News 28 Jan 13

Albania Energy Row With Czechs 'Undermining EU Bid'

Expert warns that Albania’s has added yet another obstacle to its EU path, after the Czech Republic threatened to block its EU accession bid over a dispute with the electricity company CEZ.

Besar Likmeta

Gledis Gjipali, head of the European Movement Albania, a Tirana-based think tank, said that Albania's ongoing row with a Czech-based power company was alienating a key supporter of its EU accession bid.

“In Central and Eastern Europe Albania has always had its supporters, and if its starts to create schisms there, this could have a negative impact on its EU accession process,” Gjipali said.

“This is a problem that Albania did not need, turning the Czech Republic from a supporter into an opponent,” she added.

Albania's energy regularity agency, ERE, stripped the local subsidiary of the Czech power giant CEZ of its operating license on January 21, effectively taking it back into state control.

The decision, which outrights nationalizes the utility company CEZ Shprendarje, is the latest twist in a long dispute between Tirana and the Czech company over unpaid debts.

The Czech Prime Minister, Petr Necas, slammed the decision and has warned that it is bound to raise questions about Albania’s credentials for EU integration.

“I see the removal of a licence from CEZ, the largest Czech investor in the region, as a very negative signal for the traditionally very friendly relations between the two countries,” Necas said on Wednesday.

“The Czech Republic cannot ignore this approach to a Czech investor, in the light of Albania's integration hopes,” he added.  

In a meeting with the Czech Ambassador in Tirana on Thursday, the Minister of Economy, Edmond Haxhinasto, called on the Czech authorities to keep the two issues separate.

“The good relationship between the two countries should be separated from the problems that arose from a commercial dispute with CEZ Shperdarje in Albania,” Haxhinasto said.

“Every suggestion to mix up these two issues is damaging and does not help anyone,” he added.

Gjipali said that Albania must tread carefully to make sure that Czech irritation is localized and does not affect the views of other Eastern European countries.

“The government should be careful not to spread this problem to other countries in Eastern Europe, which might end up seeing Albania as a place risky for foreign investments, not worthy of support in its EU integration path,” Gjipali concluded.  

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