Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very happy to be here today with Minister Çuçi, to make three important announcements.
First, we are launching the “Europe is here” campaign on agriculture. Second, we are opening the 3rd Call for Applications under the IPARD programme. And third, we are announcing a new call for applications for the fisheries sector.
Almost 40% percent of the Albanian population live in rural areas. Agriculture has always played an important role in the history and identity of Albania. Even today, the agri-food sector contributes to 20% of the GDP and gathers almost half of the Albanian workforce.
Recognising the importance of this sector, the European Union has made available 100 million euro to support the modernisation of Albanian agriculture in the last decade.
This size of this investment qualifies the EU – by far – as the biggest supporter of the Albanian agro-food sector.
This is what we mean by "Europe is Here", the campaign we launched last July. The European Union is present everywhere in the country, improving the daily life of Albanians and preparing Albania for negotiations and accession.
After having focused on connectivity and environment in the last months, I am happy to launch today the third phase of the campaign, dedicated to agriculture and rural development.
Europe is here to invest in farmers and fishermen to support their aspirations.
Europe is here to develop a sustainable agro-food sector that respects the environment.
Europe is here, so that Albanians enjoy food produced with European standards even before the country becomes a Member State.
It is not by coincidence that we are gathered on the premises of an IPARD beneficiary, right inside a greenhouse build with EU funds.
In the coming weeks, we will explore how the EU is already changing Albania by:
modernising the agriculture sector;
improving cooperation among enterprises and farms;
creating new jobs especially for young people and women;
diversifying local economies and improve living conditions in rural areas.
The IPARD programme, which is funded by the EU and managed by Albanian authorities, makes available 71 million euro as direct grants to support investments.
IPARD is a huge success already. Over 700 applications have received during the first two calls and a total of 236 farms have already benefited from EU funds. I had the chance to visit three of them today.
The investments already made through our grants are also helping the sector to go through the COVID-19 crisis.
For this 3rd call, I want to directly address farmers, agribusinesses and agricultural companies: I strongly encourage you to be pro-active and to seize the opportunities opened with the IPARD funds.
If you have ideas or dreams for your activity, now is the time to take your chance! If you want to improve, innovate and enlarge your farm – this opportunity is unique. You have until 25 January to apply.
As we are gathered here today with the minister, I would like to touch upon another sector that is connected to agriculture – fisheries – for which our two institutions also cooperate.
This week, we launch a call for applications to support the fisheries sector in Albania. We want to
ensure a fair standard of living for the fishing community,
promote governance mechanisms that avoid overfishing and exploit the resource sustainably.
The aim is of course to implement the standards and rules of the EU Common Fisheries Policy in Albania. As you can see, Europe is here for fisheries too.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Minister,
In the last two years I have visited and hiked in many Albanian villages of incredible beauty. The European integration of Albania will not only take place in the cities, it is also transforming the countryside, where the heart of the country still beats.
It is precisely those villages that we want to help, to protect, to nurture, and to develop. The villages of hardworking farmers and fishermen, of traditions and cultural history, where the protection of Albania’s roots is essential to determinate its future.
In in this quest to find the place of the Albanian village in the global one, Europe is here to help.