Tirana-based joint chamber set to boost sluggish Albania-Serbia trade, investment cooperation

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 17, 2016 16:56

Tirana-based joint chamber set to boost sluggish Albania-Serbia trade, investment cooperation

Story Highlights

  • "At the end of the day, our goal is to turn the borders that separate us into linking bridges and in this common road of European integration, we can integrate our economies and shape as soon as possible a common market that is attractive to all our entrepreneurs, but also foreign investment," said Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama

Related Articles

TIRANA, Oct. 17 – A newly launched Tirana-based joint Albania-Serbia Chamber of Commerce is expected to give a boost to current sluggish trade exchanges and investment between the two countries aspiring to join the EU which have considerably intensified cooperation in the past couple of years.

Prospects seem optimistic as the two leading EU aspirant Western Balkans countries have already improved access with the launch of the direct Belgrade-Tirana flights by Air Serbia carrier and are on track to be linked through a shorter distance through the extension of the Albania-Kosovo highway to Nis, south-eastern Serbia.

Speaking in Nis at a Serbia-Albania business forum last week, Prime Minister Edi Rama urged regional cooperation to establish what he called ‘an attractive common market for local and foreign investors.’

“At the end of the day, our goal is to turn the borders that separate us into linking bridges and in this common road of European integration, we can integrate our economies and shape as soon as possible a common market that is attractive to all our entrepreneurs, but also foreign investment,” said Rama.

“It is very clear that one of the reasons we produce more history than we can handle is that we are small when it comes to thinking about the market, our markets are too small, separated from each other in a world that from the competition viewpoint is becoming tougher,” the Prime Minister said.

“But if we manage to achieve that whoever invests in Tirana, Belgrade, Prishtina, Podgorica and so on, they do not only invest within the borders of a small market, but invest in a broader regional market, we have guaranteed a historic leap for the people serving their welfare and the development of the economy,” he added.

Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said that as the Balkans’ two largest nations, Serbia and Albania are linked by their common strategic commitment to joining the EU and have huge potential to boost the current low level of trade exchanges.

“It is important to behave rationally. Irrespective of political differences, we have managed to build trust because I believe that we want friendship,” he said.

“We want to dramatically increase the small level of trade exchanges between the two countries. The Western Balkans is a region where there can be much higher economic growth than in some EU countries,” Vucic added.

Some 100 Serbian SMEs currently operate in Albania, mainly in construction, industry, tourism, services while the number of Albanian companies in Serbia is estimated far lower.

Serbia is currently Albania’s sixth largest trading partner while Albania is out of Serbia’s top ten partners for trade exchanges.

Albania-Serbia trade exchanges at only an annual Euro 173 million are dominated by electricity and grains and fresh vegetables, according to Albania’s state statistical office, INSTAT.

Albania’s exports to Serbia account for only 0.7 percent of the total and are mainly focused on fresh vegetables. Meanwhile, imports from Serbia which are seven times higher than exports, at 3.8 percent of total imports, mainly focus on electricity and wheat.

Serbia foreign investment in Albania is at a mere €4 million, with huge potential for investment in unexplored sectors, especially tourism which is emerging as one of Albania’s most promising sectors after the sharp slowdown in construction and remittance fuelled growth during the past crisis years.

Construction, energy and transport are also seen as key cooperation sectors between landlocked Serbia and Albania, currently among Europe’s poorest countries.

Since late 2014, when Edi Rama became the first Albanian Prime Minister to visit Serbia in 68 years, the two Prime Ministers have intensified meetings to overcome barriers between the two countries and made efforts to boost cooperation at a time when Serbia is also normalizing relations with Kosovo after its independence in 2008.

Huge differences over Kosovo which Albania was one of the first countries to recognize following its independence still remain a barrier.

A Serbia-Kosovo legal dispute over the transmission grid is holding back the operation of a newly built Albania-Kosovo interconnection line and Albania’s plans to set up a joint energy market and a power exchange with Kosovo, Albania’s northeastern neighbor.

The civil society organizations are also playing a key role in the normalization of Albanian-Serbia relations following a drone incident in a football match in October 2014 when relations between the two countries temporarily embarked on a Cold War status quo.

The Albanian Institute for International Studies and the European Movement Serbia, two leading think tanks in both countries, have established a joint Centre for Albania-Serbia relations to boost relations between the two countries and overcome stereotypes.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 17, 2016 16:56