The FINANCIAL — The EBRD President, Sir Suma Chakrabarti, visited Albania on 26 July 2016, as part of a wider regional tour of the Western Balkans. On 25 July he visited Kosovo and on 27-28 July he will visit Montenegro. Later in the summer, he is expected to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.
This was Sir Suma’s second visit to Albania as EBRD President.
Sir Suma said: “I am very proud to see the progress Albania has made in recent years. The reform drive by the government has my full support. A number of challenges still have to be addressed, including in infrastructure and in sectors such as agriculture. I re-confirmed to the prime minister, the government and to leading private sector representatives the Bank’s commitment to working together on these challenges.”
During the meeting with Prime Minister Edi Rama, President Chakrabarti said 2016 may be a record year for the EBRD in Albania where the Bank expected to invest €150 to €170 million, according to EBRD.
He listed several projects that were being considered by the EBRD including participation in the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) which will bring Caspian gas to Albania and through it further to Italy. If the TAP financing goes ahead it will be the EBRD’s largest ever project.
The EBRD President expressed satisfaction with the recent approval of the package of judicial reforms in Albania. He expressed hope that the implementation of comprehensive judicial reform will be conducive to the acceleration of Albania’s approximation with the EU.
Prime Minister Rama said that Albania would now be moving to implement the reforms in the judicial system that had been approved by the parliament, as well as other reforms in the areas of governance and the rule of law.
He welcomed the EBRD’s “highly innovative” Albania Agribusiness Support Facility, which aims to stimulate agricultural lending by local commercial banks.
President Chakrabarti and Prime Minister Rama then attended the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with four commercial banks and two microfinance institutions under the Support Facility, which will benefit from significant donor support from the government of Albania.
President Chakrabarti met the Minister of Finance, Arben Ahmetaj, who also represents Albania as a shareholder country on the EBRD’s Board of Governors. They discussed the situation in the financial sector, including the EBRD’s support for local banks.
Minister Ahmetaj shared plans for further steps to combat corruption and to address the informal sector of the economy. He also outlined plans for tax administration reform.
The two sides stressed the importance of consistent prioritisation of public sector projects, as well as early coordination with international financial institutions in structuring these projects.
In a meeting with the Governor of the Bank of Albania, Gent Sejko, the EBRD President noted the resilience of the country’s banking sector during the global economic crisis and the eurozone turmoil. They discussed ways to speed up the resolution of non-performing loans (NPLs). The EBRD’s participation in any possible NPL resolution process would provide reassurance to any participating banks, Governor Sejko said.
During his meeting with the Mayor of Tirana, Erion Vellaj, the EBRD President and the Mayor discussed removing impediments to potential cooperation in municipal infrastructure. They discussed support of the modernisation of the public transport terminal and other municipal services. The Tirana municipality, with EBRD cooperation, is working on a pilot Green Cities Action Plan, the first of its kind in the region, parts of which the EBRD may consider financing.
At a meeting with the business community, facilitated by the EBRD-supported Investment Council Secretariat, Sir Suma met leading entrepreneurs and bankers to discuss the investment climate and how it could be further improved.
At the end of the visit, the EBRD President took part in a reception to celebrate the EBRD’s 25th anniversary during which he again praised the reforms that Albania was putting in place,.
He promised to remain a committed partner to Albania and to other countries in the Western Balkans as they worked to address their economic challenges.
The EBRD President added: “The relationship developed between the EBRD and Albania is symbolic of our broader Western Balkans engagement. The new format of regional cooperation at the level of prime ministers of the Western Balkans Six was de facto launched at the first Western Balkans Summit at the EBRD Headquarters in February 2014. The EBRD will continue to support this cooperation, now often referred to as the Berlin Process.”
Prime Minister Edi Rama also spoke at the EBRD event, stressing his commitment to judicial reform and inviting investors to consider opportunities in Albania.
During the visit, the EBRD President also introduced the new EBRD Head of Albania, Matteo Colangeli, who was appointed to the position last week.
The EBRD delegation in Tirana also included Holger Muent, Director for Western Balkans and the outgoing Head of Albania, Christoph Denk.
To date, the EBRD has invested over €1 billion in 74 projects in Albania.