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Dear Minister Gjonaj,
Dear Minister Moser,
Today marks the finalization of one of the most challenging twinning projects the EU has funded in Albania over the last years.
The idea for this particular twinning project was developed in 2015 and since September 2016, Austria and Germany have been working from inside the office of the National Coordinator against Corruption to support the formulation, coordination and implementation of anti-corruption policies.
There were many challenges along the road:
1. limited staff capacity of the previous Minister of State for Local Issues
2. general elections and
3. the restructuring of the Government. A new National Coordinator took over mid-way the project and suffered from substantial staff turnover.
But the biggest challenge of course was how to tackle corruption. Eradicating corruption is a complex endeavour which requires means, political will from the competent authorities of course, but also determination from those who are ultimately exposed to it as potential victims, from ordinary citizens, to students or entrepreneurs.
The fight against corruption is of fundamental importance for the country's population, reputation and economic development. The economic cost is huge, but the costs for society are even bigger. Corruption affects the functioning of public administration and the quality of services. In concrete terms this means fewer schools, hospitals and jobs. Corruption is a theft from all Albanian citizens.
Fighting corruption in Albania is also essential to move the country forward on its path towards the European Union. The Commission is finalising its annual report, which will elaborate on the efforts done by Albania and form the basis for the decision of the Council of the European Union later this year.
Civil society and media have an important role to play in preventing and fighting corruption, denouncing, monitoring public services, raising public awareness. Civil society must be part of a sustainable and long term solution for this challenge and the role of youth and universities is particularly crucial in this endeavour. Equally crucial is having an environment where freedom of media can flourish, and where especially investigative journalism is promoted.
During the course of the anti-corruption twinning project the EU has strongly supported the involvement of civil society, citizens, and media. Examples of these efforts are:
1. Over 400 runners participated last year in the first ever "Run against Corruption". I am looking forward to the next edition that will be organised later this year.
2. On the occasion of the International Day against Corruption last year a film festival against corruption was organised where young people could express themselves through documentaries and shed a light on how corruption is endangering their future.
3. Consultative Forums with Civil Society, development partners, line ministries and institutions were organised to discuss whistleblowing, the role of audit institutions in the fight against corruption, freedom of information and conflict of interest.
But the fight does not end here. Now is the time to continue the comprehensive and inclusive work with all beneficiaries including independent institutions. The implementation of the inter-sectoral strategy against corruption needs to be stepped up and real consultation processes need to be installed to have the voice of civil society be heard.
The European Union, as well as our Member States, will continue supporting the fight against corruption through various instruments. We have an ongoing sector reform contract of 10 million EUR which drives the reform forward. It includes targeted support to make the outputs more visible for Albanian citizens. The continuation of the Horizontal Facility - Action against Economic Crime, which contributed recently to set up an online asset declaration system, is already guaranteed. Our future support to Good Governance (IPA2020), will also include the fight against corruption as a key priority.
As we are nearing the end of this twinning project, I would like to thank the Albanian institutions for their involvement in taking up this fight and for their motivation to reform. I also would like to warmly thank the team from Austria and Germany that implemented this action. Despite the challenges, the twinning strongly contributed to building stronger and better prepared institutions in Albania.