Minister Margariti, honored guests, good morning and thank you for joining us.
Today, we mark the start of the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation Project to restore cultural sites damaged by the November 26th earthquake in Krujë, Durrës, and Prezë.
Since its creation in 2001, the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation has provided financial support to more than 1,000 projects in over 125 countries around the world. These commitments display the depth of the United States’ respect for the cultural heritage of other countries.
In Albania, we have worked on numerous projects through this fund, including the restoration of the Gallery Nr. 3 of the Castle in Gjirokastër, the documentation of Albanian Iso-Polyphonic music, and the preservation of the Clock Tower in Tirana. Today, we are signing a grant for nearly $800,000 for the restoration of the fortifications in Krujë, Durrës, and Prezë. I am pleased to note this is our largest Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation project in Albania to date. I would like to thank Ms. Lejla Hadzic and her team at Cultural Heritage without Borders, Minister Margariti, Ms. Arta Dollani and her team at the National Institute of Cultural Heritage, our partners at the Worlds Monument Fund, and Albanian local experts for their passion and dedication to this initiative. I would also like to thank the Dutch Prince Clause Fund and the Swedish Development Cooperation Agency for their contributions to these cultural preservation endeavours.
This two-year project will start work on the Tower C in Durrës, and then will continue with work on the Tekke of Dollmë here in Krujë, the medieval Fortress of Prezë, and the Clocktower in the Fortress in Krujë.
All of these sites have tremendous cultural value, and I am particularly delighted to be signing this Memorandum of Understanding for the implementation of these AFCP grants here in Krujë, the home of Skenderbeg, Albania’s national hero. American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once wrote of Skanderbeg’s return to Krujë:
And his heart was merry within When he crossed the river Drin, And saw in the gleam of the morn The White Castle Ak-Hissar, The city Croia called, The city moated and walled, The city where he was born, — And above it the morning star.
Reading these inspiring lines about the significance of Krujë, I am deeply honoured that the United States will play a role in preserving this historic place, which holds such deep meaning for the Albanian people. This cultural preservation project demonstrates the value the United States places on Albania’s rich heritage and my hope is that the completed work will stand as a testament to the deep friendship between our two peoples.
Me krahë të lehta! Thank you.