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TOURISM • HOSPITALITY • BUSINESS • DIPLOMACY • CULTURE TOURISM • HOSPITALITY • BUSINESS • DIPLOMACY • CULTURE Petia Manolova “I Can Witness the EIB Impact in Albania” DECEMBER 2022 In Conversation with Dr. Sonja Kurz GIZ Albania Country Director
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We look forward to 2023 and to your continuous partnership, cooperation and treasured friendship.

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With an experience of more than 30 years with Starwood, Jean Franken, Owner of Franken Asociados for the last 15 years, comes to TRAILBLAZING MAGAZINE to talk about the uncommon small boutique hotels he is after.

In his rich portfolio, there are 17 properties located in the Latin America. He represents them in the European markets. “I am only working with boutique hotels because today when I am travelling in Europe and meeting with owners of travel agencies or tour operators, we realize that the clients are more after the boutique hotels than really big five-star hotels with 200 or 300 rooms,” Franken said in this exclusive interview.

You have been with Starwood for about 30 years of your career. What have been the takings you have gained from this big experience within this international hotel company?

For me, it was a great experience. When I was still at the University in Madrid, I had to do some practice during the summer time. It was 1977. As doing my practice, I was contacted by the General Manager of the Hotel in Brussels.

He asked me if I was interested to be a management trainee in all the departments of the hotel during the next two years. Of course, I was very interested.

Full interview below:

I accepted. I was able to continue my studies in Madrid, presenting only the exams at the end of the year. Once I finished my management trainee for two years in all the departments, I started my career as a front office manager and slowly

Hotel Sol & Luna (Urubamba, Perú)

I grew during these 30 years travelling all around the world. For me, it was a great experience because I was not only able to grow in my career but also to know different properties and different countries. So, I visited Europe, Africa and I was in South America.

Given your rich property portfolio, what are the hotels you represent in Latin America and among them, can you mention any best conceptualized one?

The thing is that two years after I finished my career with Starwood, I was contacted by a very exclusive property in Buenos Aires – the Alvear Palace Hotel – which is really the best hotel in Argentina and member of the leading hotels in the world. I was asked to help them reinforce the sales department and the idea was to stay for 3 months. At the end, I stayed about two years in Buenos Aires in charge of the property. Of course, my idea was not to continue as director of sales of the property. After two years, I told them that

I will go to Europe and I could represent them in the European market.

I did so from 2012 until 2020. What happened is that after the pandemic, I lost some properties like the Alvear Palace. Since then, I started in 2012 with three properties and today I have 17. I really look for properties in 4 countries in Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Peru.

I am only working with boutique hotels because today when I am travelling in Europe and meeting with owners of travel agencies or tour operators, we realize that the clients are more after the boutique hotels than really big five-star hotels with 200 or 300 rooms. This is the reason why now I am focused on boutique hotels. All the properties are independent properties, all have different owners except two in Chile and two in Brazil.

They are members of Virtuoso or Small Luxury Hotels or Relais & Chateaux. My job is

to position them in the European markets. The smallest hotel on my list of properties is Chez Georges in Rio, Brazil with 7 rooms and the biggest is in Peru – Sol Y Luna with 44 casitas.

I do sales calls like the recent ones I did in Barcelona and in Amsterdam last November. Previously I was in Munich. I also participate at some travel shows such as Pure in or Emotions in Buenos Aires.

You are such a successful expert in many departments especially in the sales department. Can you describe a day of yours within this department? What makes you so successful?

I have to say that after 30 years I spent with Starwood, I was able to work in the operations of the properties, sales department and the accounting department. I know exactly what I can promise to the clients if it is regarding food and beverages, banquets, reception or any kind of operations which I was able to learn in Starwood. Today I am looking for

small properties, very well located, not very much well known. So, my duty is to position these properties in the European markets. I was able to visit all of them at least two or three times. I have excellent communication relations with the GMs and the Director of Sales. Every time there is something new that the hotelier offers to the client, they inform me. Most importantly, when I travel to visit these properties, I also visit their competitors as well. More and more boutique hotels are prevailing. I would say that 70 percent of the business to these hotels is more leisure. I work closely with all the local DMCs in these countries. If needed I can recommend them. So, it is a win-win situation. I can recommend very good tour operators in Argentina or Chile and of course, in a certain way, they are ‘obliged’ to recommend my properties. So, it is a win-win situation.

In your view, what makes a good hotel concept?

The location is very important. The service and the facilities they are offering. Try to

Hotel Eolo (El Calafate, Argentina)
Hotel SLS Puerto Madero (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

be exclusive, meaning to offer something special than the other properties do not. In most of the cases, the owners recommend me because they like the list of the properties I represent. Important is that when I have a new property on my list, automatically the travel agencies, managers and tour operators think that if this property is on the list of Jean, undoubtedly it is a great one or it is a great location. Most of the properties are well-known ones such as Lima in Peru, the Sacred Valley near to Machu Picchu or a property in the coast – Hotel Kichic in Máncora, Peru. I can tell you that five

years ago, nobody knew that you can swim in Peru. You could go for great and particular food, archaeological sites and others but nobody knew that you could go to Pacific to swim. Today it is one of the main top destinations that we are selling the most because we are presenting the property to the clients and we know it is a great asset. Likewise, we have the property of LAGOS DEL FURIOSO Hotel in Argentina. It is a very small boutique hotel with 11 rooms and suites. Whereas Furioso is a very small river dividing the two most important lakes in Argentina. Of course, you won’t perhaps visit this location the first time you visit Argentina, but why not the second time if the clients are really interested in horse racing, trekking or they want to be near the nature. They will go to visit the property and my job is to put this property on the map and the clients are thinking of this destination for the next trips.

