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I am very pleased to announce today the launch of the project "Support to food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary standards" financed by the EU Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) with an amount of 5 M€.
The project will be implemented for a period of 4 years by a group of public bodies from Member States led by the Irish Food Safety Authority and including the Finnish Food Safety Authority.
Since the food crises of the late 1990s, the EU has invested a lot into a food safety system that guarantees the highest level of protection for consumers.
Today, the EU can be proud of having the most comprehensive and stringent system for the management of food risks.
It is a success story that is rarely told, but our model has become a benchmark used around the world.
We have always been keen to share our experience, especially with candidate countries aspiring to join the European Union.
The EU has a long history of engagement to assist Albania in building proper capacities for a consolidated food safety and veterinary system.
Adopting the impressive body of EU standards in this area is a great, but necessary, challenge.
With the 5 Million Euro project presented today, we wish to build on this experience and innovate by addressing the entire food chain – from farm to fork, as we like to say.
All actors need to take responsibility and to guarantee the production of safe food for consumers.
Another improvement will be the focus given to consumer involvement and to raising public awareness. This is fundamental, as the consumer is THE final beneficiary of this support.
Albanian citizens should be in the driving seat, understanding their rights and demanding their enforcement. Engagement and participation will be key in the implementation.
The project we are launching today will bring Albania closer to EU standards. It will improve Albanians' everyday life and health. But let me emphasis one last benefit: it will contribute to opening the EU market to Albanian products. Our legislation is very clear about this – food items cannot be imported unless they respect the integrity of the EU food chain.
In this context, I must mention a significant recent development: the launch of IPARD-II, for which the EU has allocated 72 million Euros in Albania. It will provide investments in food production and food processing, helping the implementation of EU food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary standards.
Before I leave the floor to Minister Çuçi, I very much would like to thank Minister of State Helen McEntee and State Secretary Samuli Virtanen for their commitment and for their presence today.
It is a great opportunity to have Ireland and Finland leading and involved in this project. Your countries have a long and valued experience in food safety. Albanian institutions should really make the most of this commitment. It has the potential to be a game changer and radically transform food safety and consumer protection in Albania.