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Mr. Dietmar REINER – VERBUND’s Country Representative and CEO of Energji Ashta

April 20, 2017
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An independent, functioning and reliable justice system is a basic element required for all!

FIAA: During the first four years of the operation phase of the Ashta Hydro Power Plant, what have been the most significant challenges that you have had to overcome?

 Mr. Dietmar Reiner:  We have invested more than 200 Million EURO until end of 2012 to build a state of the art Hydro Power Plant. VERBUND and its partner EVN were the first large–scale private investors entering the Albanian Energy Sector. Due to the difficult situation in 2008, the time when the concession agreement has been signed, it was agreed with the government to enter into a long-term power offtake agreement. This agreement entered into force in April 2013, until June 2016 KESH was the off-taker, but then it was transferred to OSHEE. In the last four years there were a lot of challenges in the Albanian energy sector, especially in the downstream business, with the difficult situation in the distribution system and the supply to endcustomers. These difficulties also influenced our business; we were mainly suffering from payment delays which created for some periods huge arrears mainly to our lenders. Due to the background of our shareholders as large public utilities in the energy sector in Austria, the understanding of the situation and our belief in the success of the necessary reform in the energy sector, we and also our shareholders and lenders kept calm and focused during this time.

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EBRD’s Board Directors Meet authorities, businesses and civil society organizations in Albania

March 29, 2017
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By end of March, the EBRD Board of Directors visited Albania and met government representatives, entrepreneurs and civil society organizations.

The purpose of the visit was to bring the Directors, up to date with the progress of transition, as well as to allow them to witness the impact of the Bank’s activities on this process and to become better acquainted with the domestic, foreign business and diplomatic communities in these countries.

To date, the EBRD has invested €1 billion in 77 projects in Albania. Infrastructure and energy are the largest sectors of EBRD investments, reflecting both the country’s most pressing needs and strongest potential.

Other EBRD priorities in Albania according to the current country strategy (2016-2019) include supporting private sector competitiveness, building on the strong entrepreneurial spirit in the economy, strengthening regional infrastructure linkages, enhancing the commercialization of state-owned enterprises and promoting sustainable energy and environmentally sound investments.

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FIAA Board meets USA Ambassador

March 28, 2017
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In late March 2017, the Executive Team of FIAA met with the Ambassador of USA in Tirana, Mr. Donald Lu. This meeting was in the course of other meetings FIAA is having with High Governmental, Internationals and Diplomats in Albania, mainly focused on the recent developments in the business environment of the country and exchange of views for related support. During the Meeting with Ambassador Lu, The Chairman of FIAA highlighted the main findings of the FIAA recent Survey and expressed his readiness for closer cooperation with the Embassy in particular for good implementation of the Justice Reform as one of the preconditions for a better business climate in the country. On the other side, Ambassador Lu thanked FIAA for the good job done and suggested for stronger cooperation between FIAA and American Businesses in Albania.

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FIAA participates in the World Bank Group Executive Directors’ Meeting, Highlighting Albania’s Future in Regional Power Exchange

March 27, 2017
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In late March, a group of Executive Directors, members of the Board of the World Bank Group, visited Albania with the purpose to assess the Bank Group’s engagement in the energy sector and efforts to support regional connectivity. Increasing regional cooperation and plans to improve connectivity within Western Balkans started in 2014 with support from the World Bank Group and the European Union.

During their visit, the WB Directors met with key Executives of the Albanian Government and discussed Albania’s progress and challenges in the energy sector and shared views on facilitating energy exchange through the establishment of organized electricity markets and the prospects for expanding regional integration. As well, it was discussed the impact of World Bank Group financed operations, like the Power Sector Recovery Program, on energy sector reforms within the Government’s broader structural reform agenda.

Part of the WB Executive Directors’ Agenda was a meeting with private sector’s representatives, where FIAA was represented by its Chairman, Mr. Pedrazzi. In the meeting it was discussed on challenges to a competitive and efficient energy sector and how the World Bank can assist in addressing these constraints.

The World Bank Group has a large lending and guarantee portfolio in Albania, including International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) financing of US$615 million, an International Finance Corporation Portfolio of US$187 million, including funds mobilized from its partners, and a Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency portfolio of US$214 million.

