"It is important to prepare Hungarian business people psychologically and giving them assurances that the Albanian business climate is safe for them." That is what the Albanian ambassador to Hungary, Florian Nova emphasizes in his interview, promoting the growing number of opportunities offered by his home country but lesser known to Hungarians.
“We, diplomats present what Albania has to offer to Hungarian businessmen and also present them Albanian businessmen with whom they can develop business relationships. We do not only present the business climate in the two countries but also give some guarantees from high-level politicians as to why and where to invest and what profits could be expected.” That is how the Albanian ambassador to Hungary, Florian Nova explained to Diplomacy and Trade his mission in Budapest. “Diplomats are silent heroes in the sense that we do what we have to do behind the scene to bring a successful result. A classical diplomat is working but not talking about his or her achievements,” he says.
He is satisfied how economic and trade relations between Albania and Hungary are dealt with. “A transparent and open discussion is going on between the two countries.” However, the volume of trade is still far from the desirable level. Compared to the figure in 1990, up to which time trade took place on a barter basis, volume has fallen to one-third. The ambassador, who has been stationed in Budapest since 2007, explains that before 1990, bilateral trade consisted mainly of food and agricultural products and trade management was easier in the sense that the two states negotiated products, prices, quantities, and so on. “Now, everything depends on the private sector. We still have a lot of capacity and have excellent political relations, why not better the economic ones?”
The question is what Albania is offering to Hungary, and what Hungary may be able to do for Albania. “We, Albanians know that Hungary is devoted and has always expressed its political will to develop relations with the countries of the West Balkans, especially Albania. It is a good starting point. Our job is to show what opportunities we can offer to Hungarian businesses. As it was also expressed at high-level talks, there are lot of areas where we can strengthen our economic cooperation like tourism, agriculture, food industry and many other issues,” the ambassador states. He adds that “we, diplomats, have to concentrate on attracting Hungarian direct investments. It is important to prepare Hungarian business people psychologically and giving them assurances that the Albanian business climate is safe for them. That’s why the Hungarian Embassy in Tirana, in cooperation with the Hungarian trade development agency ITDH and the Albanian state agency on promoting business and investment, Albinvest as well as our embassy here is Budapest work together to have an ITDH representation office in the Albanian capital, Tirana. We managed to send Hungarian companies to the Tirana International Trade Fair.”
There is a skilled labor force in Albania but not as cheap as some of the Asian countries. A lot of Albanians speak more than one foreign language. In professional skills, they are more developed than some other areas in the West Balkan countries. A lot of Italian companies use Albania as a production base with sufficient transport facilities. Albania has a beautiful coastline of the southern Adriatic. Transport infrastructure is being constantly developed, so, in 2010, all areas of the coastline will be accessible by road. Entrepreneurs may also take advantage of low-rate loans offered as ‘tied aid’ by the Hungarian government under the framework of the OECD.
A regulation is being prepared on assuring the land-ownership, that is, any foreign investor could have a deal with a landowner and should a dispute arise, the government will assure the landowner and settle issue. “We wish to have financially sound investments and Hungary is one of the countries where such investment can come from. They may invest on the coastline on the model of what happens in Montenegro and Croatia. We need money but what we primarily need is long-term investments,” Florian Nova concludes.