Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has continued his Albanian trade mission by meeting more high-profile politicians and diplomats.
Mayor Houchen was met by a red carpet and brass band reception ahead of talks with Erion Veliaj, the Mayor of Tirana, Albania’s capital city.
He represents more than one million people in Tirana and its surrounding area. With an average age of residents of 29, it is one of the youngest capitals in Europe.
Like Prime Minister Edi Rama, who Mayor Houchen has also met on his visit, Mayor Veliaj was keen to learn more about the transformation of the Teesworks site and the Teesside Freeport, and understand the lessons learnt in Europe’s largest brownfield site and the country’s biggest and first operational Freeport.
The talks will help inform Tirana’s plans to undertake similar private/public sector partnerships, expand its airport and grow its ports, with Mayor Houchen also visiting its key sites and projects to examine opportunities to collaborate more closely.
Following his meeting with Mayor Veliaj, Mayor Houchen also spoke to Alastair King-Smith, the UK’s Ambassador to Albania, who thanked him for his visit and offered further support to enable the two countries to work together more closely.
Mayor Houchen said: “It was a pleasure to meet Mayor Veliaj, who shares the same ambitious plans for his city as I do for our region. Airport and port expansion is obviously something we’ve been heavily involved in with Teesside Airport, Teesworks and the Teesside Freeport and I was only too happy to share our experiences with him.
“Our projects are going from strength to strength, with billions of pounds of investment set to lead to thousands of good-quality, well-paid jobs for local people in the industries of the future. The age demographic of Tirana’s locals makes it a prime location to also benefit from similar investments and schemes, helping it to retain talent and shape a younger workforce.
“My meeting with the UK Ambassador, Alastair King-Smith, has also been invaluable in offering practical support as we kick-start what will hopefully be a long-term, successful relationship bringing jobs and investment to both of our areas.”
Mayor Veliaj said: “It is a big pleasure to host my friend, the Mayor of the Tees Valley. We have a great relationship with the UK. Beyond the great relationships with Prime Ministers Rama and Johnson, the relationship between cities is really important, so we can learn from each other.”