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FIAA Executives meet the European Journalists

March 1, 2017
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European Commission’s DG NEAR is a project implemented by Particp GmBh aiming to inform the public in EU member states about the progress that countries who are candidates and potential candidates for EU membership are making in fundamental areas, such as fight against corruption and organized crime, economic development etc.

FIAA Executive Director participated in a Business lunch with several journalists from different EU member states who visited Albania this February, in frame of promoting a better understanding of the EU’s enlargement process and offer insights into the key reforms in the candidate countries and potential candidates for future EU membership. The February’s study visit to Albania focused on economic governance and rule of law as key enablers for a conductive business environment and opportunities in the country.

Being one of the key organizations in the country, FIAA was picked as one of the main representatives of the business community in Albania expected to share views and perspectives with the EU Journalists. During her presentation, Mrs. Jazoj made a broader picture of Albanian potentials and challenges providing also information into a broader perspective for the investment opportunities and areas where work should go on.

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FIAA participates in CCW FAIR in Berlin

February 28, 2017
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Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) is emerging as a new industry in Albania with a good potential on attracting big corporates around the world, seeking for countries with low cost of labour. This sector is recently under the attention of the Albanian Government too, aiming to turn it as a sector with high potential in particular for the youth employment.

In February 20th-23rd, 2017, FIAA together with AIDA and Albanian Outsourcing Association participated with a Promotional stand in CCW Fair Berlin. This participation was enabled with the support of Swiss Embassy in Tirana through the Project RisiAlbania. The entire Team has been continuously consulted by Avasant Experts who are appointed by RisiAlbania to support the BPO Sector and the Organizations who work with it. The presentation of FIAA in CCW Berlin was very important not only for the gained Networks, but also for learning new models in this industry which is in the early stages in Albania.

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FIAA presents the Findings of the Business Environment Survey 2016

February 16, 2017
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In February 15th, FIAA presented the findings of the 2016 Business Environment Survey and Perceptions of Business for 2017. Foreign Investors, International Institutions, High Diplomats and other Stakeholders in Albania were invited to learn on the findings and to hear the different perspectives shared by the FIAA Executives, by the Ambassador of EU Delegation in Albania and by the Minister of Finance.

The main findings of the Survey showed that this study was conducted with the participation of the major foreign companies operating in our country, summarizing their perceptions and attitudes towards the different elements of the business climate such as, tax procedures, business confidence, competition, judiciary, etc. According to the survey, the overall business confidence of investors didn’t show any improvement compared to the previous year, however, the majority of businesses say that their business activity for 2016 has increased despite the not good perception of business climate in general.

The main problems identified by business are: the judicial system, corruption, the Administrative Courts efficiency, and the constant change of the law on tax procedures.

During his word, Mr Pedrazzi, Chairman of FIAA highlighted some of the key concerns resulted from the survey and expressed his opinion on the findings mentioning the importance of the investment climate quality in the Investing world and the necessity of continuation of all the taken reforms in order to achieve the needed results. Mr. Pedrazzi confirmed that to solving the above problems, The Authorities have taken some important steps, but still the problem remains in their implementation. The FIAA expectation level is high, even higher than in previous years because the competition is getting tougher- he concluded.

On the other hand, The Head of the Delegation of European Union in Tirana, Ambassador Romana Vlahutin, stated that “Just like any other large segment of a society, business community needs to have trust in institutions, needs stability and predictability.  This is a societal reform. This is an economic reform. A fair, independent and accountable justice system is not only fundamental to the functioning of democracy; it is the prerequisite of a functioning market economy”.

The Economic Reform Program 2017-2019 that Albania just submitted to the European Commission, includes concrete measures that go into the right direction: strengthening business environment, improving labour market conditions and developing sectors such as agriculture, tourism, energy or transport. Working towards a healthy economy should be our joint effort, because is no division between the economic and the political – they are interrelated and interdependent – underlined the EU Diplomat.

The Minister of Finance, Mr Arben Ahmetaj, who was present in this activity, said that the survey results clearly show that the Justice Reform implementation is the main concern of foreign investors. Mr. Ahmetaj interpreted the results as a message for the Government indicating the expectations that business have to a government that is reforming the economy, politics, institutions and themselves.

