TIRANA – The EU is allocating the entirety of the annual IPA envelope with a record 70 million euros to social inclusion and this year we will start rolling out the “EU support to Social Inclusion” programme, announced EU Ambassador to Albania Luigi Soreca, during Tirana Connectivity Forum.
He stressed that this programme will strengthen social care services, the provision of inclusive education and employment opportunities.
“The programme will also introduce a new employment scheme for young people, expand coverage of welfare-to-work programmes and target families most affected by the crisis, for instance through targeted cash assistance. This programme is the first in the Balkans”, Soreca said.
He recalled that as a part of its global response to the coronavirus, EU immediately committed four million euros for Albania to supply immediate life-saving medical equipment and swiftly integrated the countries of the regions into EU structures to address the pandemic.
“We also set up priority Green Lanes, ensuring the unrestricted flow of protective personal equipment and essential goods between the EU and the region. We acted fast, delivered to our partners and reinforced our credibility”, said Soreca.
He assessed that in these difficult times, the EU and its Member States have kept their commitment to support the Western Balkans.
He said that the COVID-19 pandemic very clearly confirmed the benefits of European cooperation and solidarity with the Western Balkans.
“Helping the socio-economic recovery of the region is now our priority. We have also allocated 26 million euros to a programme that will support small businesses this year and next year. It will help them re-employ staff that was laid off during the crisis”, Soreca added.
We have made funding and equipment available and our partners are today much better prepared to face a second wave. We need to build on this trust and cooperation to make our economies stronger and our societies more resilient.
He concluded that the EU needs to be much better at communicating EU investments and much bolder in explaining the Connectivity agenda.
“It might surprise you that I close my intervention on communication, but it is essential that citizens understand the direct benefits of the EU. More often than not, people will use EU funded-roads, border-crossing points or training centres without knowing it”, Soreca concluded.
Beyer: US to work together with the EU in the Western Balkans
Peter Beyer, Coordinator of Transatlantic Cooperation of the Federal Government in German Bundestag said that the EU welcomes the increased engagement of the USA in the region lately, but that the EU must be a partner in that cooperation.
“I invite the American friends to closely work with Europe when engaging in the Western Balkans”, Beyer said.
He emphasized that the German government supports any assistance that leads to the rapprochement of the countries of the Western Balkans and the implementation of specific projects.
Beyer said that in his opinion, the implementation of some point that was agreed in the White House is problematic.
“I wonder how this will be implemented. I hope that Vučić and Hoti will have the political will and political power to implement those things that are in the agreement”, Beyer told.
He concluded that the EU have an honest and strong commitment for the Western Balkans region.