Dear Prime Minister, dear Ambassadors and representatives of KfW and SECO, ladies and gentlemen,
The launch today of the “Water Sector programme”, supported by the EU with a grant of EUR 25.5 million grant and co-financed by Germany and Switzerland, marks a crucial moment in the history of modern Albania.
This programme, which is the largest single programme co-financed by the EU in Albania apart from the post-earthquake reconstruction, is very significant for three reasons.
First and the most important, this programme will bring drinking water and better sanitary and environmental conditions for many citizens in Albania.
Second, this programme is an example of how the EU works by forging partnerships: in this case with our friends Germany, Switzerland, and the EU have joined forces to address the whole sector of water and wastewater management, going beyond the focus on individual projects. The programme have the ambition to deliver a determinant impact on the whole sector in Albania.
Third, this crucial programme will help Albania to get closer to the EU, by supporting alignment with EU standards and the EU acquis in the crucial field of water and wastewater management.
Environment and climate policies are top EU priorities. The "European Green Deal" is the “hallmark” of the EU's efforts to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050, as well as the world leader in environmental protection, circular economy and clean technologies.
These policies translate into concrete EU support to the Western Balkans and Albania through the EU Green Agenda, and the Economic and Investment Plan.
The EU has launched a “zero pollution objective strategy”, and the water sector programme we are launching today will contribute to such objective and to the future of Albania in the EU.
Over the last 10 years the European Union has donated 210 million EUR for projects on environment and climate to support Albania in increasing its environmental standards. In addition, we are now developing new actions for more than 60 million in the next seven years under IPA III, with three new actions focusing on circular economy, biodiversity protection, and again the water sector.
These actions will accompany Albania in transposing EU legislation ,coming closer to the EU, training staff, support businesses, municipalities, and civil society organisations in starting new circular businesses, and involve them in biodiversity protection.
Investments will take place in integrated solid waste management zones, in ecosystems restoration, and wastewater infrastructure.
Yet, all this essential work to come it will not be enough to deliver a necessary change in the country if Albania does not put environment at the top of its political priorities, and if it does not allocate the corresponding financial and human resources.
Strategic communication about the importance for Albanians to protect their environment will also have to be stepped up. To communicate about the necessary cultural, legislative and policy shifts that are needed to deliver a greener Albania, a more attractive Albania for tourism. And therefore a more prosperous Albania.
The EU will continue to support Albania, the new government to pursue these crucial objectives. First of all to the benefit of all Albania’s citizens and economy, second to help Albania to come closer to the EU.
Let’s continue working together for a greener and healthier Albania towards the EU!