Our bilateral relations are excellent and based on the memories of the role of France when it established a military protectorate in the Korça region in 1916, and on its contribution to the training of the Albanian elite in the interwar period, with the creation of the French high school in Korça.
Political relations are now mainly fuelled by Albania’s determination to eventually join the European Union, and by our policy to support this process of democratization and stabilization with a view to EU membership. We have consistently supported Albania in its way forward to Europe.
There is a continued, confident high-level political dialogue between the two countries. Albanian elites are often Francophile and Francophone. The quality of political relations between France and Albania is illustrated by the pace of Albanian leaders’ visits to France:
• On 25 July 2013, on the occasion of the Meeting of Heads of State from the Western Balkans held in Brdo in Slovenia with France as guest of honour, the French President, Mr François Hollande, met with Mr Bujar Nishani, President of the Republic of Albania.
• Mr Laurent Fabius, the French Foreign Minister, granted Mr Edi Rama an interview on 28 August 2013 during his informal visit to Paris prior to assuming office as Prime Minister.
• Mr Ditmir Bushati, Minister of Foreign Affairs, met with Laurent Fabius on 4 November 2013. Accompanied by the Albanian Minister of European Integration Ms Klajda Gjosha, he met Mr Thierry Repentin, Minister Delegate for European Affairs, and Mr Paul Jean-Ortiz, Diplomatic Adviser to the French President.
• Ms Milena Harito, Albanian Minister of Innovation and Public Administration, visited Paris on 4-6 November 2013. Her schedule included meetings with Ms Fleur Pellerin and Ms Marylise Lebranchu.
• Mr Saimir Tahiri, Albanian Minister of Interior Affairs, visited France during the Milipol Paris worldwide exhibition on internal State security. He met with the Prime Minister Mr Manuel Valls on 18 November 2013.
• Mr Ilir Meta, Speaker of the Albanian Parliament, visited Paris on 8-11 December 2013 and met with the Presidents of the National Assembly and the Senate.
• Ms Mirela Kumbaro, Albanian Minister of Culture, made a working visit to Paris from 29 January to 3 February 2014 during which she met with her counterpart Ms Aurélie Filippetti and with Ms Yamina Benguigui, Minister Delegate for Francophony.
• Mr Edmond Panariti, Albanian Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Water Management, visited France on 23-26 February 2014 on the occasion of the International Agricultural Show (SIA). He met Mr Guillaume Garot, Minister Delegate for the Food Industry, and Mr Frédéric Cuvillier, Minister Delegate for Transport, the Sea and Fisheries.
• Mr Nasip Naço, Albanian Minister of Justice, met his counterpart Ms Christiane Taubira on 20 May 2014.
• Ms Mimi Kodheli, Albanian Minister of Defence, visited Paris on 17 June 2014 and met her counterpart.
• Mr Edi Rama, Albanian Prime Minister, had a meeting with the French President on 11 June 2014 in Paris.
• The French and German Ministers of the Interior made a joint visit to Tirana on 15 July 2014.
• Mr Edmond Haxhinasto, Albanian Minister of Transport and Infrastructure, Mr Damian Gjiknuri, Albanian Minister of Energy and Industry, and Ms Milena Harito, Albanian Minister of Innovation and Public Administration, participated in an information workshop on Albania organized by Ubifrance on 20 November 2014 in Paris.
• A large Albanian delegation attended the Republican march that took place on 11 January 2015 in Paris to pay tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks: Prime Minister Edi Rama was accompanied by Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati, Minister of Youth and Social Welfare Erion Veliaj, and representatives of the country’s four largest religious communities.
• Visit to France of Ms Eglantina Gjermeni, Minister of Urban Development and Tourism, on 14-18 January 2015.
• Mr Edmond Panariti, Albanian Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Water Management, visited France on 19-22 February 2015 on the occasion of the International Agricultural Show. He met with his French counterpart Mr Stéphane Le Foll.
• Ms Marylise Lebranchu, French Minister for Decentralization and the Civil Service, visited Albania on 2-6 April 2015. She met with the Albanian President, Mr Bujar Nishani, Prime Minister Edi Rama, Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati, Minister for Innovation and Public Administration Milena Harito, Minister of State for Local Government Mr Bledar Çuçi, as well as with the Minister of Youth and Social Welfare, Mr Erjon Veliaj.
