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News 06 Dec 16

Italian Law Threatens Call Centres in Albania

Thousands of jobs in Albania appear at risk after Italy passed a new law restricting the rights of Italian companies to outsource customer services across the Adriatic Sea.

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana
A call center office in Tirana. Photo: LSA

Moves by Italy to clamp down on Italian companies outsourcing work to Albania have alarmed the government in Tirana, which fears thousands of jobs are at risk.

An amendment that Italy passed on November to a law from 2012 on the rules about call centres raises fears that thousands of jobs in the call-centre sector could go.

The amendment obliges Italian companies who want to outsource call centre work to non-EU countries like Albania to gain special permission from the Italian authorities.

At the same time it imposes new restrictions, such as higher taxes, on these companies compared with ones operating in Italy or in other EU countries.

Some 804 Italian companies of different sizes employ around 25,000 youngsters in Albania in customer services, and the government in Tirana fears the new Italian legislation might compel these companies to leave the country.

On December 2, some Italian owners of call centres in Albania met the Albanian Minister of Labour, Blendi Klosi and the Minister of Economy, Milva Ikonomi, to ask the Albanian government to step in and negotiate with their Italian counterparts over the initiative.

"We will try to ensure the regulations imposed by the Italian state on these companies continue to have little impact on your activity in Albania," Minister Klosi assured them.

On December 3, during a meeting with his Italian counterpart, Paolo Gentiloni, Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati said the two sides would work jointly to find a solution to the provisions that the draft law will create.

It is not still clear how the impact of the new law can be minimized in the case of Italian call centers in Albania, however.

Zef Preci, director of the Albanian Centre for Economic Research, told BIRN that the Italian law aims to protect the Italian economy and ease high unemployment rates in the country.

He suggested that Albania should insist on a one or two-year moratorium before the law takes effect.

"It is also possible to stimulate Albanian companies in the same field ... fiscal easing might also help those Italian companies who decide to stay," Preci said.

However, he emphasized that the Albanian government should review its strategy for employment so that it is less vulnerable to such legislation from another country.

"It is time to understand that the country cannot be developed just by widening the sector of services or by fashion businesses and call centres," he stated.

Gjergj Bojaxhi, leader of the new Sfida political party in Albania, said on December 3 that the country's political establishment is responsible for a fragile economy that is shaken every time a neighbouring country changes its policies.

"Albanian politics have not proven capable of creating a solid, sustainable economic model away from dependence on neighbouring countries," he said.

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