21 days ago we started an incredible journey from the snow of Vermosh to the heat of Konispol.
Since then, our Europe Weeks bus has visited 24 municipalities and more than 50 EU and Member States projects. We have also held 104 events, including discussions, visits, concerts, performances, games, round tables and so much more.
All together, we have travelled 2,230 kilometers by bus.
We started this incredible journey with a spirit of hope and optimism, and, everywhere along the road, we found an enthusiasm and response that have left us speechless on so many occasions.
At every stop, we witnessed a great appetite to discuss and engage with us, and a burning desire to celebrate together after months of hardship due to the pandemic.
We wanted Europe Weeks 2021 to be about the people of Albania. We wanted to take the time to talk directly with you, in person, where you live, where you work, where you study.
This was our objective and I must say that the feedback we have received from you went beyond all our expectations.
On a personal level, there were many exceptional encounters I will never forget. From the 17 year-old Esmeralda whom I met in Permet and who wishes to be a prosecutor to strengthen the rule of law, to the wonderful Nëna Antigoni in Himara. I will never forget their words, the look in their eyes or their smiles, which will accompany me forever.
I have met an Albania that is hard-working, warm-hearted, full of integrity and committed to changing things, even in the most rural and isolated areas.
An Albania that also looks towards the European Union for aspiration and support.
We have learnt more about you, and you have learnt more about us. Europe is Here has never been more meaningful than in the past three weeks. We have witnessed how the transformational power of the support of the EU and its Member States has materialised on the ground in your country.
In every corner of Albania, every day of the year, the EU and its Member States are helping transform the country towards reaching the same quality of life as in the European Union. The EU is not only in Brussels or Tirana, it is and will always be in every municipality that we have visited.
I would like to thank everyone who is engaged in our EU projects, everyone who receives support from us: the NGOs, youth groups, municipalities, businesses. You are our most committed Ambassadors in this country. Thank you for everything you have done!
But allow me now to focus on the young people we have engaged with, at every stop of our journey. I close these Europe Weeks more convinced than ever that Albania needs to invest in its youth AND include them in the governance of the country. We would like to see Youth Municipal Councils assisting the local government in every municipality, as we did see in Erseka.
As future citizens of the EU, with the scale of engagement and knowledge we have witnessed, the young people of this country are a unique opportunity for both Albania and its EU integration.
These Europe Weeks have also been Team Europe Weeks. I have travelled the country with my fellow EU Ambassadors. Many of them have boarded the bus throughout the journey because we are a family. Unity in Diversity.
Albania is part of the European family. Because Albania is Europe. Travelling with you has made it even clearer that we share the same values, the same history and the same aspirations.
Your place is with us. That is why the European Union will not be complete until Albania and the rest of the Western Balkans become Members of the Union.
This is what my colleagues and I, at the EU Delegation in Tirana and our institutions in Brussels, work for on a daily basis.
We are now all looking forward to the start of accession talks. Conditions have been set … and met. We believe that NOW is the time to make this step.
Sepse Evropa është këtu dhe Këtu është Evropë.
Faleminderit shumë dhe mirufpashim!