Soreca: EU, economic and investment plan

Joint press conference on Europe Day, May 9, by Prime Minister Edi Rama and the Head of the Delegation of the European Union in Tirana, Ambassador Luigi Soreca:

Ambassador Soreca: Good morning Prime Minister! It is a pleasure to welcome you at the Europe House. Today is Europe Day and indeed I have already sent my congratulations to every Albanian via social media, given the framework of physical and social distancing. Today is not an Europe anniversary day like every previous year due to the Covid-19 crisis, yet it is a very significant days for the European Union, as it marks the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration, when all leaders of the then EU decided that solidarity be at the centre of their vision.

So these words are very important even today, solidarity as a value, as a gesture, which has guided our work here in Albania and we have seen in Albania exactly this solidarity being showcased since November 26, the day of the terrible earthquake, with the EU not only immediately standing by Albanians on the ground, but together with the Member States preparing the Donors Conference on February 17 in Brussels, where we pledged and collected one billion and 115 million euros, and the amount of 115 million euros is indeed the largest donation ever given by the EU and this figure is being implemented since then.

On the Conference Day, it was the Prime Minister to sign the agreement on the initial amount of 15 million euros and for three weeks now, we are pleased to see the EU, through the United Nations, working on the project to reconstruct and rejuvenate 22 school buildings in five regions of Albania. This is just the begining. Another amount of 100 million euros has been earmarked to support “the EU for Schools” project, as well as many other projects, which will be identified together with the government and then a very important initiative on rehabilitation of various cultural heritage monuments and sites, as we believe that education and cultural heritage are a very important impetus to tourism and economic development, and efforts to help Albania recover and cope with this very difficult time. So, a share of the amount of 100 million euros will be used for the restoration of main cultural heritage sites damaged by the earthquake. The sites will be identified together with the government.

The European Union stood by Albanians since day one of the coronavirus crisis, earmarking around 230 million euros in assistance, respectively an amount of 4 million euros in immediate emergency assistance for the country’s health system. The EU has also provided needed medical equipment and materials for Albania, the medical personnel at the country’s hospitals and the EU is also set to provide more assistance this week, including ventilators and ambulances. In the meantime, an amount of 205 million euros will be made available by July for social protection program and help the society’s most vulnerable segments and an immediate assistance for the country’s economic recovery. Again, the EU has set aside an amount of 480 million euros in loans with interest rates applied in the Member States and this sum will be made available by early July.

The coronavirus crisis is the case of showcasing great solidarity. However, but allow me to thank the Prime Minister, in the other way around, about the solidarity Albania demonstrated for its EU friends, the EU members, as we all saw the team of Albanian doctors and nurses, who went to Italy, as well as the repatriation flights. Albania has been pretty generous, as it has allowed around 200 EU citizens stuck in Albania to return to their countries.

Of course, I should also highlight the important Zagreb Summit, which remains vital to the region’s future. The EU has mobilized a 3.3 billion euro aid package for the Western Balkans. I have already mentioned, but it is incredibly important to state the fact that the EU, compared to any other party, is the largest donor to the region and it is important that we don’t forget this. Another assistance package will be announced by the EU in the second half of the year to support an investment and economic plan, and the package will support recovery of energy, transport and infrastructure of Albania and other countries in the region so that the Western Balkan citizens achieve living standards of the EU citizens. The aid package includes also the green agreement, the environment and other important sectors with an important impact on the economic recovery of the countries in the region.

Discussions on reforms took place at Zagreb Summit. This is very important and leads me to a final element, I would like to highlight. The economic recovery should be associated with efforts to deliver on reforms. Amid the coronavirus or Covid-19 crisis, March 25 was a historic day for Albania, the historic decision on opening the accession negotiations. So now, Albania is in the final section of its journey and it should continue to deliver on reforms. The EU Council conclusions have identified the roadmap, the rule of law, elections, the fight against corruption and other issues and we are cooperating with all Albanian institutions to make these things happen.

I would conclude my speech by saying that the 2020 Europe Week is a different one, a week conveying the message “stronger together.” And this week has been great in terms of the reaction, the comments we have received from the citizens regarding this initiative and we will actually have a very nice weekend with concerts and shows. Keep following us on Facebook. The delegation, the EU in Albania will continue to stand by you, support you in the EU membership process.

