, but it has literally borrowed 15 to 20 years from the future. If the reform was not so deep und thorough, it would have taken many more years to bring any change.
Now it is time to put it to work and implement fully, so that time gained is used in the smartest possible way, and not wasted on old feuds.
Most of my days are filled with words that are related to politics and governance, criteria and standards, steps and benchmarks to be fulfilled. But in translation they mean only one thing: better quality of life for every citizen.
It is about decency, equal justice for everyone, basic freedoms, economic prosperity and lives lived in dignity.
There is no place for fear or complacency, but only for work, wisdom and togetherness. You are not alone, and you will never be alone again. We in the European Union are your friends and your partners.
And as true friends do, we will always tell you the truth: when it is good, but also when it is not so great.
There is a famous ancient quote on the strategy of leadership: “The most brilliant victory is the one won without the battle”.
Strategic position of this castle in the past was determined by the need to survive.
Today it is determined by an opportunity to create and to grow. That choice is yours, and the responsibility is yours.
In few minutes you will hear Albanian polyphonic music, also UNESCO protected non material world heritage, that will be played in harmony with a wonderful Albanian musician Robert Bisha.
There is so much for Albania to be proud of. There is also still so much for Albania to build and make better.
I am proud and happy for all the future smart victories you will win, in creating better life for your people, and working together for the common good.
I wish you lot of courage and strength, and I wish all of us a happy Europe Day.