Eurostat releases residence permits statistics for Albanians

Eurostat releases residence permits statistics for Albanians

TIRANA, June 12- Almost a third of the Albanian population has chosen to live and work in one of the EU states. The European Union Statistical Office, Eurostat, published data on valid residence permits of non-European citizens, categorizing them according

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Development prospects of an Albanian capital market

Development prospects of an Albanian capital market

TIRANA, June 10- The Ministry of Finance and Economy Mirela Denaj, has issued a draft bill on capital markets for consultation, opening the way for comments and finalizing new foundations for a market that is an important part of the

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Kosovo warns to set off second trade war

Kosovo warns to set off second trade war

TIRANA, June 10- A seemingly trade war has been warned by Kosovo against Albanian products exported to Kosovo. More specifically Kosovo has decided that if by July 1, 2019 the Albania government hasn’t abolished the provisional tariff measures on imports

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Contracts for tree sowing in Tirana under investigation

Contracts for tree sowing in Tirana under investigation

TIRANA, June 5- The government’s project for the Tirana-Durres highway concession is still unclear, but what is surely known is the fact that the expansion of the highway will flatten for the second time within five years the costly trees

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Albanian insurance companies in Kosovo head bankruptcy

Albanian insurance companies in Kosovo head bankruptcy

TIRANA, June 6- The Central Bank of Kosovo has taken the decision months ago to revoke the license of the “INSIG” insurance company. The Bank it took this decision because the company did not meet the legal requirements. The insurance

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Trade of services from Albania to EU expand

Trade of services from Albania to EU expand

TIRANA, June 3- With technological development and the growth of globalization, trade in services is gaining momentum. The European Union is one of the main trading partners of Albania according to Eurostat published data on trade exchanges of services for

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Kosovo warns to close border with Albania for a day, as trade clash deteriorates

Kosovo warns to close border with Albania for a day, as trade clash deteriorates

TIRANA, June 5- The trade war between Kosovo and Albania has been aggravated recently. A few weeks ago at a summit in Tirana, the two friendly states collided with the market. There is no mention of the imposition of a

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EU businesses leave Albania while the county suffers low entrepreneurship

EU businesses leave Albania while the county suffers low entrepreneurship

TIRANA, June 5- Albanian Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) data shows that 141 European enterprises closed their activity over the past year. Our country counted 6,259 foreign-owned businesses in total during 2018, of which 4056 were from European Union countries. But

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Government to pay off high PPP bills

Government to pay off high PPP bills

TIRANA, June 3- One kilometer of the A category highway costs 6 million euros, according to a recent research by the World Bank which analyzes the costs Albania has to cover for road maintenance from natural disasters. One kilometer of

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PPP companies unable to pay contracts

PPP companies unable to pay contracts

TIRANA, June 4- The government has engaged in a number of public private partnership (PPP) projects for road construction. The government’s inability to secure immediate funding from its own funds is the main argument for this choice, as initial funding

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 12- Almost a third of the Albanian population has chosen to live and work in one of the EU states. The European Union Statistical Office, Eurostat, published data on valid residence permits of non-European citizens, categorizing them according to the reason why this permit was granted. Over 867 thousand Albanians have been provided with such a permit in 2017, the latest year with updated data from all member states. Greece and Italy have issued 94 percent of the total permits. The rest are issued by Germany at 3 percent of the total, and Belgium, France and the United Kingdom, by 1 percent, respectively.

One of the biggest challenges faced by Western Balkans is migration, as population emigration is affecting the economic growth and productivity decline in these countries. But according to Eurostat data on residence permits issued by EU countries, Albanians are the first in the region for the highest number of individuals with a residence permit. For every 1000 inhabitants in Albania, about 302 residence permits are issued by European Union countries for various reasons. The second country in the Western Balkans with regard to those with a permit in one of the European countries is Kosovo, that for the same parameters 166 permits were granted to Kosovo citizens. While third place is Bosnia, where this ratio is 109 permits per 1000 inhabitants currently living in Bosnia. 

About 53 percent of total permits or 461 thousand Albanians, received permanent residence for family reasons. Then employment permits follows suit, with over 185 thousand Albanians. Italy holds 75 percent of these permits, followed by Greece with 22 percent. Germany has granted only 2 percent of these permits in total, to approximately 3400 individuals in 2017. Compared to the previous year, the number of workers with work permits has more than doubled.

Eurostat has registered 6749 residence permits for education purposes. Residence permits for education prevail in Italy with 39 percent of total permits for this category, and 29 percent in Germany. The United Kingdom, Austria and France have respectively provided 7 percent of the total permits, while Greece, even though it has 44 percent of the total issued permits, accounts for only 2 percent of residence permits given for education.

A part of Albanians with a residence permit have been granted refugee status or have benefited from social protection. Eurostat estimated that 2533 individuals from Albania had been granted residence permits for this reason in 2017. About 45 percent of these permits were issued by France and 25 percent by Belgium, ranking as the two main countries to give more refugee status to Albanians. Italy follows suit with 11 percent, Germany with 9 percent, and 4 percent of them are provided by the United Kingdom.

Almost as many permits were granted to asylum seekers. According to Eurostat, 2478 permits were issued for social protection reasons. This permit is issued to all asylum seekers who have not yet received refugee status. France has issued about 2000 permits during 2017, while it granted 2500 in 2018. France is returning to one of the main destinations of asylum seekers from Albania after Germany, which has more strict policies. In Germany, only 262 Albanians were granted social protection allowance, nearly 10 times less than in France.

