By Milva Ekonomi
Minister of Economic Development, Trade ,Tourism and Enterprise
When we talk about the European Union, we think about several basic principles that have made the EU a territory which must be followed as an example. For this reason, respect for human rights and liberties, democracy and the rule of law, tolerance and solidarity between people, remains without a doubt one of the main pillars of the principles of United Europe.
According to this philosophy, Western Balkans is also seeking to rely on these values about its prosperity, clearly expressing its will in every commitment that it undertakes. Western Balkan countries share a joint history and goals. The recent years have shown that more solidarity, tolerance and cooperation are the only path toward progress, social-cultural development and economic development in the region.
We, Albanians, believe that the process of integration is the best mechanism to build a country with standards, therefore the positive recommendation given by the EU to launch accession talks, is seen by us as another step in this one way path. We know that we still have a lot to do, but on the other hand, we are convinced that only through this process we can manage to consolidate democracy and strengthen the rule of law in our country.
Therefore, in the long and difficult path of transition toward a functional market economy, Albania has scored important results, facing at the same time a number of challenges.
Of course, economic growth cannot be seen as a separate thing from institutions that strengthen democracy, from an economy market that guarantees a good business climate.
The West Balkans region is characterized by high levels of trade openness. In the recent years, commerce has grown. The trend saw a decline in 2008 due to the economic and financial crisis. However, the index of trade openness for some of the country, including Albania, is below the region’s average, expressing the need to continue reforms in order to boost trade openness with the world.
Reforms in Albania
Structural reforms and measures taken in the past 3 years are yielding positive effects in Albania. Domestic and foreign sources say that economy is manifesting sustainable growth and GDP in 2017 is projected to be 3,8%, the highest in the region, although this is not enough. The World Bank and IMF projected this figure in November of this year. The “EU Progress Report” of October this year, also confirms the reforms undertaken by the Albanian government in supporting sustainable economic growth.
Public finances are no longer in a deep crisis and public debt is no longer a threat, but it has started to drop. A few days ago, Moody’s rated Albania underlining that the country has improved thanks to the fiscal discipline and budget deficit is expected to drop to 2,5% in 2016, the lowest one in two decades.
Final consumption of the population in the recent years has seen a growing trend. In the second quarter of 2016, it grew by 4% compared to the second quarter of 2015. Meanwhile, government’s final consumption in the second quarter of 2016 grew by 1,68% compared to the second quarter of 2016.
The European Commission has promised that it will continue to support the process of economic regional integration from the political point of view and from the financial point of view. But what must the Western Balkan countries do to enable the ambition for a Regional Economic Zone? To achieve this, we must see the implementation of the CEFTA agreement for the facilitation of trade as a priority. It is also important to finalize -preferably before the 2017 Summit in Italy- the negotiations for the liberalization of trade in services.
Regional engagements and the reforms that have been undertaken aim at driving the economy toward a new model that relies in domestic production and real employment. Through the increase of productivity and innovation, based on the potential of digital trade, production structures benefit from the expansion of the value chain, aiming at increasing exports.
In terms of the current reflections for the EU zone, it is not easy to have the EU as an example that inspires, because the events in the EU often show that a great unification needs for reflection that comes from domestic politics. /balkaneu.com/