Thank you very much and I would now give the floor to the country’s Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Rama: Thank you Luigi! Today marks the Europe Day and this day on May 9 finds us in an extremely emergent situation, rendering it impossible for us to host the usual ceremony and events celebrating this special day. However, thank you for the opportunity to jointly convey here at the Europe House a congratulatory and significant message to all Albanian citizens!

Two days ago we had an important exchange with the leaders of the European Union and the region via the current situation’s digital platform of the planned Zagreb Summit under the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which, however, was a distant meeting with important substance and, above all, a meeting with a strong sense of everyone’s rapprochement and commitment not only to cope with the situation caused by the invisible enemy, as it has come to be known worldwide, but also reflect on the many things that need to be taken further and better done together.

Of course, in this context, one can’t help but express over and over again the gratitude to our friends in Brussels, our friends in all EU capitals and, first and foremost, to our friends in the EU Delegation here in Tirana, Albania’s devoted friends, who again stood by us in the aftermath of the Nov 26 earthquake and the extraordinary and successful Donors’ Conference for Albania, and the current situation.

The Ambassador noted it and I would to reiterate that as the discussions in the Zagreb Summit two days ago showed, the European institutions will continue supporting all countries, certainly including the Western Balkans and Albania, although not yet part of the European family in terms of the EU integration, but they are part of the European family in terms of interaction and shared approach to this war against a common enemy, which equally threatens the lives and health of everyone and which has hit hard all economies, placing each and every one of us in an extraordinary predicament.

In addition to what the Ambassador said, I would like to emphasize that the assistance by the EU budget in the second half of 2020 will add to the pledges the EU has delivered to date to cope with the situation in this joint war against an invisible enemy. On the other hand, I am pleased to inform the public that after talks with the President of the European Commission, the EU Commissioner for Enlargement, the President of the Council we have already received the approval to include the Central European Bank in this assistance through interaction with the Bank of Albania and other national banks in the region to significantly facilitate the whole process related to financing the economy and various countries when the non-EU nations face difficulties in gaining access to the capital markets and find it not easy to mitigate the tremendous impact on the economy.

On the other hand, I am very pleased to confirm at this joint meeting with the Ambassador on this European Day commitment to go on with intense work to materialize the EU assistance for the post-earthquake reconstruction program. The EU will directly involve through its funds in two main directions; reconstruction of school buildings and restoration projects to take the cultural heritage monuments and sites to a completely different level.

It is fantastic that we posses today a number of important financial instruments to turn reconstruction into the model of the Albania we want. We are engaged in an intense work process. I am very pleased to announce it today that even over these dark days of the total quarantine, together with the Ambassador and our respective teams we have been in constant contact and the EU Delegation, the Ambassador and officials in Brussels have stood by us to continue work and detail plans and programs. I know that patience might sound the most hateful word for Albanian citizen today, yet it is the most necessary word to be repeatedly over and over again: patience, patience, patience!

Reconstruction is not just a word-of-mouth thing. Reconstruction is a masterplan featuring hundreds and thousands of details concerning the entire process, ranging from the project idea, the design and its implementation. However, I am very pleased that these all are underway. The current delay is not a big deal and our objective to return all the quake-affected homeless families, or the overwhelming majority of them, to their new homes this year is achievable.

The same goes for our objective to kick off work to reconstruct school buildings as soon as possible and return children to their new schools at the start of the next academic year. Certainly we cannot do all that we could have done if this invisible enemy was not to intrude, yet we would develop and implement most of them.

The same goes for the economy. An excellent job has been done in the frontline of the battle to protect the citizens’ health and must continue to deliver on this effort as we all are critically endangered by more than one threat; we are endangered by the ignorance, we are seriously endangered by irresponsibility, we are seriously endangered by impatience that my lead to dangerous conclusions, suggesting that the virus is a big international conspiracy, that the virus is a common flu and stuff like that. It was just shortly before coming here when I found out how all bars and restaurants were closed again in South Korea, because a scary surge in the number of infections was recorded right after their reopening, which means we will not close off these services due to fear, but we must avoid reinstatement of a fresh total lockdown due to irresponsibility and ignorance.

This is crucially important.

Around 99.99% of the Albanians have shown and are proving to be amazing people, yet it would suffice just these 10 or 100 people to give an upper dangerous hand to the invisible enemy against out health system. Meanwhile, the work with the health system goes on also thanks to the EU assistance, but I would like to avail myself of this occasion to respond to all of those who allege that “the funds allocated by the EU have been stolen.” The truth is that disbursement of the funds made available by the EU has just begun and these funds are strictly monitored by the EU itself. It is not the case of suitcases full of money delivered by EU to be distributed and shared then in imaginary meetings, but they are dedicated funds earmarked to support clear projects and that are monitored by the EU itself.

