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News 05 Apr 17

Albania, Kosovo Struggle to Boost Low Trade Levels

Exports from Albania to Kosovo dropped in 2016, which small and medium-sized businesses blame on difficulties with high customs fees.

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana
Albania-Kosovo joint meeting. Photo: kryeministria.al

Trade between Albania and Kosovo is not meeting targets set by representatives from both countries, with Albania's exports falling in value in 2016 from around 157 million euros to 125 million euros annually.

The drop is fuelling concerns that small and medium-sized businesses are receiving inferior treatment. 

Albanian imports from Kosovo also appear minimal when compared to those from other neighbouring countries.

Over 2016, Kosovo's exports to Albania totalled approximately 43.9 million euros, according to the Albanian Institute of Statistics, INSTAT.

The low trade volume has not risen despite the two countries repeatedly pledging to increase mutual trade.

Alban Zusi, head of the Albanian Export Centre, told BIRN that the two countries only exchange products produced by big businesses.

“There are around 15 Albanian concrete and building material businesses that export to Kosovo. When it comes to small and medium-sized businesses, exporting is not easy,” Zusi said.

He added that for small and medium-sized businesses, the customs fees are too high, preventing Albanian companies from exporting to Kosovo.

Albania's Economy Minister, Milva Ekonomi, participated in a conference on Monday about trade between two countries and about the customs difficulties.

Some of the difficulties stem from the fact that several Kosovo institutions are not recognised by European bodies, creating problems on the borders.

According to Ekonomi, customs fees would be lower if products set for trade all passed through the same lab tests.

"We have an institutional deadlock here since the Kosovo agency for [monitoring] product accreditation is not recognised by the European Agency of Accreditation, as is the case in Albania. If this happened, the exchange of goods would be easier," the minister said.

She added that, together with her Kosovo counterpart, they were trying to find ways to facilitate export and import processes.

Data from INSTAT confirm that the biggest category of Albanian exports to Kosovo is in the category of minerals and electrical energy, while the second is building materials.

Exports of food, beverages, and tobacco are minimal, totalling some 1.8 million euros across January-February 2016.

Albania's most important trading partner remains Italy when it comes to exports and imports.

Serbia is also a regional player when it comes to exports to Albania, which buys products worth around 136 million euros during 2016. However, exports from Albania to Serbia remain low. 

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