Yet, the European Union has also provided 208 thousand other Albanians with a residence permit, but has not classified the reason why that residence permit was issued. About 91 percent of these permits were issued in Greece, followed by Italy and Germany with 3 percent, respectively. Belgium and France on the other hand, provided only 1 percent of these permits each. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 10- The Ministry of Finance and Economy Mirela Denaj, has issued a draft bill on capital markets for consultation, opening the way for comments and finalizing new foundations for a market that is an important part of the market financial and the EU directives. The objective of this law regarding the development of capital markets is summarized in three points. Firstly, it is intended to create financing opportunities and enable securities to be issued. Secondly, to channel savings through better regulated investment and pension funds. Thirdly, to attract foreign investors. The draft law “On capital markets” aims the development of capital markets in Albania and the establishment of a comprehensive, clear and applicable legal basis for these markets.

The Financial Supervisory Authority will set competences in capital markets, especially in the investigative process of illicit trading practices and imposing administrative fines. Standards will be set for fit and proper of influential shareholders, administrators, members of the supervisory board, other key persons, and also for the best interest of investors excluding preferential treatment, and confidentiality over investor information. Rules on avoiding market manipulation and other illegal trading practices, and for the creation of new institutions will be set. 

The Central Securities Depository, the Credit Evaluation Agency, and the Financial Supervisory Authority will oversee the market and the draft law’s implementation. The draft clearly defines the role each has and the services it will provide. For example, the Depository first registers the initial of the securities in an inventory (“notary service”). Secondly, providing and maintaining the highest level of securities accounts (“central holding service”). Thirdly, the operation of the securities settlement system (“settlement service”). The Depository may also provide non-bank ancillary services that do not include credit risk or liquidity. 

Regarding local credit rating agencies they are licensed and evaluated by the Financial Supervisory Authority, which will conduct data and information analysis, as well as review of credit risk assessments. The Authority may also carry out an administrative investigation for the market transparency if there are grounds to suspect that a criminal offense has been committed. The investigation may include several aspects, starting from the conduct of a licensed owner's business activity, but also involved third parties. This competence also serves for investor protection, sanctioning the Authority to intervene when it is ascertained that a licensed person has not respected the obligations imposed by law. 

Firstly, it can request correction of the violation, while in the interest of customer protection the Authority may issue an order for the freezing of any person's assets that is inconsistent with any provision of this law, sub-legal acts or orders, for seven calendar days. In cases where the interests of investors, investment firm clients or collective investment undertakings quota holders are likely in risk, the Authority may order the investment firm to stop trading with the investors’ money or assets. Similarly, it may prohibit an investment firm from carrying out transactions, offering commercial activity to persons, or requiring the investment firm to pursue its business activity in a manner the Authority designs. 

Interest groups are positive about the new draft law on the capital market. Artan Gjergji who is executive director of the Albanian Stock Exchange, estimates that there are some innovations that come with this bill, such as collecting the entire legal framework of the securities industry in a single law, better harmonization of the current legal framework with EU directives and best international practices, as well as the clearer and more precise roles of some institutions and financial markets.

“It introduces, for the first time, the legal coverage of the activity of some important operators, such as financial intermediaries in the capital market, which were absent from existing law such as securities depositors, rating rating agencies, managers of portfolios of titles,” said Gjergji. 

Mirela Angjeli who is broker at Triumf Group LLc said the new law requires large organizational structures that increase human resource costs and total costs for the fragile finances of brokerage companies in an embryonic market. She said the law should foresee transitional timeframes for implementation by brokerage companies, in order to enable these important operators to grow gradually along with the capital market.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 10- A seemingly trade war has been warned by Kosovo against Albanian products exported to Kosovo. More specifically Kosovo has decided that if by July 1, 2019 the Albania government hasn’t abolished the provisional tariff measures on imports from Kosovo products such as potatoes, beer, onions, and also to facilitate fees from the scanning tariff and the Nation's Road, and some phytosanitary certification, then Kosovo will increase costs to Albania's exports to Kosovo.

Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo Fatmir Limaj has expressed an agitation against Albania, as his country has always implemented all requests in help to Albanian businesses, whereas the neighbour country has been postponing actions for more than five years. A resistance from the Albanian side for Kosovo products has been admitted by the Chief of the Kosovo Chamber of Economy Berat Rukiqi, and the Chief of the Albanian Chamber of Commerce Nikolin Jaka. 

Kosovo has made six requests for trade facilitations that Albania should implement until July 1 in order to avoid added barriers and customs fees. First, it is required to remove barriers to excise imports for Kosovo beer, requiring the same excise price of 15.12 lek on the amount of 200 hectoliters. Secondly, the Albanian government must abolish the temporary trade barriers to potatoes and onions coming to Kosovo's markets. Thirdly, Albania needs to remove the barriers in quantity limitations in the importing Kosovo flour, as well as for the recognition of associated certificates. Fourtly, the unification of phytosanitary certificates for products manufactured in Kosovo that tend to be exported to Albania. Fifthly, lifting the scanning fee for Kosovo businesses. And lastly, to ease the National Road’s toll fee for Kosovo trucks by 22.5 euros.