Do you plan to expand your map in unexplored markets, like Albania or the Balkans in general?

It is a very good question. Many time people ask me if I can represent other properties. I say no because I am working by myself. Sometimes I get help for the arrangement of the mailing list or the data base. But I am really concentrated on the four countries: Brazil, Chile, Peru and Argentina, these are the ones I have actually. And to tell you the truth, representing 17 properties is already enough job.

Do you represent any travel shows as well?

I also represent a travel show which is held yearly in South America which is called “Emotions.” I am in charge of the European markets in this event. Next year, this event will be held in Buenos Aires on April 23-26. My job is to bring 60 travel agencies from Europe to participate in this show.

La Ferme de Georges (Atins, Brasil)















The Clarks Hotels and Resorts appoints Gabriel David Gunesekere as Head Development

– Sri Lanka, Maldives and International

The Clarks Hotels and Resorts is happy to announce the appointment of Mr. Gabriel David Gunesekere as Head Development Hotels & Resorts – Sri Lanka, Maldives & International. He will be responsible for negotiating management contracts, branding, recruiting the Teams in certain geographical locations with a focus on the expansion of properties in Sri Lanka & the Maldives with representations internationally, according to Hotelier India.

Gabriel also has a key interest towards continuous education having followed many Tourism studies and workshops especially with the World Tourism Organization (WTO) in Qatar, Accor Academy Dubai. Currently he is pursing online MBA from The Staffordshire University U.K., Hotelier India reported.

He has worked with renowned brands such as The French hotel group –Accor Hotels Qatar / The Gulf Region promoting different brands of Accor Hotels, Swiss-Belhotel International, Bahrain, Millennium hotel, Abu Dhabi. Jebel Ali Resorts Dubai, The Kingsbury Hotel Colombo, Sri Lanka, The Rose Garden Hotel Yangon, Myanmar etc.

His experience is also extended towards Inbound Tourism in - Oman, The Maldives and Sri Lanka. Gabriel holds a Flying License and speaks French, Intermediate German and a few other Languages.

Prior to the present assignment, he was working as Director of Sales & Marketing

for The Kingsbury Hotel Colombo, Sri Lanka and The Rose Garden Hotel, Yangon, Myanmar. During his work tenure he significantly increased the corporate, MICE & leisure segment revenues and improved both the positioning of hotels and the sales teams alike, according to Hotelier India.

Gabriel Gunesekere shares with Hotelier India, “I must say that I am indeed excited to join The Clarks Hotels & Resorts, especially when the group has planned to focus on an expansion drive overseas. Due to my prior work experience in hospitality that is spread across many countries internationally, I can understand the intricacies of different cultures and business segments similarly. Considering the post pandemic period, we can certainly see a huge shift taking place especially in the hospitality sector. Travelers are now looking for safer protocols in health-related areas that include up-market properties. Customers are also more demanding and tech-savvy and select properties with international standards and quality properties. We are delighted to mention that we are always happy to tie-up with those properties that also align together with our brand values. We want to ensure these properties provide the same level of hospitality for which The Clarks Hotels & Resorts share and portray.”

Further negotiations are currently in the pipeline for new property tie-ups with The Clarks Hotels & Resorts Network both in Sri Lanka & the Maldives with other key geographical locations etc.

In front of the Austrian Embassy in New Delhi, India, Nov. 2022 Photo from left to right: In ATM Dubai, May 2022 / In Maldives, September 2022

“There is a booming market for branded residences and DAMAC is at the forefront of this charge. As a respected property developer active in the formation of Dubai’s skyline since 2002, we have earned a reputation for delivering unique and quality luxury products, but also experiences. This is our way to boost our value proposition with our clientele and we have been hugely successful in this realm,” Niall McLoughlin, Senior Vice President of DAMAC said.

The collection of penthouses will have direct private access to the roof, which will feature private sky gardens and a party terrace

with infinity pools. Meanwhile, podium level amenities include a beautiful lagoon dropoff area, a gym and spa, cigar lounge, club rooms, a floating juice bar and cabanas, lush tropical gardens, and last but not least, a stunning Cavalli-branded lobby.

“Working with well-established brands like Cavalli not only adds an extra premium factor, but also gives us, the developer, confidence because of their established track record when it comes to being meticulous when it comes to attention to detail and delivering quality products. Cavalli Couture will deliver all this and more,” McLoughlin added.


DAMAC Properties is pleased to announce the launch of Cavalli Couture, the property developer’s latest ultra-luxury branded living experience overlooking Safa Park along the Dubai Canal.

The exclusive project is a low-rise 14 storey building featuring 70 units comprising 3, 4 and 5-bedroom duplex sky villas and duplex penthouses. Each unit will have its very own private infinity pool and terrace garden overlooking the glistening waters of the Dubai Canal with stunning views of the Dubai skyline and Burj Khalifa on one side.

Meanwhile, the Safa Park view on the other side of the unit offers residents direct views of Burj Al Arab.

The interiors, inspired by the Amazon Jungle, will be branded by Cavalli, in yet another DAMAC collaboration with the world-renowned Italian fashion house Roberto Cavalli. The developer’s previous collaborations include Cavalli Tower, a 70-storey skyscraper in Dubai Marina overlooking Palm Jumeirah launched in 2021 and the GEMS Estates collection of ultra-luxury villas in DAMAC Hills launched earlier this year.


