Tirana, 8 May 8, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency
The Regional Cooperation Council has for the first time conducted the Balkan Barometer, an annual monitoring in the framework of the 2020 strategy. This barometer summarizes the inputs of the business sector and public opinion about the economic development of the countries of the region. The highest rates belong to Kosovo and Albania.
Albanians are the most optimistic ones on the enlargement of the European Union and enthusiasm is still there, although at a low percentage.
The reports were presented in a high level conference which saw the participation of the representatives of European institutions and Balkan governments.
“Balkan Barometer 2015” presented two reports yesterday in Brussels, “The Public Opinion Index” and the “Business Opinion”. These reports indicate the fact that the citizens’ expectations on the future of economy are more positive than other countries.
The study was conducted in seven economies of Southeast Europe-Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia and former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The interviews were conducted face to face with 1000 respondents for every country, so in total, there are 7000 respondents for the public opinion poll.
200 private companies were surveyed for the Business Opinion, belonging to different domains.
Albania is reported to have had a 2,4% economic growth from 2009 until 2014 and compared to other countries of South East Europe, is more stable.
Respondents answered to the following questions: How happy are you with the way things are going in your country? How happy are you with the financial situation of your family? How happy are you with the economic situation of your country and the standard of living? What are your expectations for next year? Do you think that in the next 12 months, your financial situation will be better, worse or unchanged? Albanians have the highest index of expectations for the future compared to the neighboring countries. Albania and Kosovo have a high level of positive expectation for the future, although they’re not happy with the current situation. Thus, Albania is ranked second, after Kosovo, with 55,58 points in terms of the expectations that the citizens have about their economies. Kosovo is estimated to have an index of 70,76 points, followed by Montenegro with 60,06 points.
The answers given by respondents show that a greater attention must be given to the increase in the quality of public services, decrease of prices, fight against corruption, increase of confidence in the justice system and the increase of the awareness of the population that the law is equal for all.
As far as regional cooperation is concerned, Albanians are the least informed.
Albanians are last in the region in terms of traveling. 80% of respondents said that they had not traveled in the past 12 months in the neighboring countries.
In the crisis that started at the end of 2008, South East Europe has faced a recession or a delayed growth, with a great number of challenges in many domains, especially in the labor market. The biggest economies such as Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina encountered problems. FYROM and Albania started to improve, while Montenegro is praised among these two groups.
As far as the question how do they assess the performance of their business last year is concerned, 29% of Albanians gave a positive assessment, 39% declared that they see a deterioration, while 33% said that the situation has not changed. As far as new employments in the past 12 months are concerned, Albania is last. 19% of respondents reported an increase of personnel while 25% reported a decrease.
53% of respondents from Albanian businesses report that they do not expect any changes about the situation of employment in 2015, while 30% believe that the level of employment may see an increase. 33% of businesses have positive expectations on the economy, 51% have unchanged expectations and the rest expect deterioration.
The paradox seen by Bushati
Albanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ditmir Bushati comments the barometer, by saying that “European integration and regional cooperation are two processes which are linked to each other and that cannot avoid each other”
“But I cannot help noticing a paradox between our joint objective for full EU membership and instruments of regional cooperation, which have been put at the disposal of this objective. It seems as if we have imposed big objectives upon ourselves on one side and on the other, we use soft instruments. This means that as a region, we must do more and learn more from the gaps and discordances between our ambitions and capacities. If we compare GDP, national incomes and annual exports from 2003 to 2011, it’s clear that the Western Balkan countries have remained poor, not only compared to EU countries, but also other Balkan countries that have joined the EU. This means that our region is not different only in the economic aspect, but that the process of European integration still reflects realities of the past”, Bushati says.
European Commissioner, Johannes Hahn says that the process of integration will have clear dates now. “The next enlargement package will be approved on October 14”, he announces.
Hahn says that the granting of the candidate status last June was a big achievement for Albania’s process of European integration.
Meanwhile he adds: “The rule of law has a major importance. Fight against corruption and organized crime and reform of the judicial system are crucial. More work is also required in the public administration and economic governing”. /ibna/