Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has been on a series of visits in Albania to hold talks about possible investment opportunities.

Just days after facing a wave of criticism after disastrous traffic problems hit the showpiece Teesside Airshow, the Mayor held his first meeting with the country’s Prime Minister, Edi Rama at his office in the country’s capital, Tirana, one of the fastest growing cities in Europe.

The Prime Minister has previously noted the massive developments taking place at the Teesside Freeport – the UK’s largest and first operational – and also at Teesworks, with the site now seeing billions of pounds of investment in the clean energy projects of the future.

Read more: Teesside Airshow statement on refunds over chaos

Mayor Houchen took the chance to give an update on the progress to date on schemes such as SeAH Wind Ltd’s offshore wind factory and Net Zero Teesside Power’s gas-fired power station. Prime Minister Rama then offered opportunities for the region to work together with the Albanian Government to look at growing jobs and investment in both countries.

The meeting comes ahead of a planned trip to the country by Boris Johnson later in the year to mark 100 years of diplomatic relations.

The Northern Echo: Prime Minister Rama with Ben HouchenPrime Minister Rama with Ben Houchen

Mayor Houchen said there were "hugely positive discussions about how our regions could complement each other to drive further investment into both areas."

He said: “Albania, like Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool, is growing quickly, and it is another country also taking note of what we’re doing to lead the cleaner, safer and healthier industries of the future. As we continue to set out our stall in a post-Brexit world, we must be ready to grab new opportunities, trading partners and with both hands and that’s exactly what I have been doing here – and at no cost to the UK taxpayer.

“The foundations are now in place for us to build a strong, mutually beneficial relationship and I’m excited to see what the future could hold.”

Read more: Approval for SeAH's £300m wind turbine factory at Teesworks

Mr Houchen then toured Albania's main airport and two of its major ports. Tirana International Airport plans to double its capacity in the coming years. and the Mayor pushed for any expansion opportunities to include Teesside.

The Northern Echo: Ben Houchen with Erion Veliaj, the Mayor of TiranaBen Houchen with Erion Veliaj, the Mayor of Tirana

Mayor Houchen said: “It was very interesting to see first-hand how a region with many similarities – but also some important differences – is driving forward massive development at its ports and airport.

“What has also become clear from my visits and meetings is the scale of opportunity and desire from Albania to work hand-in-hand with Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.”

In his final meetings before returning to Teesside, Ben Houchen held talks with Erion Veliaj, the Mayor of Tirana, Albania’s capital city and briefed him on the lessons learnt in Europe’s largest brownfield site and the country’s first operational Freeport to help Tirana’s plans to undertake similar private/public sector partnerships.

He said later: “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.

"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, who accepted a bottle of Revelry Gin from Yarm and a set of Teesworks etched glasses, 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.”