Q: Albania has had candidate country status within the EU since 2014, with a view to starting talks to join the bloc. How do you see the country’s engagement with Brussels developing over the coming months?
A: We have done all our homework. We have done all of what the European Commission told us to do, we have gained our recommendation [to EU member states to start membership talks with Albania], and now we want to see this happening. We want the commission to be crystal clear about that in April, and start negotiations with member states in June. This phase is about negotiating; it’s not about membership at the moment, that will take years. Starting accession talks will improve the perception of Albania among investors right away.
Q: A new piece of legislation was passed in early 2018 to foster FDI. What are its key pillars?
A: This reform has to do with tourism, especially high-end tourism, where we lack practically everything although we see very high and continuously growing demand. Whomever is willing to build a four- or five-star hotel will have to pay only a 6% VAT rate for 10 years: no property tax, no income tax, no infrastructure tax. In the case where the property is built on land owned by the state, the developer would pay only €1 per year, and has the option to privatise the land once the project is over should they want to go that way. At the same time, once the facility is built, the investors can get a free licence for a casino.
Q: Corruption and red tape are still perceived as major hurdles to foreign investment in Albania. What are you doing to improve the business environment across the board?
A: We are passing very radical reforms and regulation. Red tape is being reduced, a lot of documents are not necessary any more and issuing licences and authorisations will become easier and easier. And when it comes to major private investors, we have a system of so-called ‘black belt teams’, special teams that follow a company in its investment process from A to Z and solve practically everything that has to do with the state from within the state. The investors doesn’t have to knock on doors, nor lose time for one reason or another, thanks to these teams created for investors.
Q: Countries in the western Balkans are making efforts to increase regional integration. What will be the benefit for Albania?
A: It’s obvious that regional integration creates a new space of opportunities for everyone, first and foremost for business. There is big potential in trading in the region. All this has been limited in the past from the impossibility of interconnecting with each other at various levels.