Albania is now almost one week before elections. It has been an eventful and heated campaign, but something important seems to be missing.
We have seen so far little debating and very few policy proposals dedicated to the most important and vibrant part of the Albanian society: its young people.
Young Albanians represent almost 40% of the population. They are the future of this country and they are future citizens of the European Union. They should be at the core of the campaign and party manifestos.
On the contrary, young people feel ignored and forgotten. There is ample research showing that they are less inclined to vote compared to older age groups. And this year, there are even fewer of them on party candidate lists, compared to the Albanian parliamentary elections of four years ago.
Young people are often said not to care about politics because they are un-interested. This is not what I have seen in Albania. I have met so many young Albanians who are active, committed and full of civic initiatives. So many young people who volunteer and are dedicated to help their community.
When I arrived in Albania, I made my priority to engage and empower the Youth of Albania. The main engagement of my first Europe Week back in 2019 was dedicated to the Power of Youth.
Young Albanians are tired of others speaking on their behalf. Rather than speaking for them, we wanted to create the space for them to bring up their real concerns and aspirations, in their own words, without mediation. We need to stand with them speaking for themselves.
This is why we are having this event today. To give young people the space to articulate their requests and their expectations towards the elections, towards their politicians, but also towards us, the European Union.
I was telling you about the fantastic young people I meet in Albania. Today you are about to be introduced to some of them. They are called the Young European Ambassadors, and as you have just seen in the “My first time” video, they are full of energy, initiative and fun.
The Young European Ambassadors have been around the country in the last few weeks, holding meetings and workshops with young people. Today they will describe their findings, and they will present the 10 requests that they address to political parties.
In these exceptional times of a global pandemic, young people in Albania have been disproportionately affected, similarly to their peers in other countries. Their opportunities, jobs, education and enjoyment of life have suffered.
This is yet another challenge that after the elections the Albanian authorities need to address with highest priority, otherwise this feeling of generational divide will fuel even further the drive to look for better life conditions elsewhere – as it too often happens here for the Albanian youth.
It is clear that in Albania, but also in the European Union, the most urgent action is to answer the call for inclusiveness that is coming from the young generation.
Let it not be a missed call. It is high time for their voices to be heard, because, on 25 April, they decide!
We heard many good ideas and discussed some key problems today. Like I said at the beginning, older people should not talk on behalf of young ones. Often, we mistake experience for universal truth. And we tend to dictate.
So I hope today we managed to do the one thing the rest of us can do in this context: Let them speak, listen to them, take notes and follow-up!
I call here once again on politicians to really listen to young Albanians, to involve them in real decision-making processes.
I would like to see politicians in this last week of campaign to take up the challenge and give their proposals to the requests presented today.
I would also like to announce that this dialogue with the Youth of Albania will continue after the elections. During the 3 weeks of Europe Weeks in May once again most of the programme is dedicated to meeting young people across the country. And I will be accompanied by our Young European Ambassadors.
From the north to the south of Albania, we will go to municipalities where we rarely go, to have events in schools, universities, with youth groups and civil society organisations. Stay tuned. This is coming very soon in your town!
Finally, with one week before elections, I wish recall the essence of the joint EU+MS statement we published on the first day of the campaign:
We are looking forward to a last week of electoral campaign focusing on debates, political programmes and reforms.
We welcome and support the efforts of Albanian civil society organisations to observe Election Day. We are supporting the preparation and conduct of elections, especially through the ODIHR mission.
The EU Delegation and many embassies of the EU Member States will also be visiting a large number polling stations on Election Day, in the context of the deployment of our diplo-watch. More than 80 representatives in 40 teams will be present on the ground, supporting the work undertaken by the long term observers of the ODIHR Mission.
I encourage the young (and not so young) citizens of Albania to exercise their right to vote, whilespecting all measures against the COVID-19 pandemic.
YOU DECIDE! VENDOS TI!