This is Where Horwath HTL Albania Could Make a Difference: INTERVIEW WITH


“Considering the positive development dynamics and potential in tourism industry in Albania, it was the right time and the unique opportunity for Horwath HTL to open the office in Tirana,” tells

Majlind Lazimi, who took the position of Managing Director - Horwath HTL Albania last September.

He reveals what strongly stirred the opening of Horwath HTL Albania. “Being an emerging economy that on the one hand has great touristic resources and on the other hand has still untapped tourism potential with an uprising appetite

by international brands to penetrate the market – all this was a strong case in favor of our decision to open the office in Tirana.”

Talking about the current projects, Lazimi, a senior economic adviser and business consultant for the last 13 years, said that the Office is working on the several large mix-used development projects – including hotels, residentials and commercials.

“In our portfolio of clients, we have from big holding companies to banks and international donors such as World Bank,” he said.

Full interview below:

Majlind Lazimi - Mediterranean Tourism Forum
Just for the first 6-month period of 2022, the Bank of Albania confirms that foreign residents have invested more than 140 million Euro in real estate acquisitions in the country, ranked as the 1st contributor to FDIs in Albanian economy.

1. Horwath HTL, recently has opened its Office in Albania, becoming the 19th office in Europe while you are heading this office. What is your vision and your primary objectives in this posting?

As you know, Horwath HTL is the world’s largest and most experienced tourism and hospitality consulting brand, with 52 offices around the globe. The Albania office is launched by Horwath HTL Croatia, which is also the Global Centre of Excellence for tourism advisory within Horwath HTL internationally. We are a strong international team that is at the same time extremely well aware of the local context.

Considering the positive development dynamics and potential in tourism industry in Albania, it was the right time and the unique opportunity for Horwath HTL to open the office in Tirana.

art professional strategic and operational advisory to the country, the investors and the international brands.

Also, Horwath HTL as a strategic advisor for more than 80 Governments globally, is very much looking forward towards supporting public sector in creating more competitive environment for overall tourism development, policy and strategic planning, tourism marketing and branding, digital transformation of tourism sector and many more challenges that are ahead of the Ministry of Tourism and Environment, relevant Agencies and the Government as such.

believe that this trend will be strengthened in the next few years, not just from the domestic demand but also from the generated demand by international clients for property acquisition in Albania.

Just for the first 6-month period of 2022, the Bank of Albania confirms that foreign residents have invested more than 140 million Euro in real estate acquisitions in the country, ranked as the 1st contributor to FDIs in Albanian economy.

making and the development strategy of the public sector and the private investors on how to learn from past and others’ mistakes and to contextualize the successful business models from around the world. This is where Horwath HTL Albania could make a difference as our strategic intention is to make a long-lasting impact for the investors and the country as whole.

3. What are some significant tourism development trends in Albania people should be aware of?

We are global leader in tourism, hotel real estate and leisure advisory, and our vision for Albania is the same. Our single goal is to establish a local office and the team that will cater for all local needs of the market, providing globally state of the

2. How healthy would you say the Albanian real estate and development market is heading through 2022 and on? What are the factors that are considerably influencing in this regard? To what extent did the market impact the opening of this Office?

Based on all domestic and international reports, the real estate development is the driving force for the economic growth in Albania. When it comes to touristic regions the real estate market is still bullish and we

Being an emerging economy that on the one hand has great touristic resources and on the other hand has still untapped tourism potential with an uprising appetite by international brands to penetrate the market – all this was a strong case in favor of our decision to open the office in Tirana.

I believe that the high competitiveness of the regional market, insufficient local tourism management capacities and the increasing market attractiveness for private investments in tourism sector in Albania – all these indispensably require the professional expertise to advise policy-

I think that we shall aim for a sustainable tourism development model. In practice it means that while hospitality and real estate projects are developing, the people are caring much more for the combined economic, social and environmental impacts of these projects.

Overall, tourism is about both content and narrative. Content-wise, we need to preserve and best-us our natural resources (seas, lakes, mountains ect). Narrativewise, we shall be smarter in promoting these resources and our touristic offer throughout Albania and around the year.


I think Albania has a unique opportunity for targeting and attracting different market segments, by striking the right balance between developing an environmentallyfriendly massive tourism with affordable prices and high-end or luxury tourism with premium prices. In today’s Instagrammable world, the tourists are looking for exclusive experience and are requiring the highquality service for which they are willing to pay a premium price. It is the guest experience and quality of services that brings the economic and financial dividends to tourism sector.

4. Can you mention some of the main projects of Horwath HTL Office Albania?

Currently we are working on the several large mix-used development projects – including hotels, residentials and commercials. In our portfolio of clients, we have from big holding companies to banks and international donors such as World Bank.

5. What are the main regions in Albania with major development investment and why. Most of the tourism projects are

concentrated in the costal areas, starting from Velipoja, Shengjin, Lalzi Bay and all the way to the southern riviera, where the developments are more intense. The simple reason for new investments is the insufficient and relatively poor quality of existing tourism accommodation structures. For example, Montenegro with a population of at least 4 times less than Albania has 3 times more the accommodation capacity.

Also, when it comes to international branded hotels and seasonality, Albania lags quite behind Montenegro. Considering the medium to long term trend of inbound tourism in Albania, the supply of accommodation structures is still falling behind the demand. That is why there is a need to invest in new accommodation structures, some of which will be affiliated with international brands that will enhance the marketing of the destination and the quality of services, by bringing more added value to our economy and satisfying the expectations of both local and international guests.