For January-April 2019, Kosovo imported goods worth about 66 million euros from Albania, with a 66 percent increase compared to the same period of the previous year. While Kosovo exported almost three times less goods to Albania, worthing only 17 million euros, or 8 percent less than the same period last year. Nevertheless, for the period January 2018-May 2019, Albania has imported from Kosovo 1.3 million euros worth of beer and potatoes, while it has exported only 113 thousand euros from its beer to Kosovo, and 189 percent less potatoes towards the neighbouring country. On the other hand, during the same period Albania has exported to Kosovo 132 thousand euros worth of onions or 97 percent more than imported. The most valuable product imported from Kosovo is the flour. For the period January 2018- May 2019 Albania has imported 2.3 million euros of Kosovo flour, while it has exported only 111 thousand euros. 

The requests should be solved within June, otherwise the government of Kosovo has foreseen to impose additional measures in procedures and tariffs for the most exported Albanian products to Kosovo, such as iron, oil and cement, while a special tax will be reviewed on the Nation's Road in Kosovo for Albanian trucks. 

“[...] all agreements are underway. From the last coordinating meeting of respective departments for the implementation of the agreements, both sides have pledged that by the end of June all agreements will be implemented,” said Limaj's press office.

However, Berat Rukiqi is concerned that facilitating fees won’t change the mentality of Albanian consumers for Kosovo products having poor quality. This has affected a discrimination in customs controls from the Albanian side, when trade should have been incouraged instead. He also added that a will to increase trade exchanges between the two counties lacks, as his Chamber has been talking about lifting the barriers for about 10 years now. And for many reasons such as geographical aspect, political connection, infrastructure, ports, Kosovo seeks to expand its trade within the Albanian market, but according to the Kosovo Club of Producers, Albania is second after Serbia, with regard to the barriers Kosovo faces. 

Nevertheless, the Albanian government has promised to resolve the dissatisfactions of Kosovo businesses, including scanning tariffs and the Nation's Roads, as the concession companies could accept any settlement if compensated by the state budget. For this Prime Minister of Kosovo Ramush Haradinaj has said “we have good relations with Albania, but there are some trade-related disagreements for the market and I hope we will solve them.”

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 5- The government's project for the Tirana-Durres highway concession is still unclear, but what is surely known is the fact that the expansion of the highway will flatten for the second time within five years the costly trees in its arteries for which the citizens of Tirana have already paid a bill of 332 million lek (2.7 million euros). Despite the motorway extension project, the Municipality of Tirana pushed forward plans to replace softwood palm trees at the entrance of the capital in November 2017.

Two months later, through a subordinate department the Municipality of Tirana foresaw the winning company “Fusha LLC” while concluding a negotiated contract with no prior announcement based on an exception to the “Public Procurement” law, used in cases of extreme need or for unforeseen events. A contract worth 332 million lek for planting pines from Kamza up to the Kashar overpass was added to the 90 million lek (735 thousand euros) bill that the Ministry of Environment spent in 2014 to green the same segment with palm trees.

The Municipality's contract with the Fusha company was denounced by representatives of the Democratic Party in the Tirana Municipal Council, who accused Mayor Veliaj of paying 500 thousand lek (4 thousand euros) for a pine, and sued him to the prosecutor. The Tirana Prosecutor's Office has registered since September 2018 a criminal proceeding for the acts of “abuse of duty” and “violation of the equality of participation in tenders” on the contract signed with Fusha LLC. The matter is still under investigation though, and there are no detained or suspended persons yet.

Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj, who runs for a second term in the June 30 elections has turned tree planting into one of his strongholds while publishing hundreds of pictures in various areas of Tirana with shovels and picks in his hands near saplings and open pits. But unlike routine publicity, planting pines on the Tirana-Durres highway in early 2018 was silenced by him. The funds for replacing the softwood palms with pines were approved in a mid-term budget change at the Tirana City Council by the end of 2017, with the reasoning that palm trees could not survive these temperatures. The contract being investigated by the Tirana Prosecutor's Office for “violation of the equality of tenders” was given to Fusha LLC without an open competition for greening the two sides of the segment “Kamza Overpass - Kashar Overpass.”

A fund of about 332 million lek to be disbursed through 2017-2019 was made available to Fusha LLC. After a second amendment to the Municipal Council decision, the contract was fully executed during January and May 2018. Investigative news site Balkan Insight (BIRN) has requested the Municipality documentation regarding the Fusha LLC contract for the trees, but it was answered that “the requested information was seized with a decision of the Prosecution on Sept. 24, 2018, and for this reason it is no longer accessible.”

BIRN then counted the pines planted from the Kamza until the Kashar overpass. The news organization counted 405 pine trees on both sides of the 7 kilometers road. The number of trees reported in January and May 2018 is 485 pieces in total. However, it has been previously reported that the expenses for road greenery for the months of January and May 2018 are higher than usual as they include the installation of decorative trees in this segment. The market price of decorative wood from three companies in Albania selling these products varied from from 700 to 1000 euros, but the Municipality of Tirana paid Fusha LLC prices ranging from 5500 euro per pine for the number of trees reported by the Municipality (485), to 6500 euro per pine for the number of trees that BIRN counted (405).

The concession plan for the Tirana-Durres highway is not new and was preceded by a project of the Albanian Road Authority (ARA) for its expansion from two to three lanes, publicly introduced in September 2016. But the concern about overlapping projects on the highway to the detriment of the state budget is still pressing. At the beginning of 2016 the project of the Ministry of Environment for palm planting on the highway became part of a denunciation that the Supreme State Audit made to the then leaders of the Albanian Road Authority.

