Albania: Practical assistance for agriculture and efficient administration
27.05.2015 – A pilot project is promoting agricultural and administrative reforms in Albania with the aim of increasing competitiveness and promoting EU integration.
Accession candidate Albania is undertaking economic and administrative reforms in order to move closer to the European Union (EU). This process is supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), with financial assistance from the European Union. Agriculture is a priority area of reform as it generates 20 per cent of Albania’s gross domestic product. However, Albania faces major structural problems: many farms do not operate efficiently, the workforce is poorly trained, and yields are too low.
The aim is to modernise farm enterprises and the food processing industry and raise production standards. However, these measures require investment. The farms are therefore receiving grants under a pilot project managed by GIZ. Farm enterprises and food processing companies in Albania can apply for grants to undertake investment in modernisation schemes, such as water-efficient irrigation systems, animal welfare, and dairy technology. The Albanian Paying Agency processes and decides on the grant applications under the same conditions and criteria as those applied in the award of EU funding.
GIZ’s support for the public authorities in this context takes the form of practical training, which helps to bring the authorities into line with EU standards. Specially designed software ensures that grant applications are processed quickly and in a transparent manner. The project thus has a dual impact: it introduces EU standards within the relevant agencies, and, at the same time, promotes agricultural development and food safety. Although Albania is not yet an EU member state, the authorities are learning how to apply EU directives on a practical basis. Albania is thus demonstrating that it will have the capacity to manage EU funding independently in future – one of the criteria which Albania must fulfil in order to be eligible for the EU’s agricultural funding programme for accession candidates.
Albanian agriculture is already benefiting from the authorities’ ‘test run’ of the grant scheme. To date, 5.5 million euros in grants have been disbursed within the project framework. And the pilot project serves another important purpose: only registered companies can apply for funding, which puts them at an advantage over the informal sector, and this in turn accelerates the restructuring of Albanian agriculture.