Ministria e Ekonomisë, Kulturës dhe Inovacionit

OECD High Level Conference on South East Europe

Dear Madam Moderator, Ambassador Kokkinakis, Dear Mr. Sarrazin, Special Representative for the Western Balkans, Dortmund, your hometown, and Hamburg, your second city, are also the locations where the Albanian National Team played its first two matches of Euro 2024. Both of them brought a lot of success and emotions to us, and I hope, or rather, I am confident that your presence here will bring the same luck to this panel. Let’s only hope there are no people from Düsseldorf here (joke if we lose against Spain). Dear Ministers, partners, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be here at this rendezvous, at this Second Ministerial Panel of the High-Level Conference, taking place at a decisive crossroads for policymaking.

At a time when our economies are becoming progressively more advanced, more digitized, more innovative and forward-thing, but also at a time where there is a growing need for an internationally coordinated policy approach. I am also pleased to be here, as this gathering in Paris marks a continuation of what we achieved with the crucial Berlin Process Summit 2023 in Tirana, where for the first time, the OECD launched its Economic Convergence Scoreboard for the Western Balkans. The Scoreboard has already provided a comprehensive overview of our economic convergence in five key clusters: business environment, skills, connectivity & infrastructure, greening, and digitalization. By doing so, it has enabled our governments to implement evidence-based policies that make a real difference in many flagship sectors of our economies. Today, the much-anticipated release of the Western Balkans Competitiveness Outlook 2024, with its 15 policy areas and 440 qualitative and quantitative indicators, will add, as we say in Albania, meat to the backbone of an already excellent cooperation that grows stronger year after year.


The crucial support that these benchmarks and indicators will provide to our countries in implementing the right policies and hopefully unleashing new energies to accelerate our growth pace in the next 3-4 years is of immeasurable importance, as the next 3-4 years will also be decisive to the Western Balkans European Future. As a fan of science fiction, digitalization, and innovation, which are now part of my ministerial portfolio, I would like to underline a famous quote from Morpheus in the cult movie The Matrix: “There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” This is precisely the challenge we must all address in the real world. Thanks first to the Convergence Scoreboard, the RoadMap launched in March 2024, the Western Balkans Competitiveness Outlook and other keynote initiative, we already know, or at least have a good idea of, the path that stretches in front of us. Yet, this is a path we still need to walk. No one will walk it in our place.

In that regard, I hope that the European Member Countries, our partners, as well as we, the countries of the Western Balkans, will be able to rise to the significance of the moment. Converging, metaphorically, with the Berlin Process Summit of 2023, the EU-Western Balkans Summit of Tirana, and the many important intertwined keynote decisions and reforms undertaken since then, we know that what is being asked is not rocket science. Yet, we still need to pin down the concrete policy approaches. As the French say, “L’union fait la force” (Unity makes strength). And we look forward to translating the cold language of the indicators into a true, immersive, ongoing, live, and open discussion with all our partners on how to make it better, in the shortest time possible. As far as Albania is concerned, we are well aware that we have a mountain to climb. Yet, the summit today looks closer, as when we turn back, we can see with pride many other peaks already summited.

To put it figuratively, we are no longer at Camp Base. Maybe somewhere in between Camp 2 and Camp 3.

When we started a few years ago, even compared to the latest Western Balkans Competitiveness Outlook three years ago, the ascent looked much steeper. Whereas in 2021 Albania made significant progress in at least 12 of the 15 clusters of this OECD deep C-Scan of our economy, this year’s publication marks significant further progress 360 degrees round, in almost all the measured data and chapters. This is truly remarkable, and we take pride in having become a driving force in the Western Balkans region, in some very important sectors, including tourism, digitalization, employment, energy, facilitation of trade practices, etc. I therefore very much appreciate and applaud the OECD for the launch of this report, as well “the Roadmap towards Circular Economy of Albania” earlier in March. The roadmap has provided guidance in laying a strong policy foundation for a successful circular transition, especially in the direction of:

– Economic instruments for sustainable consumption and production

– Circular business models for SMEs

– Combatting plastics with a focus on marine litter

This Outlook, as well, I am sure will become a cornerstone of the fact-based policymaking for the years to come. All of this is particularly valuable as our country and the entire region strive to leverage the newfound momentum in our EU accession process, especially after the very much important New Growth Plan presented by the EU Commission for the Western Balkans. Unfortunately, we are well-aware that this goodwill might not last forever, which is why there is a sense of urgency to modernize and advance our countries. In Albania, thanks to many courageous decisions that OECD and other partners helped us take in the past, we are now reaping the fruits of an accelerating economy that is increasingly based on a successful model of pillars, such as tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, and exports. These foundations have become a locomotive that has driven a strong post-Covid recovery, increasing yearly growth, and achieving record low unemployment. Moving forward, we hope to maintain this momentum and enhance the domino effect of our crucial reforms.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In closing, I applaud the OECD for providing a unique platform that enables us to discuss openly the opportunities and challenges we face, share best practices, and contemplate the most suitable policy approaches for the benefit of all our citizens. Our future, or rather the pace of the implementation of the reforms that lie ahead, will depend on many factors. Some are within our control. Others are only partially or entirely out of our hands. However, from this beautiful location here in Paris, considering this unique moment in the history of our region and Europe, I am confident that we and the European policymakers will find the right way forward. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote, “The task is not to foresee the future, but to enable it.” Thank you for your attention.