The SSA’'s concern was related to the money spent on the Tirana-Durres highway, while the project for its expansion was being prepared with tenders for rehabilitation of the Customs Roundabout, improvement of road signage, and palm trees in the Kamza overpass to Kashar. All three projects together had the cost of about 4.7 million euros without VAT. the SSA wrote that these investments are short-term and irresponsibly aggravate the state budget. The Tirana Municipality contract on the road administered by ARA has further inflated the investment costs expected to be offset by the extension of the Tirana-Durres highway.

ARA wrote that the expansion of the Tirana-Durres highway is a project drafted in the period 2014-2016 where all interest groups met for a public consultation to which the Municipality of Tirana was present, diverting thus the responsibility from itself regarding state budget expenditure. 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 6- The Central Bank of Kosovo has taken the decision months ago to revoke the license of the “INSIG” insurance company. The Bank it took this decision because the company did not meet the legal requirements. The insurance company “Eurosig” seems to be undergoing in the same situation.

Less than two months after the insurance company INSIG started operating in Kosovo, its license was retrieved. The company “Eurosig” which is currently under the strict management of the Central Bank of Kosovo, is heading towards bankruptcy due to the poor financial situation. Eurosig is an Albanian-owned company which also owned INSIG in Kosovo. Although “Eurosig” is administered by the CBK, the bank has refused to give many details. However, officials from the bank said the board will soon make a decision for this company.

“CBK has been monitoring the company for some time. But for future decisions of the CBK Executive Board in relation to the insurer Eurosig Sh.A. you will be soon notified,” said the Bank.

According to the CBK, an insurance company is in poor financial condition when it has financial difficulties in meeting legal requirements regarding capital adequacy and solvency. The company Eurosig, according to the information provided on the website, was established as a general insurance company in September 2004 under the name DUKAGJINI Sh.A. (Sh.A. stands for ‘shareholder company’). In December 2005 the company sells 100 percent of its shares and in March 2006 enters the market with the name Eurosig Sh.A., entirely with domestic capital and with new shareholders. The company's website also shows that after twelve years of activity in the insurance industry, Eurosig ranks second in the insurance market in Albania, with 15.63 percent of the general insurance market.

Eurosig in 2014 has been extended to Kosovo by buying the insurance company “Dardania” and privatizing INSIG in 2016 (with a decision from the Council of Ministers of 23 March 2016), has brought the expansion of Eurosig’s activity in the insurance field in Kosovo and Macedonia. The Eurosig Group now consists of Eurosig Albania for general insurance activity, Eurosig Kosovo for general insurance activity, Eurosig Macedonia for general insurance activity, INSIG Albania for general insurance activity, INSIG Kosovo for general insurance, and INSIG Albania for life insurance activity. Currently, Eurosig Kosovo ranks first in the general insurance business there. Eurosig Macedonia is also growing rapidly in the general insurance market in the country. 

“These developments have had a significant positive impact on Eurosig, the growth and consolidation of its action in the insurance market in Albania and the region,” writes the company in its website.

At the Central Bank of Kosovo it was shown that based on the financial reports submitted to the CBK for the period of Dec. 31, 2018, the company INSIG has been unsatisfactory since the value of total liabilities was considerably higher than the value of its assets. Thus, the company has been incapable of fulfilling its obligations, most of which has been against policymakers and other creditors. The shareholder of the company INSIG has not responded to the Bank’s requests for capital increase and compliance with the applicable legal requirements.

The insurance company INSIG was established in 1991 with 100 percent ownership of the Albanian Parliament to undertake insurance and reinsurance activities in the Republic of Albania, represented by the Ministry of Economy and Finance. On Mar. 1, 2000, INSIG was licensed to operate on the Kosovo insurance market as a subsidiary of the parent company in Albania. In 2015, INSIG Sh.A. changes ownership of shares, which are 100 percent owned by the Ministry of Finance. During 2016, the Tirana-based INSIG insurance company sold 100 percent of the state-owned shares to the insurance company Eurosig Sh.A., based in Tirana and owned by Kadri Morina. 
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                    [post_name] => albanian-insurance-companies-in-kosovo-head-bankruptcy
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                    [post_modified] => 2019-06-06 13:59:47
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            [5] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 142042
                    [post_author] => 338
                    [post_date] => 2019-06-06 13:57:42
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-06 11:57:42
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 3- With technological development and the growth of globalization, trade in services is gaining momentum. The European Union is one of the main trading partners of Albania according to Eurostat published data on trade exchanges of services for 2017. Service trade refers to the sale and distribution of intangible products, from the producer to the consumer. 

According to Eurostat data, Albania had a surplus in the trade of services with the EU that year. This was the second consecutive year when Albanian exports exceeded imports of services with a margin of 77.4 million euros. Exports of services from Albania to the EU were 857.9 million euros in 2017, from 812.7 million euros a year earlier, increasing by 6 percent. Albania's trade surplus in services recognized an expansion of almost 60 percent. In the category of services are included maintenance and repair services; transport; travel; construction; insurance and pension services; financial services; the use of intellectual property; telecommunications and computing services; other business services; entertainment services; government services; etc..

