Good morning Professors and Students,
It is my pleasure to speak to you today. Let me start by extending my congratulations to all of you here who have chosen medicine as your field for your studies. This is an important area, and you will have a crucial role to play for the well-being of your country in the future.
Two weeks ago I had the pleasure to launch the second edition of our Europe Is Here campaign, through which we are sharing stories of over 500,000 Albanians who have personally benefitted from EU assistance.
During the launch, I highlighted the opportunities the EU is offering in Albania, starting with the areas of education and research.
So far, over 8,000 Albanians have taken advantage of exchange programmes under Erasmus+ and there are numerous opportunities for brilliant students like yourselves in these programmes. I highly encourage you to find out more about them if you have not yet.
But real friends and partners stick together also, or especially, in the difficult times, and today I am proud to speak about how the EU has firmly stood by the Albanian people during the COVID crisis.
Let me start by expressing my appreciation for the hard and devoted work of the doctors, nurses and medical staff in Albania. You are on the front lines of battling this pandemic and your efforts, guidance and dedication is the foundation on which Albania will overcome this challenge.
The European Union is firmly at your side.
To assist your efforts, the European Union and the EU Member States have mobilised an unprecedented 65 million EURO to help Albania mitigate this unprecedented crisis.
This includes over 40 million EURO towards social protection to reduce the impact of the crisis on vulnerable individuals and to support the economic recovery.
A further 4 million EURO was provided for specialised emergency health equipment for the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19, such as fully equipped medical auto ambulances, beds for intensive care units (ICUs), fixed and portable ventilators, digital mobile x-rays and a last state-of-the-art CT scanner for the diagnostics of the most complex cases.
I can say that Albanian hospitals are now in a better shape than a year ago.
Our goal, of course, is to keep people out of hospitals. In this regards, the EU activated 11.2 million EURO for the provision of vaccines – all together with contributions from EU Member States, this has resulted in over 450,000 vaccines provided to Albania.
In addition, we are providing support to WHO to assist in the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines throughout the country.
We are proud of this effort of solidarity from the EU and all our Member States.
Of course, procuring vaccines alone are not enough – we need to ensure people take them. And we need to limit transmission through mask-wearing, social distancing and adhering to the policies in place.
Here the EU fully stands behind the messages of Professor Kalo, whom I would like thank for his words and efforts. The EU is privileged to work with him and other distinguished medical professionals in reinforcing this message to Albanians. As future practitioners in the field, I count on your efforts as well. Your voices matter very much.
The road ahead is still not clear – but we know that we can only overcome this pandemic by working together. The EU stands with Albania and the Albanian people in these efforts.