The events that have brought us together today were disastrous. First of all, our thoughts are with the children, women and men whose lives have been tragically shaken up, turned upside down for ever in some cases. Our thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones, their homes and their ties.
I was in Albania a few weeks ago and I saw the tremendous efforts the authorities are making to try to meet the needs the people are facing.
We know how resilient the Albanian people are, and this resilience has been highlighted once again by recent events. However, this resilience must be complemented, reinforced, by a determined, brotherly and solidarity-based response from the community which together we form.
In December at the European Council, just a few weeks after the tragic events, all the Member States declared that they stood, and wanted to stand, alongside the Albanian people. Our support is unwavering and unconditional.
As the President of the European Commission mentioned, substantial aid was provided in the affected areas very soon after the earthquake. Looking for the missing, supporting the victims as much as possible, assessing the damage, helping to distribute aid. The European Unionís solidarity takes very tangible forms.
Today we are here, present and mobilised, and we are not alone. Also sitting around the table are all those who can and want to support Albania and its reconstruction: the United Nations, the World Bank, Member States, institutions, friends of Albania and international partners.
For this is, in my opinion, one of the strengths of the European Union: working tirelessly to assemble, to unite, the international community around necessary and worthy causes and always standing ready in solidarity whenever the circumstances require.
It will take every single one of us. Restoring schools, supporting businesses and helping them to get back on their feet, strengthening civil protection: all this will need us to work together, hand in hand, and to play our part.
Why are we doing this? Because we are one European family.
Albania and the Western Balkans are not far-away, faceless neighbours. They are an integral part of our continent. We have a common heritage, a common history and there is also our future together. We are determined to intensify our relations with the region. We share common opportunities and challenges, in a troubled world. We share interests, spanning the political, security and economic spectrum. And we share a vision of unity and solidarity among countries and regions in Europe.
I am confident that today's conference will be a success. Just as I am confident that the Albanian people will overcome these difficult times, rebuild, and move ahead stronger than ever. You can count on us. Thank you.