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Dear Prime Minister, Minister of Infrastructure and Energy, Dear Ambassador and representatives of KfW,
A few days ago, on 22 March, we celebrated World Water Day, with the slogan “Water for All”. It has a special resonance with today’s event. The rural water supply programme we are launching here is specifically about bringing drinking water to all citizens in Albania.
Today’s "ground breaking ceremony” is not just another project opening. It is a very successful example of European partnership between a Member State, Germany, and the EU. An example of institutions joining forces to address one of the most basic and fundamental needs of any human being: access to reliable and safe drinking water.
In the last decade, the EU and Germany have implemented together three large water programmes in Albania – gathering more than 100 million euros of investment. From tomorrow, with the additional support of Switzerland, we will work together on the largest water programme in Albania's history, for the benefit of more than 11 municipalities.
This is the EU working at its best: making a positive impact on the well-being of Albanian citizens and supporting Albania in the reforms that are necessary for its EU integration.
But more than that:
This is an excellent example of how EU support reaches beyond the cities to target the rural parts of Albania - those remote villages and citizens living and working in beautiful but challenging environments. This support will benefit to about 7,000 inhabitants in Prenjas, and 85,000 people overall.
Good water services bring health and social benefits to rural populations. They support economic growth in rural villages, either by maintaining vital activities, making them more attractive to tourists or facilitating entirely new local investments. It also helps the younger generations to stay in the country by ensuring more comfortable and attractive lives, opportunities and potential jobs.
Such investments also create better conditions to promote your culture, traditions, and natural beauty such as the nearby Jabblanice national park – for the economic and social development of this region.
Just as wood needs to be stored or roofs repaired before a hard winter, a solid management system should be put in place right from the start of the project to avoid finding yourself without water when you need it.
Securing one's house is a family responsibility, while running a water supply system is a collective and much more difficult task.
My message is that Prenjas and the other 82 villages, the 10 municipalities, the municipal utilities concerned, national institutions, and all 85,000 inhabitants, should engage collectively in building strong and durable management for the new water systems to be constructed.
Otherwise, the assistance that the EU and Germany are providing, which we are celebrating today, may be lost by the time your children grow up.
Therefore, all actors should reflect on this aspect as much as on the works themselves. I call on the municipalities and the utilities to improve their management; on national institutions to support these utilities; and on all residents to contribute to the discussion. Be prepared to do your part by contributing to the management and cost of running good water supply and infrastructures, so that it serves not only you, but the generations to come.
To my eye, seeing the start of construction works today is not about machinery or materials on site, but how EU assistance contributes concretely to make the life of Albanians closer to that of their fellow citizens in the EU.
I look forward to come back and see works progressing fast! My ambition is that in many years, a successor of mine comes and can witness water infrastructures in excellent state, as well as a lively and prosperous village.
Thank you all for your attention.