A consortium of Irish, Finnish government agencies and their local partners CBS has won a €5m EU Commission action grant to assist Albania to prepare for future accession to the European Union, by strengthening its food safety, veterinary and plant health standards, over the next four years.

The consortium is led by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), and includes the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, with the project management by Sustainable Food Systems Ireland (SFSI).  Other partners are the Finnish Food Authority, and an Albanian partner, Creative Business Solutions.  The project started with the deployment of an expert team to Tirana in mid-January.

The grant was awarded through a restricted procedure limited to public bodies and non-profit organisations.  To implement the project, the FSAI and its partners will field experts in food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary systems, to help Albania to harmonise its legislation to EU norms, to strengthen counterpart institutions and to improve consumer and business awareness of food safety issues in the south-eastern European country.

The consortium is led by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), and includes the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Other partners are the Finnish Food Authority, and an Albanian partner, Creative Business Solutions. Photo: AgroWeb.org

Mr Luigi Soreca, EU Ambasador to Albania remarked ‘It’s a great pleasure to be here for the launch of this important collaboration between Albania and two Member States – Ireland and Finland – with funding support from the European Commission.  This is a great example of the European Union in action, supporting a candidate country to harmonise its laws and regulations with European norms and to help create a food safety system and culture that matches the best examples in the world.’

Helen McEntee, Minister of State for European Affairs of Ireland and Samuli Virtanen, State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland stated that the governments and agencies of Ireland and Finland as EU Member States have built up tremendous experience and expertise in developing and regulating agri-food.

Ireland and Finland as EU Member States have built up tremendous experience and expertise in developing and regulating agri-food. Photo: AgroWeb.org

Creating a modern and competitive food system is a challenging responsibility which takes years of work, and requires a constant effort by government, agencies, the food industry, farmers and their representatives.  It also needs to be driven by consumer awareness.  The task of integrating the views and ambitions of multiple stakeholders, whilst protecting human and animal health, requires strong collaboration and communication.

In Ireland and Finland, we believe it is necessary to build a shared vision between public and private sectors about the future of agri-food.  Food safety, quality and market-led innovation are also central to a successful industry, but depend on farmers and food businesses doing the right things.’

Dr Pamela Byrne, CEO, FSAI said “We, along with our project partners, are very excited to have the opportunity to support Albania, an EU accession country, to improve its food safety, animal and plant health capabilities.  Ireland’s international reputation in food safety is excellent, and working with countries to improve their food safety standards will enable Ireland to protect consumers both at home and abroad.

Left to right – Minister Çuçi, EU Ambassador to Albania, Mr Luigi Soreca, Helen McEntee, Minister of State for European Affairs of Ireland and Dr Pamela Byrne, CEO, FSAI – Photo: AgroWeb.org

We are particularly delighted to be working with the Finnish Food Authority and building on our existing great relationship with them.  With strong commitment from all our consortium partners, we were in a position to put together a winning bid and start work with the EU Commission to help Albania align its food safety systems with EU standards.”

Mr Bledi Çuçi, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Albania 
stated ‘We launch a new partnership with the European Union in the field of food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary standards. Implementing this project through the Food Safety Authority in Ireland, its Finnish counterparts, two of the most prestigious institutions in Europe, and CBS as local partners, is a great guarantee to bring food safety standards in our country where needed.

Along with AKU’s Reform, the new Law on Veterinary Service and the implementation of this project, I strongly believe that we will see impressive results for all. This is just the beginning of a radical transformation we want to do in controlling all the chains of the food chain.’

From left to right – Mr David Butler, Director Sustainable Food Systems Ireland, Juha Pyykkö, Ambassador of Finland to Albania (non-resident), Samuli Virtanen, State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, Bledi Çuçi, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Albania, Luigi Soreca, EU Ambassador to Albania, Helen McEntee, Minister of State for European Affairs of Ireland, Pamela Byrne, CEO of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Orla O’Hanrahan, Ambassador to Albania (non- resident)

The 5 mln Euro “Support to food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary standards” programme will be implemented by a group of public bodies from EU Member States led by the Irish Food Safety Authority. The group includes also the Finnish Food Safety Authority, the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and CBS Creative Business Solutions – an Albanian NGO.