The Western Balkans region is increasingly seen as one from the European Union countries. One of the EU's objectives is to create a common market with the six Western Balkan countries. According to Eurostat, exports from the Western Balkan countries to the EU were 4.9 billion euros, while exports from the EU to the Western Balkans were 5.8 billion euros. From the trade of services with the Western Balkans the EU made a surplus of 896 million euros. From the Western Balkan countries only Albania and Montenegro exported more than their imports. Montenegro's trade surplus with the EU in terms of services was 121 million euros, followed by Albania with a surplus of 77.4 million euros. Concerning the rest of the regional countries, Serbia had the broadest service deficit with a margin of 563.2 million euros, followed by North Macedonia with 438.2 million euros, and Bosnia with 94 million euros. Data on trade in services with the EU have not been updated for Kosovo.

According to preliminary data for 2018, exports of services from the EU to the rest of the world increased by 0.7 percent compared to a year earlier, from 912.4 billion euros to 918 billion euros, while imports increased by 1.1 percent, from 720 billion euros to 728.4 billion euros.

Consequently, the EU's trade surplus in services amounted to 190.1 billion euros in 2018, down 0.8 percent on the previous year. The European Union services exports were dominated by “other business services,” such as research and development, technical, professional and business services, which accounted for a quarter of the total exports, followed by transport by 18 percent, and travel services by 15 percent.

“Other business services” were the category with the highest share of services imported from the European Union (about 29 percent of the total), followed by transport services by 18 percent, trips by 15 percent and tariffs for the use of intellectual property 15 percent. The EU surplus in 2018 was mainly due to surplus in telecommunications and information technology (82 billion euros), transport by 31.9 billion euros, travel by 30.7 billion euros, and financial services by 32.1 billion euros. While there was a deficit in tariffs for the use of intellectual property.
                    [post_title] => Trade of services from Albania to EU expand
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            [6] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 142039
                    [post_author] => 338
                    [post_date] => 2019-06-06 13:53:36
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-06 11:53:36
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 5- The trade war between Kosovo and Albania has been aggravated recently. A few weeks ago at a summit in Tirana, the two friendly states collided with the market. There is no mention of the imposition of a tax. The Producers' Club and the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce discussed on Monday the problems and trade barriers between the two countries. At this meeting, the closure of the border was announced in the summer season. 

Albania and Kosovo have closed a trade facilitation meeting weeks ago, but instead of facilitating a trade war between the two countries has started. From this meeting until now there have been many warnings from Kosovo that it would also set a tax. On Monday  there has also been a new threat from Kosovo to Albania. Executive Director of the “Producer Club” Astrit Panxha, said that Albania is second behind Serbia for trade barriers to Kosovo and warned measures close the border for one day in the summer season as a sign of protest.

“We have discussed in Tirana the European Commission report, where after Serbia, Albania comes out second for barriers to Kosovo. These barriers should be removed, otherwise we will put the trailers as a sign of protest during the season time, we will close the border for 1 day,” said Panxha.

He has also said that the market with Albania is unilateral. Panxha said that Albania's market as a producer is the most interesting market for Kosovo, but it is also a market because of geographical and ethnic connections. The trade is unilateral for Albania, as according to statistics for the same period last year, Albania's exports to Kosovo  have increased by 20 million euros, while Kosovo's exports to Albanian by only 1 million euros. The President of the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce Berat Rukiqi, has listed a number of trade problems with Albania and the barriers created.

“We have many unresolved issues, problems that are collected over a decade and no political will to resolve them. In public procurements, exports, any kind of partnership that has been attempted to be built by our companies is hampered by the authorities in Albania. Companies have not achieved so far to have a proper position in the Albanian market, which for our companies is the main market or should have been,” said Rukiqi. He recommended that the agreements reached between Kosovo and Albania be respected. Rukiqi said they have come to raise these issues and that there will taken actions to protect Kosovo’s producer for export, in this case to Albania.

The Prime Minister of Kosovo Ramush Haradinaj, declared the case on Sunday, June 2. Haradinaj said in a press conference that he hopes to resolve the trade problems that Kosovo has with Albania, but has neither affirmed nor denied whether taxes will be imposed on Albania as well. Haradinaj only replied that “I hope to solve these problems” when asked about the possibility of imposing tariff barriers on Albania. He said Kosovo has good relations with Albania, but there are some disagreements about trade and the market. 

Also Minister of Trade and Industry Endrit Shala, said that Kosovar businesses are facing many barriers during their export to CEFTA countries for political reasons. According to him, Kosovar business barriers are rarely reported but are evident and it is precisely these barriers that are the underlying reasons for the trade balance currently in Kosovo. Shala has called on businesses from Albania to report on the barriers they face, as according to him Kosovo's position is to respect all reached agreements, and open markets for Albanian products. Shala has said he asks for the same treatment for Kosovo's producers that exports to Albania. 
                    [post_title] => Kosovo warns to close border with Albania for a day, as trade clash deteriorates 
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            [7] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 142036
                    [post_author] => 338
                    [post_date] => 2019-06-06 13:50:57
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-06 11:50:57
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 5- Albanian Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) data shows that 141 European enterprises closed their activity over the past year. Our country counted 6,259 foreign-owned businesses in total during 2018, of which 4056 were from European Union countries. But despite the collapse of businesses from the EU, there is an increase in the number of ventures from other countries outside the European Union. In the last report of the European Commission Albania is considered as problematic with regard to competition, law enforcement in relation to ownership, and the instability of fiscal policies.