• Mr Harlem Désir, French Minister of State for European Affairs, visited Tirana on 15 July 2015 where he met with the Prime Minister Mr Edi Rama, the Albanian President Mr Bujar Nishani and Foreign Minister Mr Ditmir Bushati.
• Mr Arben Ahmetaj, Albanian Minister of Economic Development, Tourism, Trade and Entrepreneurship, visited Paris on 29 September-1 October 2015. He met with Ms Martine Pinville, Minister of State for Commerce, Small-Scale Industry, Consumer Affairs and the Social and Solidarity Economy, together with the French Foreign Minister’s Special Representative for Economic Diplomacy in the Balkans Senator Alain Richard. He also participated in a meeting of the France-Albania Business Leaders’ Council at MEDEF International (branch of the French employer federation).
• Mr Ilir Meta, Speaker of the Albanian Parliament, met with the President of the French Senate, Mr Gérard Larcher, on 15 October 2015. He also attended a workshop on COP21, organized by the President of the French National Assembly, Mr Claude Bartolone.
• Ms Klajda Gjosha, Albanian Minister of European Integration, visited France on 28-29 October 2015 and met the Minister of State for European Affairs, Mr Harlem Désir, and the Representative for Economic Diplomacy in the Balkans, Mr Alain Richard.
• The Prime Minister of Albania, Mr Edi Rama, met with Prime Minister Manuel Valls in Paris on 3 December 2015.
Interparliamentary exchanges are active.
Mr Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’, Deputy of the 7th constituency for French nationals abroad, visited Albania in January 2013 and April 2014 (on the occasion of the Agriculture and Food Fair organized with the support of the French embassy).
Mr Jean-Pierre Bel visited Tirana in March 2014 as President of the French Senate. He was received by his counterpart Mr Ilir Meta and also met the Albanian President, Mr Bujar Nishani, Prime Minister Edi Rama and the opposition leader Lulzim Basha.
The Albanian Members of Parliament Ms Mimoza Hafizi, Mr Andrea Marto and Mr Namik Kopliku were received on18-22 October 2014 by the France-Albania Friendship Group of the French Senate, chaired by Mr Michel Berson. They also met the Minister of State for European Affairs Mr Harlem Désir.
A delegation of the interparliamentary France-Albania Friendship Group of the French Senate, consisting of Senators Ms Bariza Khiari, Mr Bernard Fournier and Mr Michel Berson (Chair of the Friendship Group), visited Albania on 13-18 September 2015.
Website of the French Embassy in Tirana: http://www.ambafrance-al.org/
Despite a steady rise in trade over the past ten years, Albania and France remain small trading partners. Bilateral trade amounted to €99 million in 2014, down by €25 million (-20%) compared to 2013. In 2014 France was only Albania’s 10th-largest trading partner. In 2014, France had a trade balance deficit of €29 million with Albania. Although this deficit has fallen compared to 2013 (down €50 million) following a sharp drop in our imports, it is still higher than in 2012 (down €26 million). It should be noted that France had maintained a trade balance surplus until 2011. French exports to Albania totalled €35 million in 2014 and imports from Albania €64 million, making France Albania’s 11th-largest customer.
The leading sector of French exports to Albania for the year 2014 was that of capital goods and transport equipment which accounted for €12 million. The second-biggest export sector was that of textile, clothing, leather and footwear, with €8 million. The third-biggest export sector was that of chemical and pharmaceutical products, with €5.7 million. The decrease in France’s market share on the Albanian market was mainly due to a fall in food products from €10 million to €4 million in 2014. This was caused by a sharp drop of 81% in exports of cereals, legumes and oilseeds, which fell from €7.2 million in 2013 to €1.4 million in 2014.
French imports from Albania are largely dominated by textile, clothing, leather and footwear, with €37 million in 2014, and have increased 30%. The second-largest export sector is that of capital goods and transport equipment which stands at €9 million and stagnated in 2014. The 26% decline in imports was mainly due to the fall in orders of crude oil, which decreased from €26.8 million in 2013 to €3.2 million in 2014.
The French presence is limited but increasing. According to the Central Bank of Albania, which valued our foreign direct investment (FDI) at €83 million in 2013, France accounted for 2.1% of total FDI in the country, far behind Canada (19%), Greece (17%), Austria (15%), Italy (12%) and Turkey (11%).