I would like to conclude by saying that in the meantime we are making preparations – and this is the case to express once again our gratitude to the Ambassador, the Delegation, our friends in Brussels for the precious assistance they are providing by supporting us through continued consultations, because it is a brand new experience that opens up to us, and that is the experience of the membership negotiations. With the EU accession negotiations already opened and with serious preparations required for the inter-governmental conference with the EU, I can confirm that the work plan for the coming months has been already outlined, while step by step consultations are necessary. The government certainly carries the main burden of leadership in this process, but the process requires involvement of all stakeholders and we are actually very interested, seriously committed and willing to sit in a broad roundtable together with the President of the Republic, the opposition leader and other stakeholders that include representatives of the independent institutions and the justice bodies in particular, with everyone of us expressing common will and with everyone doing the share of their obligations. We are not here to ask others take over the government duties or force other stakeholders to do their part in this process, but to convey a strong message of national unity in this process. Everyone wants Albania join the European Union as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, we have set up a negotiating team. It is perhaps the right moment to publicly announce the name of the chief negotiator, an outstanding figure, I believe, although he has not hesitated to criticize our government at some point, but that this is not a lesser reason, it is one more reason to involve him in this process. He is a personality of Albanian diplomacy, a renowned and highly respected one, universally accepted for his know-how and skills while serving in various positions, either when he used to serve in missions of our diplomacy, or when he used to serve in important positions within international institutions. He is Ambassador Zef Mazi.

Ambassador Zef Mazi will serve as chief negotiator, leading a selected team in the battle for the EU membership negotiations. It will be a battle that would take place in the domain of knowledge, good will to speed up efforts in taking the process forward in many directions. I am pleased that with this team, I am very pleased that thanks to this interaction with the EU, with the EU Delegation, I am very happy through this broad understanding we have with all our international friends, including the United States, the United States Embassy and the U.S. Ambassador, who are totally committed to supporting this process, and hopefully through cooperation with other institutions, including the President, the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary opposition, we can all contribute, with each doing their  part and each carrying their own burden. The government carries the heaviest burden and we are definitely ready to successfully assume it.

Once again, dear friend, dear friends in the EU Delegation, thank you for everything you have done so far and that you will surely do in the future and Happy Europe Day!

Ambassador Soreca: Thank you very much Mr. Prime Minister! Thank you for your remarks! Thank you for sharing with us the plans for the future, including appointment of Albania’s chief negotiator for EU accession negotiations, who will start working with us, I believe, very soon. So, as you already said, the ball is now in your court, but yet, as always, we are here by your side.

Given the social distancing conditions, our journalist friends are not here today, but we have asked journalists to forward some questions. We have already received those questions and some of them will be read to the Prime Minister, but also to me, so that we can answer them. So I ask my colleagues to read the questions.

A question to Ambassador Soreca; Do you think the European Union’s reaction regarding the Covid-19 outbreak was the right one, building on the principles and the dreams of the founders of the EU?

Ambassador Soreca: As I already noted in my remarks, the European Union has shown great solidarity with Albania, just like Albania has clearly showcased and demonstrated its solidarity with the EU. As we already did by deploying on the ground to respond to the immediate needs right after the earthquake, now, as I said, we want to help Albania by providing financial assistance, our strong support, which is certainly also political support for the country’s recovery. The Covid-19 pandemic will affect the country’s economy and the plan being prepared by the government and its institutions will enjoy our full support. Yet, as I already mentioned, an economic and investment plan will be announced in the coming months and it will include not only Albania, but whole region, in the second half of 2020, so that through the EU budget support, as the Premier said, we can help government institutions to recover from this economic crisis. So, the answer to your question, honourable journalist, is, yes, the EU response was the right one. Thank you.

Question to Prime Minister – Mr. Prime Minister, Albania has set a positive precedent of cooperation and understanding between various institutions of the country in the wake of the pandemic. Why don’t you build on this precedent to tackle and deliver on the homework the European Union has assigned the country to do, giving Albania a chance to move forward and gain an EU accession date?

Question to Ambassador Soreca – Is the 3.3 billion euro funding a commitment and accountability mechanism that conditions the use of these funds to support economic and social development projects with the country’s efforts to deliver on reforms?

