Study visit to the Republic of Albania

Place: Republic of Albania
Date: 10-13 February 2013

Topic:

•    Reforms in the Republic of Albania - Local Government towards challenges and prospects to European integration

Lecturers / Speakers

Sokol Olldashi, Minister of Public Works and Transport

Sokol Dedja, Advisor to the Minister Majlinda Bregu

Lulzim Basha, Mayor of Tirana

Xhelal Mziu, Mayor of Kamze


Visits:

Visit to the Ministry of Public Works of the Republic of Albania; Visit to the Ministry of Integration of Republic of Albania, Visit to Municipality of Tirana;

About the study visit in Albania organized by the Local Governance Academy

In the context of module of the Local Governance Academy, a study visit program to Albania was organized from 10/13 February 2013. This study visit aims conversation with officials of central and local government in the Republic of Albania, in order to be informed of developments and reforms that Albania has undertaken in the process of European integration.

The visit was followed by several activities, such as:

•    Meeting with the Minister of Public Works and Transport, Mr. Sokol Olldashi and his staff, to discuss many issues of the functioning of this ministry, mainly about the form of public investment in Albania, the criteria for allocation of funds and priorities of this ministry for this fiscal year in relation to local government in Albania;

•    Visit to the Ministry of Integration, meeting with the staff of this ministry was discussed regarding the European agenda of Albania, level of achievement of Albania in meeting the criteria for joining the EU, and officials are focused on explaining the procedures of obtaining funds from the EU;

•    Visit to the Municipality of Tirana, meeting with the Mayor Mr. Lulzim Basha and his staff. I was a fruitful discussion where Mr. Basha initially explained a short history of Tirana, also concentrated on the economic potential of the city, on the investments and the revenue collected, and I believe it is worth expounding an element of his lectures, who stressed that over 42% of revenue Tirana conducts in national level.

Sokol Olldashi, Minister of Public Works and Transport

Liaison between central and local level is in many ways, but the most important is the investment committee, composed of mayors, district presidents, line ministries etc. Transport development on country level (Albania), was presented by Minister Olldashi, who informed the participants that the development of transport is a necessity of the time, where the Albanian government has given greater priority to improving transport system. The transport system consists of road, rail, sea, air transport.
He also introduced the main transportation corridors emphasizing that through its geographical position Albania is involved in several transportation corridors to their destination for the movement of goods, passengers or tourist services. As main corridors he mentioned:  East West Corridor (Corridor VIII Pan European - (Durres-Tirana) Vlora – Rrogozhina - Elbasan - Qafasan etc.

The participants were informed that a considerable growth incurred in air and road transport sector, where the last one reached about 85%. He also stressed that shipping, as one of the most economical transportation system, performs greatest part of services for import-export of goods to / from our country and transit. An important role has the Port of Durres with the greatest weight of about 78% of total volume, then Port of Vlora Shëngjini, and Port of Saranda.

He stressed that Albania's efforts for EU integration, as a candidate country are working in all transport components to perform sweeping reforms in transport, including economic, legal and institutional, based on studies, projects and assistance of local and foreign consultants.

He also stressed the investments made by government in the construction of a specialized port for processing of fuels and liquid gas in Porto Romano, Road of Elbasan, Port of Saranda as the main arterial road linking Hani Hoti - Kakavija etc.

Lulzim Basha, Mayor of Tirana

Informed the participants about the organization and functioning of the Municipality of Tirana. As the capital of Albanian, Tirana was proclaimed by Congress of Leshnja. Tirana Municipality operates according to law on Organization and Functioning of the Municipality of Tirana, which stipulates the duties and responsibilities of the Mayor, city council and 11 municipal units.

The Mayor stressed that the planning and management policy of the Municipality of Tirana aims:

•    Reduction of personnel costs;
•    Reduction of administrative costs in favor of funding for services to citizens;
•    Full transparency of the use of public funds;
•    Increase efficiency in the administration of funds;
•    Increase investment level
•    Economic development and employment

Municipal Mayor stated that staff costs are significantly reduced compared to previous years. From 40% in 2010 to 25% in 2012. In business development, attention was given to creating friendly environment for local businesses through the simplification of administrative procedures, and delivery of online application system. He also stressed the measures taken to foreign businesses, facilitation of procedures including the establishment of safe area for investing in Albania through fiscal reforms for fair competition. In addition to supporting businesses through credit programs, priority was given to the reform of public-private partnership. The biggest amount of state revenues are coming from Tirana Municipality with about 80%, so with measures undertaken better conditions will be established for development of small, medium and large enterprises. Tirana Municipality had given a priority to increasing public areas, cleaning the city, investment program to improve technology of public services, allocated around 32% of Tirana Municipality budget. Investment in the improvement of roads and public transport (a great importance is given to public transport), investments in opening new roads to city traffic, its entry and exit points, overpasses and underpasses, underground parking, pavement of roads, and establishing a system of traffic management to monitor online traffic.

Also, the Mayor of Tirana, pointed a project for construction of the Great Ring of Tirana, a project that will have great impact on the unloading of center from a large number of cars. He stressed that the Ministry of Transport has previously made the first calculation of the value that would offset any person who will be affected by this segment, and expropriation reached a large sum of money.

It was emphasized that in addition to these capital investments, also investments in pre-university education are included (construction of schools, kinder gardens, reconstruction), but special attention of Tirana Municipality is paid to social policy through three social programs provided by law. Requirements according to social programs include demand for low-cost accommodation, social housing for rent, equipped ground with infrastructure. Investments for implementation of projects for culture, youth and sport.

Sokol Dedja, Adviser of Minister Majlinda Bregu

Discussion of Sokol Dedja was focused on the Albanian policy, by emphasizing relation of Albania to the EU and meeting the criteria of EU for candidate country (administrative, political, legal, and economic).  An importance was paid to the IPA funds, such as cross-border cooperation, a large number of funds for cooperation was gained by northern Albania, but so far there was no cooperation in aspect of cross-border cooperation, particularly with Kosovo, though in process of implementation was cross-border cooperation with Montenegro, and Macedonia, while in the future Kosovo remains to be included in a common implementation.