26 November 2020 – One year ago Albania was hit by its most deadly earthquake in a century. The earthquake measured 6.4 on the Richter scale and caused significant casualties, as well as widespread damage to public and private property, including educational facilities and cultural heritage monuments.
The European Commission pledged EUR 115 million in grants to support the reconstruction. The EU4Schools programme provides EUR 75 million to rebuild and repair 58 educational facilities in the 11 earthquake affected municipalities through UNDP. The EU4Culture provides EUR 40 million for the rehabilitation of cultural heritage sites through UNOPS.
Visiting two of the schools that are currently under repair and reconstruction earlier this week in Durres and Kruja, EU Ambassador Luigi Soreca said: “Schools are the real symbol of recovery for society and offer a new beginning for the children affected by the destruction of their schools. The work sites I visited are the embodiment of the solid ties of solidarity between the citizens of the EU and of Albania. Since day one, the European Union has continuously been on the frontline of helping Albania.”
The EU4Schools Programme aims to support national and local governments in reducing further social and economic losses, and to accelerate the recovery process through educational facility repairs and reconstruction after the earthquake. 20,000 school and kindergarten children as well as more than 200,000 community members will benefit from the EU4Schools Programme.
The reconstruction work combines the “Build Back Better” and “Build Better Together” approaches for every community — bringing together local governments, communities and public institutions in designing and implementing rapid recovery activities through transparent systems — while at the same time promoting ownership and sustainability of the investment.
“The ‘Build Back Better’ approach offers the opportunity to repair and rebuild stronger, safer, more disaster-resilient infrastructure and systems accompanied by higher standards. The restored education facilities will not only be resistant to future earthquakes as per Eurocode 8, but will also meet European standards concerning renewable energy, green spaces, running water, hygienic and sports facilities and internet coverage. This approach ensures accessibility for students and people with special needs,” UNDP Resident Representative Limya Eltayeb said.
As an economy that is dependent on a strong tourism sector, Albania has faced a double disaster this year with the damage of cultural heritage sites and the unprecedented COVID-19 global pandemic. The EU4Culture project, signed in October 2020, seeks to address this situation - revitalising earthquake-affected cultural heritage sites in Albania with a focus on boosting tourism and local economic development.
“The EU4Culture initiative offers a once in a generation opportunity to revitalise the cultural heritage sector in Albania, for the benefit of present and future generations. UNOPS is proud to support it, working closely with the EU and the Albanian government and through our newly opened office in Tirana. This marks another step forward in the strong partnership between UNOPS and the European Union across the region. Together, we can build a better future for all and support Albania’s recovery from the earthquake and the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic,” UNOPS Director of Vienna Multi-Country Office Freya Von Groote said.
The programme is implemented in close collaboration with the Albanian Ministry of Culture and will ensure the close involvement of the wider cultural heritage community, including through grants being made available to local institutions. UNOPS activities to implement the EU4Culture programme have already commenced, in close coordination with the government of Albania, with a number of assessments and surveys to define which sites will be prioritised for repair and revitalisation.
For more on EU earthquake assistance to Albania go to: https://euprojects.al/earthquake-commemoration/