PM Rama: The quality of coexistence in a family, within an organization, a sports team, a community, but also in a country does not depend on how much we agree on everything with each other, but on how we handle our disagreements. There are many ways to deal with disagreements and disputes, from bickering, conflicts, brutal and vulgar contradictions, to open discussion, ethical exchange, and careful listening to each other, no matter whether you eventually agree or not. The latter is for me the right way and whenever there is an opportunity for the latter, I am always the first one wanting and being ready to do anything to encourage it. I have occasionally noted, and repeating it might sound boring, but this is the case to reiterate that at the behind closed door meetings of the National Security Council between the government representatives, the President of the Republic, the opposition leader, we haven’t agreed on everything, but the way our disagreements have been handled is really what we would all really need to convey from a closed space to a public one. We need to move from a space where we exchange with each other only to a space where others listen to us too. If the journalist who has forwarded this question or all of you indeed, were to see the tone, the listening capacity of all parties and the way the parties address important issues, even when it comes to disputes among us at the National Security Council, you would definitely say: “Wow, has the Albanian politics reached that far?” And if that ethical format and that atmosphere were to be conveyed to the public and the atmosphere of interaction and communication between the parties in public would be as such, I can tell you that Albania would have been way much better than it is today and, frankly speaking, we wouldn’t be envying even the much bigger and more developed countries, which thanks to a long tradition are much more prepared for the tone and the intensity of the communication in terms of its quality and content. Unfortunately, in a public environment, politics usually turns into vulgarity, seriously harming itself, the parties, the country itself and the public’s opinion about politics. Politics was not born for any other reason than providing people the opportunity to do together things that they can’t do on their own. Involving and dealing with politics simply means joining others in order to advance a goal, transform it from a small community goal into a national objective. One joins politics to fix and put in order everything outside your own doorstep as soon as you walk out the door of your home. , politics is needed. The small politics of the resident community and the big state politics. So, in that sense, I strongly agree with the reason that has prompted the journalist to ask this question, but at the end of the day, it takes two or more people to dance tango or the sword dance, which are two extremes of dance. But, as far as I’m concerned, I’m ready for both.

Ambassador Soreca: As to your second question, I think I can make a few remarks, because I have already referred to this issue in my previous speech. So, a total of 3.3 billion euros is made available to the entire Western Balkans, a significant part is earmarked for Albania, but the EU assistance won’t end here.  As we have already pointed out previously, the EU will provide additional financial assistance for the investment plan under the EU budget, precisely to help Albania to overcome this crisis and the recovery of the country, the recovery of the economy, of course we will deal with very important issues of social protection, ie the most vulnerable families, as well as small and medium enterprises. This is the objective and we believe that EU support, which this support has always been here for you, will continue.

Question to Ambassador Soreca – Based on the international financial institutions assessments, Albania, like many other countries in Europe, is likely to plunge into economic recession. Are the European Union institutions considering an economic assistance package for our country?

Question to PM Rama – Considering that tourism sector is one of the major contributors to the state budget and the country’s economic development, has the government been considering more fiscal incentives this year, in a bid to save not only several businesses operating in tourism industry, but also make sure that the state budget collects more revenue from this sector in the coming years?

Ambassador Soreca: I will answer the first question and then give the floor to the Prime Minister. As far as tourism sector is concerned, as I already mentioned in my speech, in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, but also in the aftermath of the Nov 26 earthquake, a share of the EU funds will be earmarked to support rehabilitation of the cultural heritage monuments. So, the objective is to primarily protect these monuments, but by protecting these monuments we would also help tourism and through tourism we will help also the country’s economic development. I am not going to name all the programs and the 42 million euro funding provided by the EBRD to support local tourism development in Albania’s certain regions, a project that would also help the country’s economy.

PM Rama: I would reiterate what I already said a bit earlier. South Korea has reinstated the order to close down bars and restaurants across the country as the number of the new infections went up beyond reasonable figures due to the reopening of such services, according to the Korean health authorities. We should also be prepared to see an increase in the number of new infections everywhere, including in Albania. However, the increase in coronavirus infections should not go beyond a reasonable growth rate, which is the ratio between the number of infections and the people’s need to receive medical treatment, so that our health system, which successfully coped with an extraordinary challenge, doesn’t collapse. And where do the risks come from? Such risks come precisely from activities that by nature gather a large number of people and there could be no other activity than tourism to bring the largest possible number of people together.

