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Dear Mrs Dhuli,
Dear Minister Denaj,
Dear ladies and gentleman,
I am pleased to be here today in the opening conference of the Population and Housing Census 2020.
We have partnered with INSTAT for many years and have witnessed INSTAT transform itself over time. Compliance with international and Eurostat recommendations, use of best practices, transparency of methodologies, modernisation of tools: those changes have led to a more exhaustive knowledge of the economic and social features of the Albanian society.
The EU has accompanied this effort with financial support of 14.5 million euro, assisting the alignment of the Albanian statistics with EU standards.
Today we are discussing INSTAT's next challenge and objective: the Population and Housing Census of 2020.
The 2020 census will be of huge importance to provide reliable information to develop and evaluate evidence-based policies, plan and run well-targeted public services, and allocate funding.
If properly collected, census data helps authorities keep pace with the fast-changing demographics of modern society. It improves the choices made in employment, housing, investment and the protection of minorities and vulnerable groups.
To reap these benefits, however, a major national endeavour is required. INSTAT is key for the coordination and quality assurance of this work. But INSTAT would be disabled without the army of more than 8 000 enumerators, controllers and supervisors, and without the involvement of a large number of national institutions and of course, Municipalities. The need for coordination of efforts from all of these institutions cannot be stressed enough.
The importance of the population and housing census is not limited to Albania. It is equally meaningful for the Albanian aspiration to join the European Union. In the EU, censuses determine Member States number of votes in EU institutions, and provide a good understanding of the differences between regions, in order to identify the needs for support.
The Census will also be the basis of our negotiations with Albania once those have started. Indeed, a good European Integration policy is based on comprehensive, comparable and reliable data. This is why the EU has been taking continuous steps over the last decades to harmonise census outputs and ensure that the data collected are directly comparable.
The Albanian census of 2011 marked an important milestone in this sense: it was, for the first time, based on a comprehensive legal framework at the EU level, with clearly defined set of harmonised data, reflected in the European Statistical System, and presented to the broad public on-line. We are happy to see that INSTAT has developed a close relationship with EUROSTAT and is on the track of alignment.
However, the Council of Europe highlighted that the 2011 census fell short of ensuring the right of Albanian citizens to declare freely their ethnic origin and religion. In view of the current parliamentary discussion on the new Census Law, I would like to stress the recommendation of the Council of Europe, reiterated last year, that the declaration of ethnicity should be free and based on the principle of self-identification.
Legislation should make clear that sanctions cannot be applied to the voluntary expression of one's ethnic origins. The census is therefore closely linked to the adoption of the bylaw on the right to free self-identification, which the European Union has called for in its last two Conclusions on Albania.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Albania has gone a long way in improving the reliability and availability of statistical data. Further modernisation of the Albanian National Statistical System can act as a driver for the country in its path towards the EU integration.
The EU will continue to fully support Albania in its efforts towards compliance with EU statistical standards. We are committed to work together to make the implementation of the Population and Housing Census 2020 a great success.