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After the earthquake that affected Albania two weeks ago, the European Union and its Member States were prompt to offer assistance. To this day, 14 Member States have offered material or expertise: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Slovakia, and United Kingdom.
This is really remarkable and a testimony of the how close Albania is to the concerns of the Union and our Member States.
On behalf of the European Union, I would like to congratulate and thank my colleagues here today, for the generosity and for the rapidity of their response.
We are also proud of the efficiency of our EU Civil Protection mechanism. It took only a few days after its activation to set up a team of 8 experts and dispatch it to Albania.
Solidarity is at the heart of our European Union. It binds together our diverse cultures, ethnicities, and languages. It is at the root of who we are as a continent, following centuries of war and conflict.
We stand for one another.
The Emergency Response Coordination Centre answers our citizens' request and not just inside the EU, as solidarity knows no border.
Through the European Union’s coordination, first aid supplies and relief items, emergency tents, power generators and food aid kits have being mobilised to the affected areas in Albania.
Rapid delivery of these assets to the population is key. Where they are needed and when they are needed.
In the long term, some of the material now stocked will help Albania react faster in case of another disaster.
This time, the damage was limited and, fortunately, no one died because of the earthquakes. But the past weeks should serve as a wakeup call for Albania.
Albania should step up its civil protection system and take more responsibility for its disaster preparedness.
The rapid setting up of a fully functional civil protection agency, blessed with a strong cross-departmental mandate, is essential.
It is also essential the preparedness and response capacities of civil protection staff and communities.
A last point on the importance of raising awareness build a new “culture of prevention” among the population. It is very important to be prepared in case of other disasters happening.
Let me close my remarks by thanking first of the Albanian authorities for the excellent and rapid reaction. I would like to thank also the EU Civil Protection Team for their excellent and professional work. Coming from 6 different countries, you are the embodiment of European cooperation. When disasters hit, many of you are on the front line. Congratulations for your dedication in this field and your determination.
What we saw at work these two weeks is the European Union at its best – solidarity and efficiency combined to the benefit of the citizens not only in the EU countries, but everywhere in the world.