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EU pledges 1.15 billion euros to help Albania recover from earthquake, as Emmanuel Macron hints at softening stance on accession talks

About 100 delegations from the European Union, its member states and partners, including international organisations and civil society have pledged more than 1.15 billion euros to help Albania recover from the devastating earthquake which hit the country in November last year.

Out of the total pledged, the European Union, including the European Commission, its member states and the European Investment Bank announced 400 million euros for the reconstruction of Albania. The European Commission has pledged 115 million euros from the EU budget. This includes a first 15 million euros grant to reconstruct and rehabilitate key public buildings such as schools.

The Commission is further making a proposal to the European Council and European Parliament for an additional 100 million euros in grants from the EU budget this year to support the rehabilitation and reconstruction of public and private buildings as well as the recovery of affected businesses.

On November 26, 2019, a devastating earthquake of 6.3 on the Richter scale hit Albania, killing 51 people and injuring more than 900. About 17,000 people were temporarily displaced, with the earthquake ultimately affecting more than 200,000 people in 11 municipalities. Thousands of buildings were destroyed and seriously damaged, including public and private infrastructure, homes, schools and health care facilities.

“Today the international community stands in solidarity with Albania,” said European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. “The whole European Union has mobilised for a country that is at the heart of our continent – and that I hope and I am convinced one day will also be part of our Union. The people of Albania know that they belong in our European family – now more than ever.”

The Albanian government, the European Union, the United Nations and the World Bank jointly prepared a Post-Disaster Needs Assessment report, which was released on February 5 to mobilise the donor community. It reveals that the total impact of the disaster in the 11 affected municipalities amounts to over 980 million euros and nearly 1.08 billion euros would be needed for recovery across all sectors. Most of the damage recorded are in the housing sector, followed by the productive sector (such as business and tourism, agriculture, and cultural heritage) and the education sector.

Meanwhile, the French president Emmanuel Macron has hinted that he might be ready to lift his opposition to the opening of EU accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia.

“We are all awaiting a report from the European Commission in March on the two countries,” the French president said at the annual Munich security conference.

“We have to see what the Commission is going to say about the state of the expected progress,” he added and, “if the results are positive and confidence is established, we then we should be able to open negotiations.”

Last week the Commission revealed its proposals to drive forward EU enlargement by making the accession process more credible, with a stronger political steer, more dynamic and predictable. 

The Commission hopes that all member states – including France – will endorse the proposal, in parallel with the opening of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, ahead of the European Union-Western Balkans Summit in Zagreb, set for May 6-7.