EU releases 15M euros for Albania’s quake recovery

The European Union on Wednesday released a first grant of 15 million euros ($16.4 million) to Albania to help the Balkan nation rebuild homes, schools and other structures after a November earthquake which killed 51 people and left 17,000 homeless.

A signing ceremony was held online to mark the handover of the funds to rebuild 22 schools with some 7,500 students in five districts. In all, the European Commission has pledged 115 million euros ($126 million) for Albania’s post-quake recovery.

“Building back schools brings hope and restores a feeling that life is getting back to normal. Nothing better than schools can embody resilience and confidence in the future,” the EU ambassador in Tirana, Luigi Soreca, said.

An international donors’ conference held in February in Brussels brought together donor countries from as far away as the United States, Canada and Israel. They committed 1.15 billion euros ($1.26 billion) in relief for Albania to rebuild everything from homes and businesses to hospitals which were destroyed in the Nov. 26 quake.

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The EU’s Commission and its member states together pledged some 400 million euros ($438 million).

Soreca said the EU wanted to show show its solidarity “with Albania in this difficult period of coronavirus and reconstruction.”

Arben Ahmetaj, Albania’s state minister for reconstruction, said: “That shows we are not alone, even in such difficult times with the coronavirus crisis.”

European Union leaders decided in March to open up membership talks with both Albania and North Macedonia.

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