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Remarks by DAS Matthew Palmer at the Albania Earthquake Donors’ Conference
February 17, 2020

Image of a man in a suit among a crowd of people

*Good afternoon everyone.  It is an honor to be here today representing the United States as we jointly show our support for Albania, though I wish it were under happier circumstances.  I want to thank President von der Leyen and the European Commission for coordinating this Donors’ Conference.  This event has galvanized international support, and I am confident Albania will build back better and stronger.  I would also like to express my appreciation and support to Prime Minister Rama.  Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your leadership during this difficult time.

The United States has long stood by Albania.  Our special relationship dates back over 100 years to the 1919 Versailles Peace Conference when President Wilson advocated for Albanian independence.  Our ties were renewed at the birth of Albanian democracy in 1991 and are even stronger now as NATO Allies.  In good times and bad, we have supported each other, and we will continue to do so as Albania confronts the challenge of re-building.

To date, the United States has contributed over $800,000 to the earthquake recovery effort.  The U.S. government assistance was rapid, targeted, and focused on immediate, unmet needs.  Our assistance spanned all three phases of any disaster:  response; recovery and reconstruction; and preparedness and disaster risk reduction.

In the response phase, our engineers conducted damage assessments across three jurisdictions through an innovative coordination mechanism that, for the first time ever, combined best practices from the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group, and the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination.

An essential component of the recovery and reconstruction process will be to manage the incoming funding transparently.  So that the people of Albania and those most impacted by this tragedy can feel confident that their needs are being met.  To that end, the U.S. Government will provide $3.9 million to help the Government of Albania manage donations received for earthquake recovery and other public funds in a transparent and accountable fashion that benefits those most in need.  These new funds will help establish a U.S.-Albanian Transparency Academy – which comes at the direct request of the Prime Minister – to provide technical assistance in transparent governance, citizen-responsive governance, anti-corruption training, and judicial reform.

The United States will also provide nearly $800,000 in recovery and conservation work for damaged national monuments in the city of Durres, the town of Kruje, and the village of Preze, as identified in the Post Disaster Needs Assessment Report.  Finally, through a regional preparedness initiative, the U.S. Government is also providing support in the amount of $60,000 to the International Federation of the Red Cross for the purpose of helping the Albanian Red Cross establish an Emergency Operations Center, which will streamline and enhance its coordination of future emergency responses.

The total new funding of approximately $5 million is in keeping with long-standing United States support for the Albanian people and reflects the deep partnership between our two countries.  As Secretary Pompeo stated in his message to Prime Minister Rama after the earthquake, “The strength and endurance your nation has shown during this tragic period make me thankful the United States counts Albania and its people among its closest friends and allies.”

In closing, I would again like to express my appreciation to the people in this room for stepping up to assist a friend in need.  I have no doubt, thanks to our cumulative assistance and the Albanian people’s inherent strength and resilience, the country will recover and thrive.

*as prepared for delivery