France and Albania

Political relations

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.

Visits

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:

  • 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.
  • Mr Edmond Panariti, Albanian Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Water Management, visited France on 25-28 February 2016 on the occasion of the International Agricultural Show.
  • The Albanian Minister of Innovation and Public Administration, Ms Milena Harito, met on 14 March 2016, with the Minister for the Civil Service, Ms Annick Girardin and the Minister of State for State Reform and Simplification, Mr Jean-Vincent Placé.
  • On 30 to 31 March 2016, the Minister of State for European Affairs, Mr Harlem Désir, visited Albania in part for a meeting with the six foreign ministers of the Western Balkans and Commissioner Hahn, as well as for bilateral meetings, notably with the Prime Minister, Mr Edi Rama.
  • The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault, met with his counterpart Mr Ditmir Bushati on 24 May 2016 in Paris during a ministerial meeting dedicated to the Balkans.
  • Mr Edi Rama, Albanian Prime Minister, had a meeting with the French President on 30 May 2016 in Paris. On the same day, the Albanian Minister of Culture, Ms Mirela Kumbaro met her counterpart Ms Audrey Azoulay. During this meeting, the two Ministers signed a statement of intent on cultural cooperation.
  • Albania, whose delegation was led by Prime Minister Edi Rama, participated in the Paris Summit on the Western Balkans on 4 July 2016.
  • On 23 September 2016, the Albanian Minister of Culture, Ms Mirela Kumbaro, officially opened the “Albanie 1207km Est” exhibition at Marseille’s Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations.
  • The Albanian Economy Minister, Ms Milva Ekonomi, participated in an information workshop on Albania at MEDEF International in Paris on 20 October 2016.
  • The Minister of State for European Affairs, Mr Harlem Désir, visited Albania on 7 and 8 December 2016 for the launch of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO). Mr Désir met with the Prime Minister, Mr Edi Rama and the Minister for European Integration, Ms Klajda Gjosha. He visited the site of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) being constructed by the French company Spiecapag.
  • The Minister of the Interior, Mr Bruno Le Roux, visited Tirana on 28 February where he met with his Albanian counterpart, Mr Saimir Tahiri.
  • The Prime Minister, Mr Bernard Cazeneuve, welcomed the Albanian Prime Minister, Mr Edi Rama on 28 March 2017. Following this meeting, a strategic cooperation partnership, an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the field of Defence and a letter of intent on strengthening bilateral cooperation on internal security were signed. In parallel with this meeting, the Minister of State for European Affairs, Mr Harlem Désir, met the Albanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Ditmir Bushati on the same day.

Interparliamentary exchanges are active.

Mr Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’, Deputy of the 7ᵗʰ constituency for French nationals abroad, visited Albania in January 2013, April 2014 (on the occasion of the Agriculture and Food Fair organized with the support of the French embassy) and March 2016.

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.

The Senator of the Hautes-Pyrénées region and Vice President of the Commission for Foreign Affairs, Defence and the Armed Foreces, Ms Josette Durrieu, visited Albania from 21 to 23 September 2016, on the invitation of the Vice President of the Parliament of the Republic of Albania, Ms Valentina Leskaj.

The President of the National Assembly Commission for Foreign Affairs, Ms Elisabeth Guigou, visited Albania from 16 to 18 November 2016. She met with the President of the Republic of Albania, Mr Bujar Nishani, the President of the Parliament of the Republic of Albania, Mr Ilir Meta, and the Albanian Prime Minister, Mr Edi Rama.

For more information, visit the website of the French Embassy in Tirana

Economic relations

Despite a fourfold increase in trade over the last 11 years, Albania and France remain small trading partners. Bilateral trade increased from €27m in 2005 to €124m in 2016. France has had a commercial deficit of with Albania since 2012. The commercial deficit stood at €35m in 2016.

French exports to Albania totalled €44.5m in 2016, up 12% on 2015. France is Albania’s 8th-biggest supplier and is responsible for 2% of imports. French imports to Albania stood at €79.6m in 2016 (up 33% on 2015). France was Albania’s 15th biggest client in 2016 with 1.1% of its exports. Albania was France’s 103rd supplier.

The leading sector of French exports to Albania is that of equipment goods and transport equipment which accounted for nearly 40% of the total in 2016, principally computers and peripheral equipment whose sales saw a strong increase in 2016 to reach €3.1m. Exports of machines for extraction and construction are also significant, reaching €2.4m vs €0.3m in 2014, due notably to the increase in Albania’s need for equipment following the launch of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline.

Chemical and pharmaceutical products are the second-biggest French export to Albania (23% of the total), which reached €10.4m in 2016 (up 20%). Several large pharmaceutical (Sanofi-Aventis, Pierre Favre) and cosmetic groups (Yves Rocher) have activities in Albania which account for this dynamic trading relationship. The Vichy, La Roche Posay, Klorane and Avène brands are also present on the Albanian market. Exports of textiles and clothing, mainly comprised of fabric, represent 16% of French sales, for a total of €7m.

France mainly imports textile products from Albania which account for over half of France’s imports from the country. Shoes (19.5% of imports in 2016), clothes and accessories (13%), made-up textile products (9%) and under garments (6%) account for most of such imports. Textile products alone produced a trade deficit of €35m in 2016. Imports of metal structures and parts increased from zero to €14m in 2016, making metallurgic and metallic products France’s second-biggest import from Albania, representing 20% of the total. Equipment goods and transport equipment were France’s third-largest import category, accounting for 12% of French imports. France notably purchased parts and accessories for the automotive industry totalling €6m.

French presence in terms of foreign direct investment is also limited but is increasing. According to the French Central Bank, which valued our foreign direct investment (FDI) at €78m in 2015, France accounts for 1.8% of Albania’s total FDI, placing it 11th behind countries such as Greece (25%), the Netherlands (14%), Canada (13%) and Italy (11%).

Several major French companies are present in Albania including KLP Industrie,
the Compagnie Nationale du Rhône, Alstom, Sagem/Morpho, Société Générale, Mazars, Accord, CMA CGM, Sanofi-Aventis, Pierre Favre and Carrefour. Spiecapag (a subsidiary of the Entrepose group which is itself a subsidiary of Vinci) recently signed a significant contract for the construction of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline in Albania with TAP AG (pipe laying).

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 80 members and organizes activities aimed at bringing together the business communities of the two countries.

For more information, visit www.ccifa.al/fr/

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Our bilateral relations were institutionalized in the 1994 Treaty of understanding, friendship and cooperation and by the Strategic Cooperation Partnership signed on 28 March 2017. 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).

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 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).

Updated: 24 May 2017

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