Joint Efforts to Make Strategy Successful
Albanian Daily News
Published March 8, 2018
"Launching this new cycle of development cooperation, after the celebrations last year of 25 years of Swiss presence in Albania, stresses the importance of the long-standing bilateral relations between our two countries. Albania and Switzerland share numerous common interests and other bonds, so it is not surprising that our relationship is very good and solid," has said the Swiss State Secretary for Economic Affairs, Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch.
Ms. Ineichen-Fleisch made those remarks at the launching event of the Swiss Cooperation Strategy Albania 2018-2021 in Tirana on Wednesday which was attended by Deputy Prime Minister Senida Mesi, deputies, representatives of diplomatic corps in Tirana, and political and business representatives.
The Swiss Secretary, who is also the director of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), said the cooperation strategy that was being launched was primarily a token of the importance of the relationship of Switzerland with Albania. In the meantime, she underlined that both Albania and Switzerland had a common concern about the stability and the development of the Western Balkan region. "In fact, more than 500,000 residents of Switzerland have family ties with the Western Balkans, half of them to the Albanian speaking areas. Thus, our relationship with the region is very important and touches upon political, economic and cultural matters, as well as security and migration concerns. This is one reason, why Switzerland invests over 130 million Swiss Francs per year in cooperation with the Western Balkan countries," she said.
Ms. Ineichen-Fleisch highlighted the importance of the exchanges and encounters at high level between the two governments and in this frame she mentioned last year's visit of Prime Minister Edi Rama to Switzerland. "This is where I was invited to come to visit Albania. I am glad I did, as I am enjoying my stay," said the Swiss Secretary who is visiting Albania for the first time.
Prior to the event State Secretary Ineichen-Fleisch met with President Ilir Meta, Prime Minister Edi Rama and Minister of Finance and Economy Arben Ahmetaj.
But in her remarks at the event the Swiss senior official seemed not to be pleased on the commercial exchanges which she considered as "not negligible, but, truth be told, they could be higher: there is an important untapped potential there. Switzerland has an open economy and thrives on international trade. Thus, we are eager to increase trade with countries like yours and I am confident that you could profit from that too."
In addition, she saw Albania as a great potential for Swiss investments. "I am thinking for instance about the Trans Adriatic Pipeline. It is not just an example that shows how Albania is ready to manage large infrastructure projects; much more importantly, it shows that large investments are viable and that it is possible to do business in this country following the highest standards in terms of technology and good practices," said Secretary Ineichen-Fleisch, who, nevertheless, could not ignore the obstacles that potential investors, foreign and domestic, encountered in Albania. "In a business friendly environment, enterprises face reduced bureaucratic obstacles, are not set back by corruption, and can count on legal stability and predictability," she said, pointing out that the cooperation strategy being presented aimed at improving the investment climate in this Balkan country. "A crucial pre-condition for foreign and local companies to invest is a well-functioning rule of law and especially the respect of property rights," Ms. Ineichen-Fleisch said. In this frame, she congratulated the Albanian government for the current efforts to improve its justice system and encouraged it to continue with this all-too-important reform with resolute determination.
Speaking of the cooperation Strategy for the current four-year period she unveiled that it was 'equipped' with a budget of 105 million Swiss Francs, which is around 20% higher than in the previous cycle, making Switzerland one of the top three bilateral donors in Albania. In a comment on the objectives of the Swiss cooperation, she said that supporting Albania in its efforts towards European integration was clearly an important goal of the Swiss engagement in the country. "In fact, and similar to Switzerland, Albania needs to prepare to profit from access to the European market. Furthermore, good governance and a strengthened democracy are other key fields of action when it comes to making Albania fit for Europe, and we are proud to provide sup-port in this field too. Moreover, good governance in itself is also the basis for a well-functioning economy," concluded State Secretary Ineichen-Fleisch.
For her part, Deputy Prime Minister Senida Mesi greeted the event on behalf of the Albanian government praising the bilateral relations which, according to her, were strong. "Both the previous strategy 2014-2017 and the one we are discussing today are a clear testimony of the very good cooperation between our countries. I congratulate the launching of this strategy and all the Swiss support because it aims at moving forward projects that serve macro-economic, social and political development in Albania," she said. In the meantime, the Deputy PM saw the contribution of the Swiss Cooperation Strategy as a support to Albania's drive to join the European Union. "We expect to receive a positive answer on the opening of the EU accession negotiations in April," Ms. Mesi underlined.
Albania has been an official candidate for accession to the EU since June 2014 and is on the current agenda for future enlargement of the Club along with five other Western Balkan countries among which Serbia and Montenegro have already opened the accession negotiations.
Ambassador Unveils Highlights of Swiss Strategy
The Swiss Ambassador to Albania, Christoph Graf, focused on some details of the new cooperation strategy and commitments from the Swiss government to Albania's development. According to him, the Swiss portfolio encompassed work in four thematic domains: democratic governance; economic development and employment; urban infrastructure and energy; and health.
Support to democratic governance has the largest share of the new portfolio; it receives more than one third of the budget, more than the other three domains, and more than in the past, he said, adding that the stated objective in the domain democratic governance was to ensure that people benefit from inclusive, effective and democratic institutions. Speaking of the second thematic domain called economic development and employment, Mr. Graf said its objective was to contribute to sustainable growth offering more employment and better business opportunities for all. A third domain is urban infrastructure and energy whose objective is to ensure that people benefit from high-quality municipal infrastructure services. "Swiss cooperation work extends also to the health sector. Thanks to renewed commitment from the Albanian government the portfolio will slightly expand in this area in order to achieve the desired objective," he said. Referring to the way how the strategy is going to be implemented Mr.Graf laid special importance to a diversity of partnerships with civil society, businesses, Governmental and Non-Governmental Organization, bilateral and multilateral development partners, the principle of inclusiveness and in this aspect, according to him, the Swiss portfolio had a wide understanding of inclusion: social, economic, political. "Excluded and vulnerable groups such as Roma, women, youth deserve particular attention," he said.
"We build on long-term support. We foster development initiative with a long-term vision: What we are doing now, will that stand in 5 years, 10 years time? Will it produce results even then? We engage in multi-year programmes. Continuity is important to us. Again, we say: "Cooperation continues!", concluded the Swiss Ambassador.