Albanian emigration to Puglia region: 3 decades on 

Press statements by Prime Minister Edi Rama and Mayor of Bari Antonio Decaro:

 

I still keep suspecting whether I do really deserve all this and I can’t help but express my gratitude and wholeheartedly appreciation for extending me such a warm welcome that will stick in my mind and memory as we mark an important moment of memories and reflections over 30 years of shared history, which started off precisely here on Italy’s wonderful cost, and Puglia coast in particular, where for first time in your history it happened that you saw other people landing in your country in droves, while it were you first to head to other countries.

A lot of things have certainly happened over the past 30 years, but what is for sure and firmly established is that the more years have gone by, the more valuable and good things that deserve full respect have increased, whereas the number of bad things has decreased and they are now a thing of the past. So, that part of history that has always embarrassed us as Albanians, who were seen somehow as suspicious by a part of the Italian society, is now a thing of the past. While the other part of the Italians, which was the predominant part mainly here in Puglia, extended their hand to us and accompanied us on this new and definitely very difficult path for people who were emerging free and be liberated from a hell and incredible isolation.

We represented a unique case in the whole communist world, as we were back then the North Korea of Europe, if you will, as we kept refusing both democracy and capitalism, but also a more lenient and benevolent dictatorship in Tirana, so to say, certainly in that era of communism that was not completely transigent as we lived in that situation, of course people were not prepared, they were not ready, they did not feel good about their own reality and all the difficulties and rules that this was a reality that for us was perceived until then only by television, or the TV shows like Canzonissima or all that perception television had created. 

However, returning to the today’s event, I think we have yet a lot to do in terms of the potential for cooperation, potential for development and move forward is exceptionally huge and we really can move forward, go further through efforts to unite our spirit in the space between Italy and Albania and the Puglia region in particular, as there are no longer physical or mental boundaries and an ever growing number of Italian citizens are coming to Albania, an increasing number of Italians are interested to invest in Albania and we are eternally ready and always interested to join this part in terms of the common future.

I believe that what it takes is just the courage to move forward. I think there is a huge potential in terms of the opportunities to establish common structures of education. Puglia universities that can very well be established in Albania by becoming part of the Albanian public education system, it is an old dream to transform the University of Vlora into a higher education institution according to Italian public university system and Puglia public system in particular. I know quite well you have excellent universities in Puglia and many Albanian students attend these universities for years now, yet it would be really fantastic if one of this universities was to open in Vlora, which would open its doors to both Albanian and Italian students, who will be issued equal and identical university diploma already issued by Puglia universities.

Michelle really showed optimism and was very passionate, not only through words, but also through true actions and I am confident that his idea to press ahead and finalize the common telemedicine project is a powerful idea that is gradually being materialized and it will represent really an important development, with whole this interaction set to take place in the daily work of our health systems.

Of course, we should feel somehow embarrassed that the idea over a water supply system between Albania’s south and Puglia is an idea older than anyone of us here, it is an idea now gradually turning 100 years old and has yet to be implemented, but I think it is a great idea to connect the two coasts with a water supply which would supply water to this region and that would surely be a very important connection, not only regarding the water but also for the future of our communities. I think we should press ahead, give it a push further. Of course, it is a costly idea, but it also doesn’t cost that high as not to be finalized, because it would represent important assistance to this region that, as we know has one of the most elementary water system in Europe, but maybe because you are less rich in water resources  than other countries, we are excellent, we develop a lot in those things that we are forced to do, because we do not have the necessary resources and when we have the necessary resources we excel in wasting them.

Of course, the interconnectivity and energy issues are crucially important, as Albania generates almost 100% green and renewable energy, precisely 99% of renewable energy. The country is almost totally dependent on hydropower for electricity supply, but we have also started to invest in the solar power and we are capable of exporting electricity and it would be really important for this side of the coast to import green energy because of the quotas and this way we can pool our interests, merge management of the power resources, since this interconnection is another important project that needs to be implemented with TAP that already connects us. It is even easier to imagine both the water supply and the cables, so we can imagine delivering on both projects simultaneously.

This was the last but not least. I feel truly honoured and please, dear Mayor, send my most cordial greetings and thanks to the artist who made me this gift that will stick in my mind and memory. And of course, as far as cooperation on culture is concerned, we can do things that cost less, but that could have a significant impact and since you were earlier talking about the colour project and you presented this idea about ​​requalification of this area where this wall is located and that is dedicated to the legendary Mayor of your city, I am offering myself for free, I am ready to add the idea of ​​painting the facades of the buildings around the wall. If there is something instantly coming to my mind and perception, whenever hearing the word Puglia, is the “violent” hospitality so to say. We are the most “violent” ones as Albanians when it comes to hospitality, because we persist that our guest should feast on an array of dishes, insisting that he eats another dish and we feel insulted when the guest refuses to do so. Let me then sleep and I would do my part in the project we just mentioned.

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– You held a bilateral meeting with the Foreign Minister Di Maio. What did you discuss about this?

PM Edi Rama: We discussed a range of things as we are together on a path of cooperation and ways to gain access to the huge investment package Europe has announced for the Western Balkan countries, and it is a pledge of around 28 billion euros in investment projects and where we truly need to learn about the Italian excellence structure, the best structures in infrastructure, railways, energy and this represents an important opportunity for Italy. We are working on that, but we also focused on these projects and a cooperation committee on this is now already operational between the two governments and I believe that by May we will take stock of the progress and continue to cooperate. 

–Have you invited Prime Minister to visit Bari on August 8?

Mayor of Bari Antonio Decaro: It would be a very important day for us. We will celebrate not the 30th anniversary of the peoples’ arrival from Vlora, but 30 years of a common history that has made the Albanian community an integrated community within our city over all these years and an Italian community integrated in many Albanian cities that I have had the honor to visit few years ago. We hadn’t enough time to familiarize the Premier with a project on my table since I was elected as Mayor, namely the Tirana Tower project. When the Premier visited the city for first time when I was Mayor, he brought me this, while I sent him a clock. I wish we will celebrate these 30 years together with the Albanian people and if the Premier is ready to involve and contribute to this contemporary artwork on the facades of the buildings in San Girolamo neighbourhood, because new history is being built there and we want to build it together and it will be a pleasure to welcome the Premier Rama and celebrate together these 30 years that have been really important for our city and our communities, which have become one over all these years.