Tirana, 22 November 2012 – Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger opened the exhibition "Skanderbeg's Arms in Albania" in Tirana today in the presence of the Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha, Austrian Federal Minister of Culture Claudia Schmied and the directors of the National History Museum of Tirana and the Art History Museum of Vienna. Afterwards, the Vice-Chancellor attended the opening session of a conference on 20 years of Austrian development cooperation in Albania. "This day has a very special Austrian touch here in Albania. The exhibition of Skanderbeg's sword and helmet, two exhibits that have left Austria for the first time in 400 years, is an expression of our historic links with Albania and our intensive cooperation in the field of culture", Spindelegger said.
The Skanderbeg objects as they are called, helmet and sword, that are associated with Albania's national hero Lord Georg Kastriota, called Skanderbeg (born around 1403, died in 1468) are the central pieces of the exhibition. These objects, that have been in Austrian possession since the 16th century, are now on exhibition in Tirana for a few weeks on the occasion of the celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of Albania's independence.
Austria and Albania can look back on 20 years of development cooperation, during which Albania has been a priority country in Austria's development efforts. At the opening of the conference marking this anniversary, Spindelegger praised the successful activities in the field of water supply and waste water disposal, vocational training and democratic governance. The cooperation focuses on the poorest and most economically disadvantaged regions of Shkodrë and Lezhë in the north of Albania. A textbook example of development cooperation is the successful sanitation of the outdated water and sanitary supply systems of the North-Albanian city of Shkodrë. Today, 100,000 inhabitants have access to clean drinking water.
"Austria will continue to support Albania by means of new innovative tools, such as business partnerships, NGO co-financing schemes and loans made by the Austrian Development Bank. I am proud that the European Commission asked the Austrian Development Agency to bring the public finance management of Albania up to European standards with the use of Austrian know-how", Spindelegger said at the opening of the conference.
Vice-Chancellor Spindelegger used his visit to Tirana also for political meetings with Prime Minister Berisha and President Nishani. "Albania's future clearly lies in the European Union. We are going to support Albania further on its way towards the EU, but we can only provide help for self-help. The indispensable reforms, such as the reform of the administrative and judicial systems, can only be implemented by the country itself. The possible recommendation of the Commission to grant the country candidate status in December should be an incentive to reinforce the reform efforts", Spindelegger underlined.
On 28 November, on the occasion of the official celebrations of 100 years of Albania's independence (in which the then Hapsburg Monarchy played an important role), the Austrian Vice-Chancellor is going to pay another visit to Tirana.
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