Welcome everyone to Europe House!
Two weeks ago, we launched a campaign called "Today for environment" to raise awareness about the state of the environment in Albania and to encourage people and institutions to change.
Today is the first of three debates that we are organising to explore specific issues in more detail, with experts, practitioners or businesses. We want to go beyond nice words and intentions and look into the concrete practices of changing individual and institutional behaviour. What works and what does not work? What do the authorities need to do? What can citizens do?
Our first debate is on the main theme of our campaign, which we called "Plastics leave no space for life".
North, South, East, West. Everyone sees we have a problem with plastics. Everyone knows we need to solve it and that it's urgent. If we don't, plastic will suffocate our environment and will cause ever worse health problems for human beings.
We find micro plastics in every drop of water and in every living being on earth almost. Our oceans are clogging up, our marine life is suffering. We need to do something about this.
That is why, earlier this year, the European Union has decided to make the use of plastics more circular, but also to ban single-use plastics which are unnecessary or for which we have perfectly fine alternatives.
But beyond regulatory changes, we can individually change the way we live and change the way we use plastics. A simple straw is produced in a few seconds, you use it perhaps five minutes, and then it takes about 500 years to break it down, and what is left is still micro plastics in our natural environment.
As the European Commission has stated, we do not want this period to be called "the age of plastics" when archaeologists study our civilisation in a thousand years.
We want this to be the age when we turn around and where we make sure that we take responsibility for our natural environment and for our health.
And that is exactly what our panellists tonight have done. They have not waited to take matters into their own hand and be agent of change.
I am proud that you will hear about one of our EU projects that brings together two of the European Union's priorities: bringing recycling to Albania on the one hand, and strengthening the participation of citizens in policy-making, on the other hand.
We will also discuss the experience of two businesses which have gone 100% plastic free or which are minimising their environmental impact through the re-use of waste. I'm looking forward to be inspired, but also to understand what the difficulties were and how we can help address them.
And to guide us through the debate, we can rely on the expertise of two professors from the Faculty of Environmental Engineering and from the Faculty of Natural Sciences to understand in more detail what the negative impacts of plastics are on the environment, health and economy.
Our demand for plastic has reached totally unsustainable proportions. We, authorities, policy makers, businesspeople, consumers and citizens have no choice but to look for alternative solutions.
This is something we can solve. But first, this is something we should explain to people and make people part of. That is the intention of today's debate.