We are on the verge of making a really tough decision. We are well aware that we can really protect the population’s health by maintaining the lockdown measures in place and by banning the tourism season. But, on the other hand, we do also know this is not the solution, because the economic, financial and psychological effects could be exponential. Hence, understanding is indispensable for everyone to do his part in terms of the health protection. Everyone should understand this is not a matter of the police, it is not a matter of the army, it is not a matter of controls, it is not a matter of fines, it is not a matter of deprivation of liberty, it is not a matter of the Criminal Code and so on. This is primarily a matter of civic consciousness. Everyone should be the guardian of his own health and that of the people around him.

I carefully listened and I keep very carefully listening to the concerns, complaints and requests made by many, yet I stick to what I have said from the very beginning. This is not the case for everyone to take advantage of this situation and seek to benefit as much as possible. This is the case of a situation that has affected each and every one of us, adding to the existing woes at all levels and we can cope with it through understanding by providing those most in need the instruments for survival. Same goes for the businesses. Sadly enough, I have found that certain companies, which we know very well that are really liquid and have the due capacities to cope with the current effects of the outbreak – although they would still certainly need support should the situation worsens – are indeed precisely the one seeking to benefit more assistance. Unfortunately, I have also noticed that that certain companies and employers are staging fake redundancy or using the excuse of lay-offs amid the Covid-19 outbreak in a bid to benefit more under the government’s support packages for the business and workers. Some have gone too far by staging situations to cause media uproar, just like it was the case with a group of a garment factory workers a day ago, who were fired once the second support package was announced in order for the owner to benefit from them. But the company in question is liquid and faces no serious problems, whereas all those who became jobless prior to April 10 have been included in the government’s support packages.

The General Taxation Directorate is everyday appealing to everyone to file applications by sending them application texts and guidance to correct their applications, since some of those who haven’t received the wartime salary – while more than 60,000 of other applicants have had their second tranche of payment transferred to their bank accounts – have filled the application incorrectly. Likewise, some private companies and entrepreneurs have failed to apply for their employees to benefit under the second support package. We will impose penalties, but we are first waiting for them to reflect, because it is not time to penalize people, but reach understanding. Of course, penalization is to ensue after that.

And finally, as for tourism industry, I believe have we have provided tourism everything reasonable to be granted in this situation. The government has decided to defer all tax liabilities of the tourism industry operators and establishments to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 crisis in the travel and tourism sector and accelerate its recovery. We have postponed all tax liabilities and the companies operating in the tourism industry will pay no taxes this year. I hear people speaking about fiscal incentives. What other fiscal incentives you suggest when these operators are exempted from having to pay any tax liability? What fiscal incentives one might call for when all small business taxes have been pardoned? What other fiscal relief could be possible provided when all tax liabilities have been pardoned? Small businesses will not pay a single penny, including the interest on water and electricity bills. These are huge amounts that are deducted from the state budget and it is the state budget the one that should provide support.

In the meantime, the first instrument of the sovereign guarantee has started to work and the number of companies benefiting under the package keeps increasing. The second instrument has become operation over the past few days and we are confident it is the right one to support tourism, garment and footwear industry and manufacturing enterprises.

We believe tourism is considered an entity that has experienced real damages, but the opportunities the sector has been provided to protect itself from the effects of this force majeure event are largely affordable. We are carefully monitoring the actions and moves of other countries and we will press ahead with plans for a careful reopening of the tourism season. To all those asking and claiming where did we find this or that, I would tell that if they were to look at the entire volume of the work we have done since day one and the amount of data we have collected from all over the world, and how the strategy and these measures are taken, they would understand that the reason why we find ourselves in such an encouraging position, because we are not experiencing serious health crisis, and this is all not thanks to God, this is not a coincidence, but the result of common work between the government and the citizens and we will keep doing so.

Mr. Prime Minister, in a TV interview last month you announced that a working group is working on a draft law that would for the cultivation of medical cannabis in the country, following the lead and the experience of not only some EU member states, but also that of the countries in the region, like North Macedonia. Could you provide more details on the draft law? Which institution is leading the work on this draft and have you had consultations with Albania’s European partners on this issue?

PM Rama: We have been working on the draft law for almost a year now after continuous consultations with foreign experts and it will be ready soon. We never do a work without consulting domestic and high-level international experts first. So, this draft too has been consulted with both international and our experts, but the most important thing we are doing and which has turned out to be a great help is the consultation with other countries’ experience. We are not here to invent anything. We are here to learn as much as possible from others and adapt the lessons learned to Albania’s conditions. So, the draft will be available very soon for public discussion, just like the one on the fiscal amnesty, which is ready and is being discussed with several international institutions.