6- What would be your recommendations for future investors: invest in single use units or multi-use hotels?

As I mentioned, most of the projects we are currently engaged as consultant to the investors are mix-used investments, which combines hotels, residentials and commercial properties. Having in

particular development area a mix of property types, it diversifies the risks and increases the potential returns for the investors. Based on our international benchmark analysis, we always recommend a balanced development of mix-used properties keeping in mind sustainable tourism goals.


However, one should be aware of the power of differentiation. In previous investment waves we have seen number of investments that are very similar to each other and they had success due to the lack of proper supply. In the future, new projects will have to focus on creation of added value to guests and property buyers, by highlighting services, distinction and creation of experiences. This is what will differentiate developments among themselves and bring premium market value to the investors.

7- Within the scope of action of Howarth HTL Albania, what are the most demanded areas?

Currently, the southern coastline has attracted more investors due to its beautiful nature, crystal-clear sea water, new public infrastructure investment (e.g., new airport and Llogara tunnel), real estate market potential, and still more virgin areas compared with the northern coastline.

8- How much is your background as a seasoned economist helping in this challenging post? What is motivating you most?

I think my professional background as economist gives me a broader perspective when it comes to tourism development.

In my previous positions I was looking at tourism sector only from policy-making angle and now I am also engaged with “hands on” as consultant looking from the perspective of private investor as well.

At Horwath HTL, we are strategic advisers for both public sector (including international donors) and private investors.

The biggest motivation for doing my job with passion is to marry both the interest of public sector and private investors in developing the tourism sector, as I believe it is the driving for sustainable economic development, employment and prosperity of Albania.

At Horwath HTL Albania, our team has the ambition and motivation to build our legacy as an active player in supporting tourism transformation of the country towards sustainable, resilient and more competitive future.

Majlind Lazimi

Making a significant contribution by aiding others in stressful and urgent situations gives me a sense of confidence and belief that I can make a lasting difference. As Mother Teresa once said, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”

Rediana Bajrami

Inspired by the 5S Principle in Japan

Rediana Bajrami, who works at the Ministry of Finance and Economy in the role of the Head of cooperation, agreements and contracts sector, comes to TRAILBLAZING MAGAZINE to narrate her journey that has guaranteed an excellent career for her today.

In particular, she is in charge of the internal procedures when it comes to the signing of the economic cooperation agreements and institutional cooperation memorandums as well as agreements on foreign investments’ promotion and protection. She also deals with the procedures for the intergovernmental commissions’ sessions.

She has gone through many trainings but the one which has impacted her most has been the one in Japan.

TRAILBLAZING MAGAZINE invites you to read Rediana’s insights.

Full interview below:

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be interviewed today. Currently, I work at the Ministry of Finance and Economy as Head of the cooperation, agreements and contracts sector.

My convictions in leadership are loyalty, hard work, integrity, enthusiasm and energy. I am passionate about what I believe and the work that I do. Since we use so much of our day in the workplace, it is imperative that we are productive with our time. Over the years of my career, it has been my joy to learn adapt myself to various situations and challenges, never being afraid to take on difficult, seemingly impossible tasks. This is how I have been able to grow into each of the positions that I have been entrusted with throughout the last decade.

I have worked with some great leaders and incredible teams, always seeing my role

to utilize enthusiasm, to make a positive impact on my colleagues and those around me. Making a significant contribution by aiding others in stressful and urgent situations gives me a sense of confidence and belief that I can make a lasting difference. As Mother Teresa once said, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”

You have worked in the public sector for some years, initially in the High Inspectorate of the Declaration and Audit of Assets and Conflict of Interests, then in the Ministry of Economic Development, Tourism, Trade and the Albanian Investment Development Agency. Lately you are in charge of the same Sector of cooperation, agreements and contracts at the Ministry of Finance and Economy as you worked previously. Describe your current work experience, please.

I consider it a privilege to work in this sector, because negotiating and following the

procedures for economic agreements/ memorandums with different countries is both interesting and a great responsibility.

To be effective one must take into consideration the importance of trade and economic relations between both parties, being guided by the common desire to develop mutual interest and understanding. The aim of the agreements is to promote bilateral economic cooperation.

The process of negotiation has proven to be an interesting challenge because it is both intricate and multifaceted which can last multiple years and involve many procedures and it still fascinates me.

The sessions of the joint intergovernmental commissions take place within economic and commercial cooperation agreements between the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Albania and the Governments of other countries.

For about a dozen times I have been able to be the delegation representative of the economic cooperation sector for these commissions which have produced protocols helping to bridge and strengthen international economic relations for the Republic of Albania.

What problems or hurdles do you actually face in your job?

One example is when there are difficult tasks that demand teamwork from different colleagues who all come from various backgrounds and I get to work with them all to find a solution.

Often I have to help facilitate the exchange of ideas and opinions to achieve an acceptable outcome.

I realize stressful situations are

always going to come up and I definitely have had to learn how to navigate them throughout my career and I have the opportunity to get better at remaining calm under pressure with every new experience.

How enjoying work has led you to great work results?

Steve Jobs eloquently said that “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” Passion drives me to enjoy my work and helps me to overcome obstacles in the workplace. If you feel confident and secure with the work you are producing, you will be able to complete it to your fullest potential. Persistence has led to quality work that elevates me and brings me that much closer to my next goal. Working, brainstorming, and discussing with my colleagues helps foster interest in work and create enthusiasm. Knowing that my efforts are on the right track motivates me to exert greater effort. Doing the work you love is stimulating and creates positive feedback which both boost

Hello Rediana! Would you like to introduce yourself?
Photo family at the end of the training in Japan

How has a series of meetings in Europe and training abroad, specifically in Japan, influenced your career development? Can you share some interesting episodes from these times with our readers?

