On 15 December 2006, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, and Ambassador Tatjana Gjonaj, Permanent Delegate of Albania to UNESCO, signed an agreement establishing a Funds-in-Trust in favour of the restoration of the historical centre of Gjirokastra inscribed on the World Heritage List since 2005.

Mrs Blegina Agalli, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism, Youth and Sport of Albania, attended the ceremony.

The Fund being set up with the initial contribution of US1,2 million from the office of the Prime Minister of Albania aims at assisting the authorities in their efforts to safeguard the historic centre of Gjirokastra through the preparation and improvement of management plans, the restoration of historic monuments and capacity-building activities in the field of heritage preservation and management.

The Director-General said he was pleased at the prospect of further increasing UNESCO's cooperation with Albania through a project that would benefit this Southern Albanian city, which he had visited on the occasion of his first official visit to the country in 2001. Since, the historic city had been inscribed on the World Heritage List and Mr Matsuura proclaimed an honorary citizen of Gjirokastra in February 2006. The Director-General praised the Prime Minister's initiative to set up this fund, which may attract additional financial contributions towards the safeguarding of the centre.

Mr Matsuura also expressed his satisfaction about the decision of the World Heritage Committee to draw Butrint, the second Albanian site inscribed on the World Heritage List, from the World Heritage in Danger List.