Albania can prosper – with a little help from its friends
Tucked in between Montenegro and Greece on the beautiful coast of the Adriatic Sea lies the small country of Albania. On the very outskirts of Europe – both geographically and in people’s minds – the country is still struggling to shake off the dust of its many years of communism.
Nevertheless, the Albanian ambassador, Kastriot Robo, is positive the country can get its economy on track, even if it takes one a step at a time. It’s possible, he contends to the Weekly Post, providing it gets enough support from the rest of Europe.
Albania’s economic situation has improved dramatically since its era of communism ended in the early 1990s. It became an official candidate to join the EU in 2014 and is eager to move towards the European ideal.
Albania’s current annual growth rate is a stable 2 percent – a figure the ambassador is pleased with.
“We cannot deny that we were affected by the financial crisis, but our growth rate is stable,” said Robo. “The Albanian market is developing and doing business here is getting easier. We are offering a lot of good incentives for foreign investors and companies to come.”
Tourism a key area
The small country has a coastline quite similar to tourist-friendly Croatia, as well as various mountainous areas, and there are high hopes that its annual number of visitors (2.86 million in 2013) will continue to grow.
Danish investors have invested money into hotels and Robo hopes more will follow.
“Our Danish investors are more than satisfied,” he explained. “And we hope that this will encourage more investors from there to come. Albania is an emerging market with a lot of opportunities.”
Danish tourists are less likely to come, however. While numbers rose by 214 percent between 2006 and 2013, they remain low. “Very few Danes come to Albania,” he said. “But we hope the word spreads and Danes will come back again after their first visit.”
Besides tourism, agriculture is a large industry. It accounts for almost half of the country’s employment, but just one fifth of its GDP. Thanks to a favourable climate similar to those in Spain and Italy, Albania grows many vegetables and fruits for export.
“Fortunately we have a good climate and modernising our agriculture can help the country’s economy a lot by creating jobs,” said Robo.
The sector has received 17 million kroner in grants from the Danish government to develop farms in remote regions, and Denmark is among the countries Albania exports to.
But tourism and agriculture aside, a lot of potential co-operation with Denmark remains unfulfilled, believes Robo. He cites a large-scale investment made by a Norwegian company in an infrastructure project.
“We gave the company some good concessions and now they have invested 1 billion euros,” he enthused. “This is the kind of investment we would love to have from Denmark too.”
Besides that he hopes some of Denmark’s production will be outsourced to Albania.
“Companies from Italy and Germany are already producing in Albania,” he said. “Danish companies like [the footwear producer] Ecco could profit enormously from our geographical position and good surroundings for foreign investment.”
A veritable supermodel
Despite all the positivity, there have been setbacks to Albania’s ambitious plans. Last year the European Union announced that for at least the next 10 years there will be no more new EU member countries. In a recent survey of governmental corruption by Transparency International, the country ranked 110th out of 175. And this year the government will have to implement a number of reforms mandated by the IMF.
These are issues that Albania hopes to settle together with the help of countries like Denmark, which Robo considers a perfect model country for Albania.
“I call the Danish top models in every way,” he said.
“We have to use them as models for European integration, politics, economy, everything. We can follow their example to make our country better in the future.”