I feel blessed that I got the chance to experience different countries and cultures because it helped me to improve my performance, acquire new skills, and make me more efficient at my job and more capable of handling various responsibilities and challenges.

The training strengthens my confidence because I have a deeper understanding of my role and responsibilities to perform even better and think of new ideas. The extending of my knowledge with advanced concepts and practices of the Japanese SME-s helped me and the department to achieve better

performance as well as sharing the excellent Japanese experience with my colleagues. I would like to emphasize that the “Production Management for Southeast European Countries” course helped me to understand the reason why Japan is among the most developed countries in the world and I’m very impressed by its history, culture, and tradition.

The 5S principle, as a fundamental base of the company management, is an organisation structure that prioritises efficiency and effectiveness at work place. The 5S technique, created in Japan, empowers businesses to realize these targets through the usage of five key steps. 5S is derived from the philosophy of “kaizen”, which simply means “continuous improvement”.

I have seen the excellent implementation of these principles during the visits in many companies such as Ryugetsu Sweetpia Garden, Nichinoki Seiko, and Toyota Motor Corporation. One saying that stands out is: “You never get a second chance to create a first impression.” So grateful for all the unforgettable experiences.

When you go back in time, how important has

For me, taking risks has eliminated the possibility of looking back and asking ‘What if?’ Even when I have failed, I have been able to walk away with more knowledge which has led me to further successes in other areas. Taking risks has also made me more confident and also has driven me closer to and led me to achieve my objectives.

What is next for you? Where do you see yourself in the near and distant future?

Well, I’m still considering my options for the future. In the near future, I envision myself being the best that I can be in my current role.

I enjoy situations that test my knowledge and require me to utilize my skills while working hard. I want to be in the action a little bit more instead of being behind the scenes. Hopefully in the future I can discover fresh challenges which will further develop my skills and abilities.

been for your career being determined and a risk-taker?
The first Toyota, manufactured in 1935 Toyota partner robot One of the cakes which has received international prizes. Moments from our visit in Ryugetsu Sweetpia Garden company, Japan
View from a cake which has received international prizes. Moments from our visit in Ryugetsu Sweetpia Garden company, Japan

“GIZ has supported 349 Albanian start-ups and 42 Innovation Support Organizations, out of which 25 universities. We have trained and increased the capacity of 542 aspiring entrepreneurs all over Albania.”

In Conversation


Working to Make Albania Fit for the Future

Dr. Sonja Kurz
Opening of the new Premmises of the German Development Cooperation Office in Albania

“Germany is the biggest bilateral donor in Albania and GIZ has been on the ground, implementing projects on behalf of the German Government since 1988 in the area of technical assistance. This makes us a reliable partner for sustainable development, contributing for more than 30 years to improve conditions for the Albanian population, youth perspective as well as gender equality.”

We sat with Dr. Sonja Kurz, GIZ Albania Country Director to discuss in details the GIZ projects in Albania and her so far experience in Albania empowering local institutions to create a better perspective for people living in Albania.

Kurz said that GIZ, alongside with partner institutions at regional, central and local levels, is actually implementing 27 projects in total, 7 of them bilateral, 13 regional, and 7 global. “They are all in line with the priorities of the Albanian Government and our principles of sustainability and institutionalization of supported measures,” Kurz stated, adding “Our main areas of

intervention are: sustainable economic development and employment, rural and urban development, water and solid waste, climate change, biodiversity, and European integration.”


I first came to this amazing country for the role of Country Director of GIZ Albania in 2019. It was a tough start with the earthquake and the Corona pandemic afterwards. However, I am more than proud that together with the fantastic team I found here in Tirana, we coped with the situation and adapted the measures we undertake through our projects to the needs of the partner institutions we capacitate and the people we help build a better future in Albania.

A lot has been done and achieved in this so-far journey at GIZ Albania, particularly when it comes to what makes our work special as an organization, taking Albanian institutions on board and empowering

them to create a better perspective for people living in Albania. We have a special focus on young people and women. Through technical assistance and financing, we work hand in hand with the Albanian side to facilitate processes, bring the best expertise to have a more innovative perspective, bring stakeholders from different groups together, and capacitate institutions through the instrument of integrated experts. It is a long way, but more sustainable, and we are sure this will make Albania fit for the future, a future with European Union standards.

In this context, I am very happy that Albania has been granted the new status of opening negotiations with the European Union. This will certainly have an influence on what we are doing in Albania, but the good thing is that there is a plan and it’s very clear now.

Can you share the ongoing and forthcoming GIZ projects with our readers?

Germany is the biggest bilateral donor in Albania and GIZ has been on the ground, implementing projects on behalf of the German Government since 1988 in the area of technical assistance. This makes us a reliable partner for sustainable development, contributing for more than 30 years to improve conditions for the Albanian population, youth perspective as well as gender equality.

Together with partner institutions at regional, central and local levels, GIZ is actually implementing 27 projects in total, 7 of them are bilateral, 13 regional, and 7 global and they are all in line with the priorities of the Albanian Government

interview: Please tell us about your so far journey at GIZ Albania?
Composting Plant in Cerrik Dr. Kurz during the Opening of the New Premises
Composting Plant in Cerrik

and our principles of sustainability and institutionalization of supported measures. Our main areas of intervention are: sustainable economic development and employment, rural and urban development, water and solid waste, climate change, biodiversity, and European integration.

