EU official: Fast response to Albania quake raises support

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) — A fast response by the European Union to the earthquake in Albania that killed 51 people has increased the bloc’s popularity among the tiny Western Balkan country’s population, according to an EU official.

A survey published Monday on the Albanian public perception of the EU showed that support for Albania’s membership in the bloc grew from 93% in 2018 to 97% last year.

“Apparently the EU’s fast response to Albania’s earthquake has had its impact on the people’s support to join (the bloc),” said Luigi Soreca, the EU’s delegation ambassador to Tirana.

The 6.3-magnitude earthquake on Nov. 26 also left 17,000 others homeless and caused $1.1 billion (1 billion euros) in damages.

The first decision that was made by the new European Commission team that took its post in early December was a 13 million-euro ($14 million) grant to assist Albania’s quake efforts.

Brussels led the international efforts of around 780 rescuers rushing to the country to help prevent more deaths, most of them coming from EU member states.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is heading an international donors’ conference next week in Brussels to assist Albania’s reconstruction efforts.

Albania and North Macedonia are expecting that the EU will likely decide this spring in favor of launching full membership negotiations following the adoption of a new methodology, which apparently has pleased France, the main opponent of taking that step last October.

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