Dear Deputy Minister Dedja, Dear participants!
First of all I would like to thank you, Sokol, and all the staff of the NIPAC support office and beneficiary institutions. You have shown hard work, dedication and commitment during the preparations of this IPA 2018 programme.
The management of EU funds is a complex exercise requiring extensive preparations and interinstitutional coordination. All those involved have been doing an excellent job with undoubtedly scares resources.
The EU is proud to be the first donor in Albania. This support has one goal and one reason: to help Albania become a full member of the European Union family.
The agreement we are signing today mirrors our key priorities: justice reform and the fight against organised crime and corruption are and will remain at the heart of our partnership with Albania. But environment protection and water management will also be heavily supported by the new programme.
Based on good progress made so far, in particular in the implementation of the justice reform and the vetting process, last May the Commission has recommended opening of negotiation with Albania.
As highlighted by the President-elect Ursula von der Leyden last Tuesday at the moment of the presentation of the new Commissioners designate, the new Commission will stand by the proposal made to open negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. We are looking forward to the Council decision in October.
I have stressed in other occasions how only few other countries have gone through such a deep and thorough transformation as justice reform in Albania. The merits go to the Albanian people for having wished for and demanded this change.
The full implementation of the justice reform has to continue. We are making now more financial resources available, with 42 million euros dedicated to our new justice programme.
This includes an envelope of 34 million euros that will contribute directly to the budget of Albania. These funds are entirely based on the results of the justice strategy. Therefore, I encourage the Albanian Government, every actor and institution to stand behind the commitments of the strategy and deliver on the reforms with full force.
This support covers all areas and institutions of the judicial system. It also is very timely, to ensure the swift and full establishment of the new institutions.
Another key element of the programme is dedicated to the Fight against organised crime and corruption. The next weeks and months will be crucial for Albania as we are now very close to setting up SPAK. The future judges and prosecutors are already discussing how the fight against corruption and organised crime can be pursued in the most efficient and independent way.
The citizens of Albania have high hopes for these new structures and want to see their direct positive impact on their life. So does the European Union.
Almost 20 million euros will be at the disposal of Albania's Prosecutions Services and Law Enforcement agencies to achieve results in dismantling criminal networks.
We will specifically provide support to financial investigations and confiscations; effective management of green borders and blue borders; the Security Academy and municipalities in the implementation of economically viable alternatives to cannabis cultivation and trade.
But our partnership goes beyond reinforcing the rule of law: the package includes a sizeable support for the environment and enhancing water quality. This will reinforce municipal wastewater infrastructure and improve the operation of water utilities – for better services to citizens and less pollution of nature.
Last but not least 6 million euros will be dedicated to the rehabilitation of Byllis as a unique site of Albanian, and European, cultural heritage.
If we look at the future, with a new Commission soon to start its mandate and the new financial cycle of the EU starting in 2020, we have not time to lose.
The reforms need to progress and, in parallel, the preparations for IPA III should start without delay. Changes are expected for the next seven year period, but one thing will not: the EU will remain Albania's number one partner.