Building on the good experience of our projects in employment promotion and Vocational Education and Training, GIZ is continuing in this area with the second “chapter” of a programme which started in April 2022. The aim is to focus even more on the creation of a sustainable economy and the support of businesses that are active in the green and digital sectors which are the sectors of the future and where we need to develop and promote skills and attitudes that we don’t have in the labor market of the country. The objective is to create prospects for employment through qualification and work-based learning, economic development and growth, strengthening of capacities, and inclusive society. Through this programme we also support our main partner, the Ministry of Finance and Economy and its implementing institutions such as the National Agency for Employment and Skills.

In the employment sector, a big effect is also given through seasonal workers. We have supported a National Study on the Engagement of Seasonal Workers in Albania in Agriculture and Tourism and data shows that around 15,500 people are seasonally employed in the tourism sector only during summer, and up to 88,000 people in the agricultural sector. With the Ministry of Finance and Economy, we are working on a Seasonal Workers Reform, which aims to facilitate procedures and formalize informal employees.

In Rural Development, the follow-up project builds on the experiences of the current measures as well and identifies opportunities in agriculture value-chains such as fruits and nuts, vegetables, medicinal and aromatic plants, and small ruminants, whereas, in the tourism sector, we focus on products like hiking, camping, cycling, and climbing. To strengthen the sustainability strategy, the focus on the demand side of the market will be incorporated even more strongly into the project design. Through this, the interaction between the state, business, and civil society will be improved. Important framework topics will include support for the EU rapprochement process, the green economy, and digitization, here as well.

An important topic for GIZ is waste management services in the municipalities. Around 190 thousand families benefited from the work done so far in 10 municipalities. 3 waste resource centers have been established in Himara, Saranda,

and Cërrik, where 39 tons of paper, cardboard, plastic, and aluminum cans are collected separately, bailed, and sold to recycling companies. More than 300 tons of organic fertilizer have been produced and used to improve municipal greening areas. These are pilot examples as pioneers for the first time in Albania. Examples are being replicated and scaled up in other municipalities such as Rroskovec and Belsh. With the ban of carrier plastic bags starting from the 1st of June 2022, GIZ has supported the Albanian government with the legal amendment and a big awareness campaign. We will further support preparing a road map and implementing measures for phasing out single-use plastic items that consist of the vast of plastic waste leaking into the Adriatic Sea. Furthermore, we will support in the next three years the Balkan region with instruments and to enhance

authorities for achieving the common target by reducing the leakage of plastic waste to the Adriatic Sea by 10 % till 2030.

The current situation in the water supply and sanitation sector of Albania requires a profound and radical reform, particularly with regard to reliability, transparency, performance orientation, and accountability for a better and more sustainable provision of the water supply and sanitation services

German Information Center for Migration, Vocational Training and Career, DIMAK Albania Customer Care Office of Kukes Water Utility
Opening of the New Premises

for the population and in the respect of the environment. The Albanian government is committed to further restructuring the sector, aiming at the aggregation of water supply and sewerage services with the sole purpose of improving the quality of services and increasing the effectiveness of the operating processes of Water Utility

companies. GIZ will be assisting the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy, the National Agency for Water Supply Wastewater and Waste Infrastructure, and Water Utilities in the implementation of the water sector aggregation reform, designed to improve the quality of water supply and sewerage services, which will help reduce poverty, improve the health situation and contribute to economic growth and sustainability.

In the transport sector, we work to promote climate-friendly mobility in Tirana, one of the densest and fastest-growing cities in Europe. The number of vehicles rose from almost zero at the end of communism in the late 1980s to around 200 cars per 1,000 inhabitants, creating extreme traffic and severe air quality. This means for Tirana that the number of cars is increasing to 180.000 and with this trend, it will increase with 7000 more in one year. We are supporting the Municipality of Tirana to improve the service quality of the bus system, establishing a data-driven mobility management culture, and promoting walking and cycling through demonstration projects. This all is much needed in a city where more than 70% of car trips are shorter than 5km and could be easily replaced by walking, cycling or public transport.

Migration is an important topic in Albania. Through the German Information Centre on Migration, Vocational Training and Careers (DIMAK Albania), which is now located at the new premises of the German Development Cooperation Office in Tirana, and another office in Shkodra, we continue to provide information, support, and individual counseling to everyone looking for employment opportunities, attending vocational education or qualification courses in Albania and Germany. Through DIMAK intervention, approximately 3.200 persons have been placed into employment, or have found a

job; we have provided more than 16.580 Education and Qualification measures, and 18.875 counseling sessions. We are supporting for the second year paid on-the-job internship and training. Around 240 people, especially returnees, have the chance to acquire new skills in a real working environment for 8 weeks in the tourism and hospitality sector, in 4 different cities in Albania.

Focusing on youth is at the center of our work and we believe that we should be creating a culture of mobility, intercultural exchange, and reconciliation. Young people should also be active contributors to democratic development, social and economic prosperity, and European integration in an increasingly open Western Balkans region. Together with the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO), GIZ is implementing a regional school exchange scheme called “Superschools” through which we are giving the opportunity to high school students from the entire Western Balkan region to participate in the first regional school exchange scheme.

Last but not least, we of course support Albania

in the EU accession negotiations in chapters of the Acquis covering the internal market.

What are the contributions of GIZ towards the landscape of start-ups in Albania?

