Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are here today to mark an important achievement in our cooperation with Albania.
I am very pleased to be here with Minister of the Interior Sandër Lleshaj.
Albania is the first Western Balkan partner with which we have just signed the implementation arrangement on counter-terrorism.
North Macedonia will follow this afternoon.
Today is a deliverable of the Joint Action Plan on Counter-Terrorism with the Western Balkans, which the EU signed with all six Western Balkan partners last year.
This arrangement will allow Albania to demonstrate tangible engagement and progress on security issues.
We are jointly addressing key priority areas, including the prevention of radicalisation and violent extremism, and challenges posed by returning Foreign Terrorist Fighters and their families.
In addition, it will be important to achieve progress on anti-money laundering and terrorist financing.
We should also keep addressing illicit trafficking of firearms.
These are just a few concrete examples and, of course, much of this work is the responsibility of the Albanian authorities.
Where we can, we will help with the support of Commission experts and of Europol.
I expect we will be able to sign similar implementing arrangements with the other Western Balkan partners over the coming weeks.
During my time as Commissioner responsible for migration and for security, the level of cooperation between the EU and Albania has gone from strength to strength.
For example, only a few months ago the first European Border and Coast Guard teams were deployed in Albania to support Albanian border guards with equipment and staff.
This was a historic step: it was the first time that European Border and Coast Guard Teams have been deployed in a non-EU country to provide assistance directly on the ground.
This cooperation has already shown positive results and significantly contributed to the increased interception of irregular crossings at the border between Greece and Albania.
Earlier this week we signed a similar status agreement with Montenegro, and the finalisation of agreements with the other Western Balkan partners are in the pipeline too.
When it comes to ensuring our security, protecting our borders, and managing migration, the challenges we face are common indeed, and so must be our response.
Step by step the EU and the Western Balkan partners are coming closer.
To the EU, Albania is more than a neighbour.
And today is another significant step forward on our journey together.