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Ambassador Soreca’s remarks at the launching of Europe Is Here 2.0 campaign

Tirana, Albania

Dear Rector Maliqari 

Dear Minister Kushi, 

Dear Professors 

Dear students, 

I am very pleased to be here with you today as the new academic year has just started after a challenging period for all of us and especially for you. You have now come back to university after a long period without the possibility for you to get together in auditoriums due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This is very good news. 

As you know, youth empowerment has been one of my priorities since I arrived in Albania three years ago. The engagement with youth over these years and more recently, this spring during our Europe Weeks tour, has given me and my fellow EU Member States Ambassadors, the opportunity to meet with amazing young people around Albania. Meeting with them has confirmed one important thing: investing in young people is key in taking Albania forward on its EU path. 

This is why I am here today. To continue our conversations with you on how the EU is helping Albania to get closer to the European Union, improving the life of Albanians every day while providing wide opportunities to the Albanian youth: to be engaged, to be connected, to be empowered. 

Last year we started our Europe Is Here campaign to inform the Albanian public that European Union is the largest donor to Albania. The European Union gives an average of 100 million EUR to Albania every year contributing to the transformation of all possible sectors: from education to agriculture, justice, infrastructure, anti-corruption, transport, food safety, environmental protection and many more. 

This investment, over the last 15 years has reached 1,5 billion EUR in grants, has built Albania’s major infrastructure improving substantially transport and connectivity within the country, it has given a boost to agriculture and rural development, it has supported the country to increase its environmental standards. This is the “hardware” of the transformation generated by the EU accession process.  

What is equally important though is the transformation that the EU is bringing to the everyday life of ordinary Albanians: to the students in this country, to the farmers, to the innovators, to the health professionals. This will be the focus of the Europe Is Here campaign we are launching today. I like to call it Europe Is Here 2.0 (two point zero).  

This is a campaign about the stories of over 500,000 Albanians who have personally benefitted from the EU assistance over the last decades. We meet them every day, in Tirana, and all around the country, as we did during our three-week tour across the country celebrating Europe Weeks last May.  

We chose to start our awareness raising campaign with Education because of the importance the EU attaches to this key sector. Erasmus+  is the EU flagship programme for education and youth.  Through this programme, the EU strives to:  

o  provide more opportunities for young people,  

o increase mobility,  

o support educational, social, personal and professional development,  

o enhance knowledge and skills,  

o improve employability, 

o stimulate innovation, and last, but not least,  

o foster mutual understanding and build a sense of European belonging. 

Erasmus+ has been connecting young Europeans, across borders for more than 30 years, enabling people to have a truly European experience. It also builds bridges between EU Member States and Albania. It helps to turn Europe into something that young people can experience, connect with and participate in. It enables academic institutions in the EU as much as in Albania to forge close partnerships for student mobility and excellence in education, research and innovation.  

We are proud to count 8,000 Albanians among the beneficiaries of the Erasmus+ programme through the individual mobility scheme, which consists of scholarships and exchanges with partner universities in the EU Members States, clearly enhancing the capacities of Albanian students, professors and university employees alike. Through your education programmes in the EU, you become Albanian ambassadors across Europe as well as catalysts for change back home, contributing to integrating Albania in the EU family. 

Last month, the new Erasmus+ programme for the period 2021-2027 was launched with an increased budget reaching 26 billion EUR globally, bringing many more opportunities to study abroad, to train, to apprentice.  

In line with the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans as a regional implementation of the EU Green Deal, our aim is to help Albania advance towards a more inclusive education and support the green and digital transition in education and training. As the EU strives to provide quality education for environmental sustainability at home, we will work closely with Albanians towards a greener and more sustainable Albania here before it becomes a member of the EU. The Polytechnic University of Tirana is showing the way – as your university is leading or partner in several Erasmus+ projects aiming at supporting research and innovation on renewable energies and on developing a low carbon economy.] 

Another important aspect of the EU assistance to Albania is the support we are giving to the Vocational Education and Training also known as VET. Over the last decade, close to 30 million EUR have been invested by the EU in Albania to transform the VET system in the country. Rehabilitating VET centres and improving the competences of VET teachers, extending Vocational Education and Training to the rural areas and marginalised groups as well as matching the VET offer to the employment opportunities are among the key highlights of our assistance. 

Last but not least, I want to mention what the EU is doing to help Albania improve its school infrastructure following the devastating earthquake that hit Albania in 2019 through our EU4Schools programme. With an EU grant of 75 million EUR, 63 educational institutions are being reconstructed or repaired benefiting 40,000 pupils, children and teachers. The EU4Schools programme is the EU’s biggest investment in childhood education in Albania. It lays the foundation for further learning to the benefit of the country’s young generations. 

Dear friends, 

During her visit to Albania last month, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen repeated that Albania's future is in the European Union and that we stand firmly behind the commitment. The EU has reaffirmed its unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans because, as President von der Leyen said, “like in the European Union, Albanian citizens, and especially Albanian youth, deserve a greener, more sustainable and more digital future that we are working on.” 

As I have said on other occasions, to get the EU integration of Albania right, we need the help and the voice of those who are the future citizens of the European Union. 90% of Albania’s youth – which you represent here today –  want to see Albania inside the EU and I invite you all to make it clear, to make it heard and to contribute through your studying, engagement, commitment, and active participation in society.  

Europe Is Here like the 61 stars on the Albanian map. Europe Is Here every day, because it is every day that we help Albania in its journey towards the EU. 

Ju falemnderit.