Since 2018, GIZ is the lead organization

EU for Innovation - ICT HUB Korca EU for Innovation - ICT HUB Korca GIZ Albania Migration Labyrinth GIZ Albania Staff
ProSEED Expo - Business Innovation in Action

in the implementation of the “EU for Innovation” Multi-Donor project, cofinanced by the European Union, the German, and Swedish governments. Through this project, we have contributed to the improvement of the innovation ecosystem and boosted start-up creation throughout Albania. It is focused on three areas: Increasing capacities among Albanian innovation ecosystem actors (Start-ups, Innovation Support Organizations, Universities, and Policy Makers); Strengthening linkages within the Albanian entrepreneurial/innovation ecosystem locally and internationally; Improving access to funding for innovative start-ups and Innovation Support Organizations (through the Challenge Fund implemented by Sida).

As a result, GIZ has supported 349 Albanian start-ups and 42 Innovation Support Organizations, out of which 25 universities. We have trained and increased the capacity of 542 aspiring entrepreneurs all over Albania. Speaking of impact on the

real economy, Albanian start-ups signed 18 commercial agreements with commercial partners. We have supported drafting 5 policy inputs for Albanian policymakers and the main impact is the Albanian Law “On the support and development of innovative

start-ups” which entered into force in March 2022 alongside a governmental grant scheme for start-ups and Innovation Support Organizations (1st tranche of 2.5 Mio. EUR in 2022).

Long before working more specifically with start-ups, GIZ supported the private sector development in Albania, mainly the numerous Micros, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) that make up a major part of the private businesses in the country and provide most of the employment. We focused on training and financial

support for young entrepreneurs, as well as on strengthening MSMEs to better compete in the market, by expanding their portfolios and becoming generators of new jobs and employment, with the aim to directly contribute to the overall economy of the country. Moreover, we supported the creation of a new brand - IDEA, Innovative Development of Entrepreneurs in Albania (IDEA), which aims at increasing entrepreneurial skills among owners of new or existing small and medium enterprises. By the end of 2021, we’ve had over 2500 participants, out of which around 800 returnees attending capacity development programs and entrepreneurship IDEA training, which help Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises and start-ups grow and innovate and, in this way, create new jobs. And we’re happy that the results amount to over 750 new jobs created by existing and new startups. Furthermore, over 150 young entrepreneurs, of which 43 are returnees to Albania from Germany and other countries, have obtained small grants for setting up their businesses.

With all these activities, we firmly created the basis for an innovative start-up support but will of course continue with supporting the overall private sector in Albania, in this way complementing each other also in the future.

In the regional context, we are supporting the professionalization of the start-up ecosystems in the Western Balkans. With funds from the German Government, we are working, in the first place, to analyse

EU for Innovation - Tirana Inc. Mentoring Session Agritourism, Shijak, Albania Hiking Tourism Product, Lepushe, Albania
Agritourism, Fishte, Albania

ecosystems within the region in order to understand in which segments or sectors they excel and support the start-up support organizations to further strengthen their services in those areas. In addition, the project provides capacity-building services to the start-up support organizations and networking opportunities to boost their connectedness at regional and EU levels. Moreover, with the support of GIZ, the startup support organizations established the Western Balkans Start-up Alliance with the aim to unite all ecosystem stakeholders, foster the exchange of knowledge and promote the success stories of the start-ups from the region.

How has GIZ managed to improve the conditions for sustainable tourism and agritourism in Albania?

GIZ is somehow considered a pioneer in rural tourism development not only in Albania but in the Balkan region too.

Between 2005 and 2007, GIZ boosted tourism in Theth with first support for local houses to help them transform into accommodation structures and set minimum standards there. In 2011 the Peaks of the Balkans trail was launched

and in 2014 the trail received the “Tourism of Tomorrow Award” from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) where the former US President Bill Clinton, in his laudatory speech quoted: “The trail has opened minds and borders, it is a tribute to the vision and energy of cooperating governments, municipalities, and local tourism stakeholders.”

Sustainable tourism concepts have emerged along this trail by creating new perspectives for the local population and somehow counteracting rural exodus in Albania with families returning to their villages and offering their homes as a shelter for tourists.

Having this as a model, as of 2017 GIZ is developing a new long-distance hiking trail

on a mountainous landscape characterized by unspoiled nature, so far little developed for tourism, but with very high potential. This is exactly why the idea of the High Scardus Trail was born, namely, to create a highly attractive long-distance hiking trail for the booming target group of “traveling long-distance hikers” and therebybased on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - at the same time a very sustainable regional economic development of the peripheral mountain regions along the border mountains of Albania, Kosovo & North Macedonia.

During these past two difficult years for the tourism sector due to corona, more interventions have been made or planned, all focused on rural areas. More hiking trails have been identified and developed, together with emerging new touristic products such as mountain biking, climbing, and cycling, many of these which are also offered at the South Outdoor Festival in the south and N’Altitude Festival in the north of Albania.

On the other hand, agritourism is a sustainable growing trend in Albania as

well. From 2-3 agritourism that we had some years ago, pioneers in the sector, we are counting now more than 200 structures, big and small, all-around Albania. The tourists, domestic and foreign, are shifting from one overnight stay to 2-3 overnight stays on average.

We are supporting the government and have delivered to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Tourism and Environment an in-depth study of the sector that includes recommendations related to the legal framework, fiscal policy, linkage of agritourism with local producers, diversified activities in the farm, promotion, etc. We are working together step by step to fulfill these recommendations. Furthermore, we have worked directly with the private sector offering different training packages related to online marketing, and language skills, introducing educational farm concepts as a way of diversifying their offers, responding to the covid crises, etc.