Foreign investors in Albania have mostly one to four employees and operate in the trade sector. Meanwhile, enterprises with over 50 employees occupy a very small share in our economy. Most of the European businesses are from our two neighboring countries Greece and Italy. The enterprises with owners or co-owners of Italian and Greek origin represent 52.8 percent of the total foreign joint ventures. These investments are mainly concentrated in Tirana and Durres counties. Throughout 2018 in the Albanian economy 90 percent of businesses are small and have up to four employees, or more specifically they are family businesses.

Enterprises with more than 50 employees on the other hand comprise of only 1.2 percent of the total businesses, a reported indicator unchanged for several years which shows that economic development remains difficult and in the same standard. It is also worrying that the orientation of enterprises remains commercial and not producer, which means that the growth of salaries or the number of employees remains stable.

And as EU businesses are leaving Albania, less businesses are being opened in our country by the day. INSTAT figures showed that in 2018 the pace of new businesses active in the economy fell by 18 percent. Since 2015, the year that coincides with the famous anti-informality action, the number of new enterprises active in the economy has been declining. By the end of 2018 according to INSTAT, some 20,200 new businesses were registered, from about 25,000 registered in the previous year. Likewise, a year ago the number of new open businesses marked a contraction of 20 percent, while in 2016 their number was halved compared to the previous year.

The peak of newly opened businesses was in 2015, with 56780 registered new businesses, 2.2 times more than a year ago. As a result of the informal action launched in September 2015, many ambulant businesses rushed to register, but a large part of them emerged from the market in the coming years. According to economy sectors, the biggest shrinkage was in service providers, whereby 13,549 new businesses were opened in 2018, from over 17,000 that were opened a year ago, or 20 percent less. While new businesses in the production of goods were fell by 11 percent, from 7600 to 6730 businesses.

The Enterprise Register on the other hand, counted 162,835 active enterprises at the end of 2018 numbers, almost the same as 2017. From the Economic Enterprise Register 2018 published by INSTA it resulted that in 2018 small businesses decreased by 5216 subjects, falling to 93 thousand. Closure of small businesses is a phenomenon that has been starting for several years, as a result of competition from large malls and supermarket chains, but since 2018 it has been accelerated further due to a fall in the VAT threshold from 5 to 2 million lek. Meanwhile, registered farmers increased by 4,400 more, reaching 4.,9 thousand farmers as a result of measures for the formalization of agriculture and the orientation of farmers to be equipped with NIPT (taxpayer unique identification number/license),in order to benefit from subsidies. 
                    [post_title] => EU businesses leave Albania while the county suffers low entrepreneurship 
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            [8] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 142033
                    [post_author] => 338
                    [post_date] => 2019-06-05 19:56:38
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-05 17:56:38
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 3- One kilometer of the A category highway costs 6 million euros, according to a recent research by the World Bank which analyzes the costs Albania has to cover for road maintenance from natural disasters. One kilometer of the B interurban road costs 4 million euros, one kilometer C interurban road costs 1 million euros, one kilometer of the main urban street category D costs 1.2 million euros, one kilometer secondary urban roads of category E cost 1 million euros, and one kilometer of local road F costs 800 thousand euros. The WB has revised the construction costs of road construction in Albania mainly by rising oil prices, labor costs and raw materials.

The new costs per kilometer range from 800 thousand to 6 million euros. These values ​​are much lower than government contracts for road construction, both with budget funds and with public-private partnership (PPP) contracts. 4.2 kilometers of A2 highway were built during 2018 with 5.3 billion lek (43.3 million euros), which were internal funds. According to official data from the Ministry of Infrastructure, the cost per kilometer is estimated at 1.27 billion lek (10.3 million euros) per kilometer. The Albanian government spent 4 million euros last year building a one-kilometer highway, or 40 percent more than the new World Bank costs. But catastrophic spending is coming from PPP contracts, which from the beginning to the engagement of works have gone through complete lack of transparency and which values ​​are kept secret.

Renown economist Sherefedin Shehu, argues that the 1 billion-euro package will actually invest very little. A 13-year loan with 12 percent interest payable with 13 equal annual installments, costs 2.2 times more than the value of the loan received today. 

The government's main reason for Public-Private Partnership projects was related to the fact that the state budget did not have enough funds to build these major works. So, companies would build them with their own funds or through bank loans, and then state would pay back in installments and interests, starting when at least 25 percent of the works had been completed.

The Arber National Roadway is being constructed by Gjoka Konstruksion for more than a year, but the full contract published in the Official Gazette does not contain the full value of its financial. The investment value estimated by the Ministry of Infrastructure is 33.7 billion lek (276 million euros) without VAT. The full funding for the Arber Road is much higher because the state budget has already funded its 20 kilometers with budget funds. Including VAT and budget funds already stipulated, the real value exceeds 300 million euros. The Arber Road is of C2 category with a length of 75 kilometers. A category C interurban route costs 1 million euros per kilometer according to WB, but the Albanian government is paying Gjoka 6 million euros per kilometer.

Among other things, the government is using an absurd procedure in awarding PPP contracts as it is negotiating bank interests, profit rates and maintenance costs with companies after selecting the winner from the Ministry of Infrastructure. In any case, the total final financial value in PPP contracts is 50 percent higher. This practice followed for the Arbr Road was also valid for the construction of PPP of the Milot - Balldren and Orikum - Dukat axes. While the government has approved the contracts without announcing their values, the Ministry of Finance is negotiating the interests increasing the total value of the contracts.