The Minister expressed his readiness on continuing dialogue with foreign businesses which is a key element in the country’s economy

The main focus of the FIAA survey is to gather information and opinions on the reality of the business climate in the country. The conclusions and results of the survey will help FIAA-n identify the problems and challenges facing investors, which need to be addressed for government policies in order to improve the business environment in the country.

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FIAA establishes Tax and Financial Committee

January 31, 2017
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Early this Year, the Board of FIAA at the proposal of Ernst & Young Albania established the new Committee on “Tax & Financial”, which activity will support FIAA members for a healthy business and tax environment in the country as well as to provide high-quality information on the current and future developments in the tax system in order to enhance stability and predictability of the business activity in Albania.

This Committee is Chaired Mrs. Anisa Jasini, representative of Ernst & Young Albania.

The committee will work in close collaboration with the FIAA Members, the Ministry of Finance and related authorities, Financial Institutions in the country and other stakeholders.

The Tax Committee Working Agenda for 2017 will mainly focus on:

  • Identifying tax issues faced by members and general business community having a negative impact on a specific sector or industry.
  • Promoting tax changes required to improve the business climate based on EU legislation and best international practices.
  • Presenting the association’s position on required tax changes to the EU Delegation and other international institutions.
  • Providing technical support to the FIAA Board of Directors in its discussions with the government or other institutions.
  • Updating members on tax development by organizing conferences, seminars and round tables
  • Commenting on tax bills (on selected area of interest to our members) and their compliance to the letter and to the spirit of the applicable EU framework.

 

In cooperation with its members and the other FIAA Committees, in September 2017 will be issued the second edition of FIAA WHITE BOOK Albania, which will present the most pressing obstacles on doing business environment and will address recommendations to the Leading Government.

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Roundtable on the economic perspectives, opportunities and challenges for FDIs in 2017

January 20, 2017
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The University of New York Tirana (UNYT) in partnership with the Foreign Investors Association in Albania (FIAA) gathered this January in a roundtable with main CEO’s and representatives of businesses in Albania and Economic Diplomatic Officials to discuss on the Country’s economic perspectives, opportunities and challenges for FDIs in 2017.

On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the establishment of UNYT, the CEO, Mr. Andreas Galatoulas stated that a 15-year journey in Albania has been very interesting for the first private university in Albania.  “We consider our institutions as a bridge between academic and business to generate concepts and ideas that will help entrepreneurship. What we want is to understand the business needs in order to prepare the students to be educated in UNYT and provide human resources for the best Albanian businesses. Our graduates of today are your leaders of tomorrow”- he said.

On the other hand, the Chairman of FIAA, Mr. Silvio Pedrazzi during his word, highlighted how important is the link and cooperation between Education and Business. For Mr. Pedrazzi, insufficiently trained human resources are among the main concerns for entrepreneurs. “It is very difficult to find qualified people who know how to make algorithms and do financial analysis. This is particularly a concern in the banking sector, “said Mr. Pedrazzi. He further stressed that the implementation of the Justice Reform and the fight against informality are not only the basis for the progress of the country, but will help to turn the confidence of investors, whether foreign or domestic, and for those who will have to come tomorrow.

One of the largest investments undertaken in the last two decades such as Trans Adriatic Pipeline project is expected to give a big push to the country’s economy. For foreign investors, this is a project that will in addition serve as an example for the private sector implementation, but also in the way it engages local companies. According to the Country Manager of TAP, there is no doubt that one of the major competitive advantages of the country is the low cost of labor.

The meeting unfolded information for foreign investors up to date on economic changes, trends, development and the impact of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Albania. Particularly, there was a focus on challenges FDIs face in Albania and on much needed structural reforms on judiciary system and on business regulatory framework aiming to further liberalize the market. The role of higher education institutions was also highlighted with the goal of filling the gap between the set of skills provided by the education and the needs in the labor market.

University of New York Tirana and FIAA aimed through this event to revert to an annual tradition with the ultimate goal of bridging among academia, business community and policy making.

University of New York Tirana offers dual degree thanks to the precious collaboration with State University of New York – Empire State College, USA. UNYT graduates are part of a global community of more than three million alumni in general and more than 3,400 just last year.

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