Willkommen auf den Seiten des Auswärtigen Amts
Honorable Vice Prime Minister
Deputy Ministers, Members of the Parliament of Albania,
Colleagues from the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to this event marking the thirtieth anniversary of German-Albanian development cooperation. In 1988, just a year after diplomatic relations had been re-established between them, the Federal Republic of Germany and the then Socialist People’s Republic of Albania signed a framework agreement on development cooperation, with which they laid the foundation for the very intensive cooperation we enjoy today.
Both Albania and how we work together have changed enormously in the past 30 years. As a member of the NATO, OSCE, the Council of Europe and many other multilateral organisations, Albania is now a close and reliable partner to the transatlantic and European community of states once again. And as a candidate for EU membership, it now faces the next step – the start of EU accession talks.
Albania has worked hard to achieve this progress. I am happy that Germany has played a part in this.
In the late 1980s, before the end of the communist regime, Albania was the poorest country in Europe and completely cut off from the outside world. Collective farming no longer provided enough food for the population. Industry had collapsed and infrastructure was outdated. Germany provided support where it was most needed, delivering essential goods and setting up a basic water and energy supply. Later, in the 1990s, Germany supported Albania’s difficult transition to democracy and the market economy and helped with necessary structural reforms, such as establishing the banking system and promoting the slowly developing private sector.
Despite some setbacks – I am thinking of 1997 in particular – one can say that German development cooperation always responded flexibly to the country’s changing history and provided support to the various governments as regards improving living conditions for the people here in Albania. The emergency aid of the early days has long since been superseded by structured programmes. Our cooperation now encompasses a far wider range of issues. In agreement with the Government of Albania, German development cooperation focuses primarily on sustainable economic development, energy and water respectively wastewater and waste management. In addition, we are also active in the areas of biodiversity conservation and environmental and climate protection, advice on legal migration opportunities to Germany and support for the re-integration of returnees to Albania. All in all, our focus is on Albania fulfilling EU accession requirements and meeting international and European standards and values. And we have achieved a great deal in the past 30 years:
Ever since the late 1980s, German development cooperation has helped the agricultural sector, which to this day is the backbone of the Albanian economy, to adapt to the market economy. While the focus back then was on supplying tractors, combine harvesters and Holstein cattle and on setting up the first privately owned dairy farm in Tirana, thousands of Albanian farmers now receive grants to enable them to purchase modern machinery and invest in greenhouses and cold storage, thus enabling them to increase production and provide better quality.
Our cooperation has also proved its worth in the education sector. Initially, the aim was to update curricula that were based on the planned economy and to lay the foundations for a dual system of vocational training that combines practice and theory. In the meantime, the vocational school in Kamza has become a role model for this dual system. It receives three times as many applications as it has places and around 70 percent of its graduates find employment.
Albania’s banking sector, which struggled to meet the rapidly increasing demand for loans in the mid-1990s, is a further example. The small-business sector – bakers, tradesmen, traders, restaurant owners and small farmers – was largely cut off from access to bank loans because of its low equity capital and almost total lack of collateral. With German support, FEFAD, now ProCredit Bank Albania, was founded in 1995. Since then, it has grown from strength to strength and been expanded as a model throughout South East Europe.
In the mid-2000s, power cuts were still a daily occurrence. For people who couldn’t afford a generator, this meant they had no lighting, no fridge and so on. In the business sector, power cuts led to higher costs, lower production and a lack of competitiveness. However, since the construction of high-voltage power lines to Montenegro, Kosovo and from mid 2019 to Macedonia, power cuts have become a lot less and will hopefully soon be a thing of the past for the entire country.
Much in Albania, such as good health, an intact environment and a thriving tourism sector, still depends on a non-stop supply of clean drinking water and an efficient sewage system. With support from Germany, the water and sewage infrastructure has been upgraded in some 14 medium-sized towns and 50 villages since 1998, thus improving the water supply for around one million people. One example is Korçë, where the waterworks set up with the help of KfW ensures that water is available 24 hours a day.
These few examples alone show how wide-ranging our cooperation has been over the past decades and what role Germany has played in the enormous changes in Albania during this period. To date, Germany has invested over a billion euros in development cooperation in Albania. And this figure does not include its contributions to international organisations, such as the EU, the World Bank and the United Nations, and to NGOs. And thanks to the long-standing experience of our implementation partners, GIZ and KfW, other partner of Albania, such as the EU, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland, have entrusted us with over 100 million euros to lend greater momentum to current projects. I would like to expressly thank you for this cooperation and the trust you have shown in us.
Despite the remarkable development of your country, to which many committed partners have contributed, there are still many challenges to overcome. Therefore, also for the coming years, together with the Albanian government, we have a lot of plans:
In the autumn of this year, Intergovernmental negotiations are scheduled to take place; further financial commitments are planned and talks on future projects are already underway. We want to work together to reform the water sector, resolve Albania’s problems with rubbish in popular tourist destinations, foster economic development in rural areas and improve skills in the agriculture sector.
Along with providing support on current priorities, however, we are already talking in concrete terms about topics that concern the future, for example how Germany can do more to help Albania use its many hours of sunshine to generate energy and thus become less dependent on hydropower; how the country can adapt in a better way to the impact of climate change, in particular the growing number of extreme weather events such as floods; and how Albania can use environmentally friendly transport concepts to prevent the imminent collapse of its transport system and achieve its international energy-efficiency goals.
Ladies and Gentlemen - as you see, we are on your side.
And when I say “we”, I do not only mean the dedicated staff of the Embassy, GIZ and KfW, but also the people who work for the many German NGOs, some of which have served the people of this country for decades, and the many volunteers who provide their energy and expertise free of charge as part of the Weltwärts programme and the Senior Expert Service. In the final analysis, it is often the small projects which, thanks to highly committed people, have a particularly large impact. I also mean the German businesspeople, as it is ultimately our goal to create conducive conditions for a thriving and growing economy that creates jobs. I am very grateful to all of you. We could only achieve all of this thanks to your many helping hands.
At the same time, I would like to particularly thank all of the Albanian Governments and all of our partners in the authorities and agencies, including those at municipal and community level with whom we have worked over the last three decades. And I am very grateful to all the Albanians who have been so engaged in support of the sometimes very demanding reforms which the country is undergoing.
Our development cooperation is an essential part of our overall bilateral cooperation, in which we, as close political partners in Europe, share a common goal of integrating Albania and its Western Balkan partners into the European Union, as well as firmly and irrevocably anchoring the European values of democracy and the rule of law also in this part of Europe. Albania’ integration is well on its way; however, further concrete progress in implementing the key priorities of the European Union remains a challenge.
Before I will now pass the word on to Vice Prime Minister Mesi I would like to thank all those who with their many contributions made our celebration possible. I invite you all to find out more about the past 30 years of German-Albanian cooperation at our information stands. I am pleased that some of you, especially children, young people and families, have already had a chance today to learn more at our street festival about the topics we deal with every day and what we have achieved together.
Ms Vice Prime Minister – the word is yours!