In the last week of June 2018, the government approved A.N.K sh.pk for the Milot-Balldren road construction. The approximate construction value programmed by the government was 110 million euros at the official exchange rate of that time. During the winner's announcement process, the value of the investment went up 168 million euros, as the government decided to consider the company's proposal for the project rather than its variant, planning a 50 percent higher expense than initial planning. But in the negotiations conducted by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Finance with A.N.K. for bank interests and profit rates, it led the contract value from 168 million euros to 256 million euros. The Milot - Balldren Street is an 18 kilometers long highway of category A. With the WB latest standard, one kilometer of this category costs 6 million euros, while the government contracted it with 14.2 million euros per kilometer of its construction, or 132 percent more.

The Orikum-Dukat Street with the size of a two-lane 7 meter-wide C2 touristic local street, received government approval earlier this week. In the first half of 2018 the Ministry of Infrastructure decided to approve Gjikuria sh.p.k. the bonus with 6 percent of points, which has made an unsolicited bid for a 15 kilometers long segment which costs 67 million euros for 13 years. This value includes construction and maintenance with a cost of 50.5 million euros, and interests at about 17.5 million euros. 

Road construction is a dark story in the transition economy of Albania, because planning and building them is done without having initially a development model, which further led to misplaced projects with low feasibility and high costs through PPPs, that risk bringing the country into a fiscal catastrophe. Renown road engineering professor Faruk Kaba, who has done almost all roadside projects in Albania, says a bad practice has been followed for road construction. According to him, the first investments should be made in the central area, as it has the highest traffic. In this perspective, the axis of the center should be completed through the Thumane - Rrogozhine axis, the Tirana - Durres highway should be expanded, and a new railway line should be developed. Experts say the ongoing projects don’t bring benefits as they see them only as halved construction. The Thumane - Kashar concession of Thumane - Rrogozhine highway was canceled by the government earlier this year, with the justification that the funds would be transferred to Higher Education. 

For years, there is a practice where built-up roads cost far more than the same street category built with foreign funding. This systemic margin in the cost per kilometer of construction with domestic and foreign funds shows mismanagement of public funds in the investment process,because foreign-funded investment passes into audit procedures and practices that do not allow non-logical costs. According to official data from the Ministry of Infrastructure the factual expenditures for road construction were around 15 billion lek (122.7 million euros), out of which about 9 billion lek (73.6 million euros) was domestic financing and 6.3 billion lek (51.5 million euros) in foreign financing. The official figures of the Ministry of Infrastructure indicate that for the same street category, from the domestic financing were spent 4.2 billion lek (34.3 million euros) for 28.7 km of roads with the cost per kilometer being 1.1 million euros. With foreign funds on the other hand, 205 million lek (1.6 million euros) were spent for 12 kilometers of roads with a cost per kilometer at 136 thousand euros. Ministry data showed that on average the cost of domestic financing per kilometer with domestic funds is 10 times higher than with foreign funds. Expenditures are not included in the calculation, as these are a separate item covering the costs both for domestic and foreign financing.

Expensive PPP road projects will bring negative implications to the country's public debt. A similar situation happened in 2007 when Albania's public debt was 53.4 percent ​​of the GDP. As the government invested in the Nation's Road and Tirana - Elbasan, and other border and tourist axes increased the debt to 65 percent at the end of 2013. The cost of the Durres - Kukes road alone is estimated to have costed about 1 billion euros, or about 10 percent of  the GDP(of which one-fifth has been profitable for the main construction company). The beginning of the global crisis in 2008 made it harder for debt finance operations, which has made Albania today one of the countries with the highest levels of debt in the region and as a consequence with higher risks.
                    [post_title] => Government to pay off high PPP bills
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            [9] => WP_Post Object
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                    [ID] => 142030
                    [post_author] => 338
                    [post_date] => 2019-06-05 11:48:34
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-05 09:48:34
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 4- The government has engaged in a number of public private partnership (PPP) projects for road construction. The government's inability to secure immediate funding from its own funds is the main argument for this choice, as initial funding should be made by companies and then the state starts paying from the budget with installments at the moment when at least 25 percent of the works are finished.

But the data show that companies do not have financial capacities and find it difficult to borrow in banks with their balances due to the high level of liabilities to their own capital. This leaves as an option for the state to emerge as a guarantor for them, being the same as if the state is itself borrowing, which casts doubt on the real source of money to be used. This is also accounted for the inflated project costs up to 15 million euros per kilometer which is one of the most expensive in Europe. According to WorldHighways, the most expensive highway construction costs in Europe (excluding rocky terrains) are in Austria with 12.87 million euros/km, Hungary at 11.21 million euros/km, Slovakia at 9.56 million euros/km, the Czech Republic at 8.86 million euros/km, and in Germany 8.24 million/km.

In the analyzed 2017 financial balances of companies engaged in PPP contracts, such as A.N.K. (Milot-Balldren concession, 260 million euro plus VAT), Gjikuria (Orikum-Dukat, 80 million euros plus VAT), Gener 2 (Thumanë-Kashar, suspended for the moment), Gjoka Konstruction (National Road of Arbri, 312 million euros plus VAT), and Albstar (Tirana-Durrës, ongoing), is was found that companies have low incomes, liquidity and capital in relation to the projects they claim to finance, while they have higher levels of liabilities in relation to their assets (with the exception of Alb-Star), which makes it difficult to obtain loans in banks. Most of the loans these companies have are usually taken by their partners or other third non-banking parties. The optimal ratio of debt to equity is considered to be at most 1, ie the obligations to be equal to the capital. This measures the company's sustainability, health and ability to pay off its obligations. If this ratio is growing, the company is being financed by creditors rather than by its means, which can be a dangerous trend. Lenders and investors usually prefer low debt-to-equity ratios. The bankers claim that the ratio should be lower than 1, as the company will be more protected in case of problems. Only Alb-Star has a ratio of liabilities over capital at 0.8, while the highest is at Gjikuria with 4.96, meaning (he liabilities are five times bigger than the capital.

