It is such a great pleasure to be here for this event and it is wonderful to see so many familiar faces. But I have to say that the one I am really happy about seeing is my friend, Ambassador Byrnes, Kate. We haven’t seen each other for more than a year, not since February last year, March last year, and we had met in Washington and we had promised each other that we’d be doing this event, that event, and then COVID got on the way. But here we are, more than a year later, at an event that could not be more symbolic of our commitment to integration, to U.S. support for each other’s integration, for regional prosperity and for regional connectivity!
So, Ambassador Byrnes, Director Gazheli, Mr. Janowski, Mr. Murataj, Ms. Miovska, ladies and gentlemen,
What a great pleasure is to be here with you at the Qafë Thanë. This border area highlights another example of how U.S. assistance is making the Western Balkans region more secure, more democratic, and more business friendly. We are parties to these historic developments, and we are honored to be able to see goodwill and cooperation transformed into tangible change that we can all see and feel.
I would like to congratulate Albania and North Macedonia on signing the Bi-lateral Framework Agreement on Joint Border Crossing Points. We look forward to seeing your respective parliaments fully ratify this agreement, which will be another step towards your future in the E.U. as full members and it reinforces what is already a burgeoning trans-Atlantic partnership.
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of regional trade, economic cooperation, and the innovation fostered by U.S. assistance in the region. The tools and equipment procured by USAID, along with the teamwork and close collaboration between both sides, will ensure that the Qafë Thanë – Kjafasan customs authorities reach high standards in terms of border procedures, facilitating a business enabling environment and security controls.
As we reflect on the purpose of today’s event, I would like to add that borders are not uniform. Every border has a particular character, which is governed in large part by the relationship between neighbouring states. There was a time not so long ago when borders were like walls, impervious and foreboding. Particularly in this region, often under a pretext of national security, borders were used to divide people and hindered travel, free trade, and confidence in each other. Today, we stand at a border that is not only more secure, but it is also designed to bring people together and to foster integration, peace, and prosperity. Countries across Europe now agree that their common prosperity and security are vested in collaboration and cross-border movement of people, goods, services, and investments.
Today, Albania and North Macedonia are on the cusp of joining the European Union. And as Ambassador Byrnes has said, the United States will strongly, strongly support the future of Albania and North Macedonia in the EU, as full members. We hope that the intergovernmental conference opens as soon as possible. Working together, as Albania and North Macedonia have done here at the border, shows these two countries are clearly ready and willing to do the hard work to integrate, to become European. We look forward to continuing to support you and to working with you now and in the future.
Thank you very much.