The French presence is progressing, notably in the mining industry (KLP Industries), the energy sector (Compagnie Nationale du Rhône, Alstom, Coyne et Bellier), the industrial sector (Morpho (Safran group), ATR, Airbus, Eurocopter), the large-scale distribution sector (Carrefour), the financial services sector (Société Générale, Crédit Agricole) and the engineering sector (Egis group).
Following the Brdo Summit (25 July 2013) and with a view to boosting our trade in the region, Mr Alain Richard was appointed Special Representative for Economic Diplomacy in the Balkans. Mr Richard visited Albania on 26 October 2013 and 27 April 2014 to attend the first French Agriculture and Food Fair in Tirana. He again visited Albania on 9 November 2015 and met with the Prime Minister of Albania, Mr Edi Rama.
A Franco-Albanian Chamber of Commerce was created in 2013 as a member of the international network of French Chambers of Commerce (CCIFI), on the basis of the existing Franco-Albanian Business Club. It has 70 members and organizes activities aimed at bringing together the business communities of the two countries.
Our bilateral relations were institutionalized in the 1994 Treaty of understanding, friendship and cooperation. The French cooperation system in Albania is centred on the French embassy’s Cooperation and Cultural Action Service (SCAC), and on a network of four Alliance Française Teaching Centres in Tirana, Korçë, Elbasan and Shkodër. Bilateral cooperation has the following priorities: consolidating the position of the French language and accompanying Albania towards a rapprochement with Europe through institutional cooperation focused on strengthening the rule of law and the training of elites.
Albania has been a member of the International Organisation of La Francophonie (IOF) since 2006. Cooperation with the IOF is implemented by providing French-language courses for Albanian officials. Albania stands out as the anchor for Francophony in the region: French is the second foreign language taught in the school system, 23% of students in pre-university education learn our language, i.e. around 87,500 students, and there are some 540 teachers.
In the school sector, the promotion of French focuses mainly on supporting Franco-Albanian bilingual sections in five high schools in the country (about 470 students). Furthermore, two bilingual sections were opened in the hotel schools in Durrës and Saranda, with support of the IOF. At university, there are some 30 French teachers for around 650 students.
In the cultural sector, the French embassy in Tirana stages a dozen shows a year with its Albanian counterparts (Opera, National Theatre, University of Arts, festivals, Albanian Ministry of Culture, radio, television). It has been planned to organize highlights of Albanian culture, in France in 2016 and 2017.
Some 30 study and training scholarships are awarded each year to Albanian students and teachers. They help train specialists in various areas (art, medicine, law, communication and engineering). In 2015, approximately 690 Albanian students were enrolled at a French higher education institution, mainly in economics, law and language courses.
In 2012, the French embassy supported the creation of the French International School of Tirana (EFIT). It was approved by the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE) in June 2013.
Regarding administrative cooperation, a partnership with ENA has led to the creation of a public administration school. Concerning judicial cooperation, exchanges between experts from judiciary schools in the two countries are continuing. In addition, an international technical expert has been seconded as adviser to the Albanian Minister of Innovation and Public Administration. This expert has been tasked with helping to modernize and professionalize the Albanian administration, and to computerize public services in order to better accompany the European integration process.
France is working to strengthen the country’s attractiveness to tourism development (promotion of biodiversity and tourism, and of sustainable development in mountain and coastal areas).
We are carrying out substantial work in the field of archaeological cooperation and heritage, through three missions led by French archaeologists.
Other cooperation programmes are developed in the areas of stock farming, fisheries, agriculture and in the medical field.
Cooperation actions in the fields of internal security and civil protection focus in particular on combating illegal immigration, organized crime and drug trafficking.
As regards EU funding, several successes have been achieved. France was thus awarded institutional twinning projects funded by Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) funds in the areas of customs, civil aviation, public finance, strengthening of judicial decision-making and of public administration.
Other types of cooperation
Decentralized cooperation On 24-25 October 2013, the French Balkan Assises of Decentralised Cooperation were held in Tirana, organized in partnership with the Delegation for the External Action of Local Government (AECT) of the French Foreign Ministry and the French Association of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (AFCCRE).