The two largest companies with revenues of about 68 million euros each are Alb-Star and Gener 2, which are also the largest construction companies in Albania based on their income. Alb-Star has a total capital of 50 million euros and 60 million euros in short-term assets ( (cash in the bank and accounts receivable). Then comes Gener 2 with about 28 million euros capital and 38 million euros in assets. Gjoka Konstruksion follows with 36 million euros in revenues and 43 million euros short-term assets. Gjikuria and A.N.K. are smaller companies with 19.5 and 16.5 million euros respectively in revenues, and no more than 14 million euros each in short-term assets. With the exception of Gjoka Konstruksion, which has a profit rate of 16 percent, the other companies have minimum indicator at 1-4 percent. 

Nevertheless, these companies still can’t afford the project thus their main hope of PPP funding is bank lending. But it is impossible that a single bank to finance a concession, as the amount of money needed is excessive. Banks, according to the law, can not grant loans to a single customer more than 20 percent of their regulatory capital (10 percent when it comes to a company related to the banking group). The largest bank in the country has a capital of about 300 million euros, so it can not lend more than 60 million euros to a single customer. 

The bankers claim that the only solution for large loan loans, is through syndication loans. But these loans are little preferred by banks in Albania, because trade union projects are at high risk and have not been very successful.

Most banks though are involved more in transactions than lending. According to the Bank of Albania data, the regulatory capital of the banking system was about 1.1 billion euros at the end of 2017. If all the banks were to join, the maximum amount that could be allocated to a single customer is 220 million euros. Another problem is the borrower's exposure. If the company has borrowed at least one of the union syndication banks, this can lead to rejection of the common credit.
                    [post_title] => PPP companies unable to pay contracts
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    [post] => WP_Post Object
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            [ID] => 142142
            [post_author] => 338
            [post_date] => 2019-06-10 16:52:55
            [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-10 14:52:55
            [post_content] => TIRANA, June 12- Almost a third of the Albanian population has chosen to live and work in one of the EU states. The European Union Statistical Office, Eurostat, published data on valid residence permits of non-European citizens, categorizing them according to the reason why this permit was granted. Over 867 thousand Albanians have been provided with such a permit in 2017, the latest year with updated data from all member states. Greece and Italy have issued 94 percent of the total permits. The rest are issued by Germany at 3 percent of the total, and Belgium, France and the United Kingdom, by 1 percent, respectively.

One of the biggest challenges faced by Western Balkans is migration, as population emigration is affecting the economic growth and productivity decline in these countries. But according to Eurostat data on residence permits issued by EU countries, Albanians are the first in the region for the highest number of individuals with a residence permit. For every 1000 inhabitants in Albania, about 302 residence permits are issued by European Union countries for various reasons. The second country in the Western Balkans with regard to those with a permit in one of the European countries is Kosovo, that for the same parameters 166 permits were granted to Kosovo citizens. While third place is Bosnia, where this ratio is 109 permits per 1000 inhabitants currently living in Bosnia. 

About 53 percent of total permits or 461 thousand Albanians, received permanent residence for family reasons. Then employment permits follows suit, with over 185 thousand Albanians. Italy holds 75 percent of these permits, followed by Greece with 22 percent. Germany has granted only 2 percent of these permits in total, to approximately 3400 individuals in 2017. Compared to the previous year, the number of workers with work permits has more than doubled.

Eurostat has registered 6749 residence permits for education purposes. Residence permits for education prevail in Italy with 39 percent of total permits for this category, and 29 percent in Germany. The United Kingdom, Austria and France have respectively provided 7 percent of the total permits, while Greece, even though it has 44 percent of the total issued permits, accounts for only 2 percent of residence permits given for education.

A part of Albanians with a residence permit have been granted refugee status or have benefited from social protection. Eurostat estimated that 2533 individuals from Albania had been granted residence permits for this reason in 2017. About 45 percent of these permits were issued by France and 25 percent by Belgium, ranking as the two main countries to give more refugee status to Albanians. Italy follows suit with 11 percent, Germany with 9 percent, and 4 percent of them are provided by the United Kingdom.

Almost as many permits were granted to asylum seekers. According to Eurostat, 2478 permits were issued for social protection reasons. This permit is issued to all asylum seekers who have not yet received refugee status. France has issued about 2000 permits during 2017, while it granted 2500 in 2018. France is returning to one of the main destinations of asylum seekers from Albania after Germany, which has more strict policies. In Germany, only 262 Albanians were granted social protection allowance, nearly 10 times less than in France.

Yet, the European Union has also provided 208 thousand other Albanians with a residence permit, but has not classified the reason why that residence permit was issued. About 91 percent of these permits were issued in Greece, followed by Italy and Germany with 3 percent, respectively. Belgium and France on the other hand, provided only 1 percent of these permits each. 

 
            [post_title] => Eurostat releases residence permits statistics for Albanians
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