Which is in your opinion, Mr. Ambassador Soreca, the most difficult condition to fulfil by Albania? Is it the electoral reform, judicial reform, the fight against corruption and organized crime, or other issues such as the law on the media and protection of the national minorities?

Ambassador Soreca: The journalist actually named a series of reforms included in the Roadmap, which outlines entire work needed to be done following the March 25 decision. All these reforms are important. It is not that I would want to compile a list of priorities, neither list them based on the level of the difficulty of each of these reforms, yet cooperation is the key. The government – the Premier said – carries the main responsibility and the main burden, but cooperation with other institutions, including the President, the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary opposition, is needed so that the judicial reform, for example, is taken forward. That’s why we will keep on providing our support for the Albanian institutions so that the latter can compile an action plan, implement it, taking into account all these conditions, because we should launch the membership negotiations as soon as possible and once this crisis in particular is over the negotiations will provide more assistance to Albania and more opportunities in the future. So, the electoral reform is now being discussed by all parties. Allow me say that it is important that a compromise is reached in the coming weeks and all parties find the right balance, the right equilibrium so that this reform is finalized and then implemented, as the EU Council’s conclusions stipulate.

Mr. Prime Minister, we thank you for your time and the pleasure to have you here at Europe’s Home and talk about the Europe Week. It was a good thing, but it is not over yet. Keep watching us. The EU Ambassador will deliver a speech at the home of one the most renowned Albanian artists, Alban Skënderaj. The Europe Week will end tomorrow with the performance of an Italian artist, Albano, who will deliver the closing message, as well as perform for the Albanian friends, just like he has done at the stadium in the’90-s, but this time via online social networks.

Thank you Prime Minister for spending time with us and I wish you all good health and Happy Europe Week!

PM Rama: I would like to add and avail myself of the opportunity to inform you that last night we have been granted the special authorization from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which, with the flights to the Schengen zone halted until June 15, it would allow us to increase Air Albania’s flights in order to expand the humanitarian corridor,  make easier the repatriation process, because this was one of the toughest issues we faced when such an authorization was a must so that we could move further. As we have already announced, starting on Monday, the repatriated Albanian nationals will no longer need to quarantine themselves in hotels, but they can self-isolate in their own homes by respecting all quarantine rules based on what we all know, as well as based on the laws of the Republic of Albania.

Our goal is to further relax the restrictive measures by end of this week, if the infection numbers and the situation would allow us to do so. Next week, after May 18, we plan to broadly ease travel either within an urban area, or between the cities and various regions. However, again it is crucial to highlight the fact that anything we say during this situation does always implies a certain condition and the number of infections should help us to materialize what we announce in advance. If we record a sudden surge in the infection numbers, then we should take backward steps. In order for us not to take backward steps, we should all understand that individually we are managing to do the right thing by maintaining the social and physical distancing and abiding by all other rules everyone now knows by heart and this way we can protect not only the health of our families and relatives, but we also strongly protect Albania in this reopening process. The main issue is that it is not the majority the one to decide in this situation. A very small minority decides the fate of this situation and if the situation gets out of hands this majority causes a disaster upon everyone and the majority of the population. If everyone does individually his or her job, then we will face no problems and we will continue to live in the new normality. But if we are to decide and open the outdoor venues of bars, restaurants, cafes on May 18 and if the rules are not strictly observed due to the efforts to recuperate the loses as soon as possible, by adding more tables and customers and open the interior venues, then this would turn out to be suicidal. Authorities in South Korea were forced to reorder their closure again as the situation got out of control. Such a situation can easily get out of hands. Seeing that nothing has actually happened, it is quite easy for some to say the quarantine was useless and there was no point to resort to the total lockdown and stuff like this. However, this is something we cannot prove, because it would have been very simple to lift any restrictive measure for a week and then all those philosophers, the Facebook and politics epidemiologists would see for themselves what could happen. However, we cannot afford doing this. Of course God is great, but what we have accomplished to date is the result of our joint work. Whoever says this is a preferential relation, a God’s favour to Albanians to save Albanians only, he has indeed nothing to do with the Europe Day at all.

Ambassador Soreca: Thank you very much! Good bye!