GIZ has supported the promotion of Agritourism developing the AgroTimeAl mobile application, the first digital guide

Urban mobility in Albania Climate Change Hiking Tourism Product, Lepushe, Albania Multi-functional Center of Kamza

of rural tourism, portraying more than 200 agritourism, touristic farms, culinary tours, winery cantinas, rural camping sites, etc. Only during the first year, this application had more than 5000 downloads. One of the main projects of GIZ related to agritourism was the support for the establishment of the Albanian Agritourism Association, an initiative of the private sector that now has 71 members. We believe that the association will be an important actor and will play a key role when it comes to the future of the agritourism sector development.

We are focusing on the linkage between agritourism and small local producers. According to our data, on average 1 wellestablished agritourism is linked to 20 families in the area, from which they buy different products and services. Agritourism plays a crucial role in the empowerment of women in rural areas. 75 % of the workload in agritourism is managed by women, who play a key role in the decision-making, too. Agritourism is attractive to young people, as well. The average age of people involved in agritourism is 40 years old and these young people are embracing the

importance of education relevant to the field of work, such as enology, rural tourism, agriculture, etc.

To what extent, is the GIZ contributing to the improvement and diversity of farming associated with the training of the farmers to accept new working methods and acquire new farming skills? Considering the new increasing requirements for high product quality standards of the EU and world markets, and in line with Albania’s Government priorities for increasing exports and food safety, GIZ has during the past years introduced numerous innovations that contribute towards these goals, and which at the same time take into account environmental aspects. For instance, in greenhouse vegetables, biological pest control has been introduced so that no pesticides are used in tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetables, thereby contributing to higher product quality and protecting the environment. Six demonstration trials have been set up in different greenhouses owned by private farmers, as well as in the public research centre in Lushnja.

In addition to beneficial insects in greenhouse vegetables, another innovation that has been introduced in the frame of biological control that contributes to high product quality and high yields is the grafted tomato seedlings. The grafted seedlings are resistant to damaging parasites thereby reducing the application of agrochemicals in vegetables. These innovations contribute to increasing the product quality and making Albanian vegetables competitive in European markets.

In the frame of supporting the Fruit sector in Albania, GIZ has continued to support partners such as the Research Centre (Agricultural Technology Transfer Center) in Korca and fruit producers across Albania with digital solutions for pest and disease management. The pest and disease management is provided through an interactive Decision Support System, which collects weather data from 8 weather stations in Albania operated by the Agricultural Technology Transfer Center in Korca and through a software installed on computer performs climate data calculation (temperature, humidity, etc.).

Graphs are displayed automatically, showing moments of exposure to different diseases and pests in apples, enabling farmers to start treatments with the right preparations at the right time. This system helps farmers to reduce by 4-6 the number of chemical treatments, thereby lowering the cost of production, as well as protecting the environment from excessive pesticide contamination.

Other innovations have been introduced also in the Medicinal and Aromatic Plants sector, such as identification of toxic plants and experiments with different species and varieties. For products to keep the quality high and to be accepted by importing companies, no toxic plants should be mixed with the medicinal plants. As of 2022, the EU requirements and the limits for toxic plants have become very stringent, therefore demanding very high product quality. On the other hand, public research centres are being capacitated to conduct experiments to identify suitable varieties and species of wild medicinal plants that could be cultivated by farmers, reducing in this way the pressure on biodiversity. Additionally,

Greenhouse Production, Vegetable Value Chain, Fier, Albania
Multi-functional Center of Kamza

experiments are being conducted also on determining the most appropriate harvesting time that gives highest market value for the products.

Finally, innovations have been introduced also in the livestock sector, such as in small ruminants. For instance, shepherds and dairy factories have been exposed to new innovations such as cooling tanks operated by solar panels. These cooling tanks operated by solar panels can be used by shepherds up in the pastures, reducing their travelling frequency to collection points and keeping the goat and sheep milk fresh and in high quality. The solar panels can additionally be used as a source of energy up in the pasture to charge mobile phones or operate other small electric appliances.

Would you brief our readers what are the GIZ Albania plans in regard to the climate and environment, as well as the preservation of natural resources?

Albania is the most affected and vulnerable country in Europe from Climate-induced events. As such, the sector has been of high importance for us. Germany is one of the biggest contributors to supporting the Albanian government in setting the policy scene and implementing the

Climate Agenda for the country. Following the support in preparing the National Energy and Climate Plan and the National Adaptation Plan along with enabling the scene for sound and meaningful Flood Risk Management in Drin Basin, we are working closely with the Ministry of Tourism and Environment and the Ministry of Finance to reach the targets and ambitious of the Albanian Government towards the international climate agenda. Looking at the aspects of the private sector engagement and enabling the financial institutions to access climate finances is another innovative aspect of our work in Albania.

Last but not least, we are working on a project that would bring together the need to address climate effects and country vulnerabilities, by improving the climate information and services, modernizing and transforming the hydrometer sector as well as using technology and innovation for a more resilient Albania. For the first time in Albania, we are aiming to bring together efforts and support from the German Government, Swiss Government, and Albanian Government backed up with financing from the Green Climate Fund.

On the other hand, though Albania represents less than 0,3 % of the European continent, it is home to more than 30 % of its flora and fauna. Besides the rich biodiversity, Albania is a country rich in water resources considered the second country in Europe for the amount of fresh water per capita. The rivers, lakes, and the extensive coastline, secure quality water for the citizens, water for tourism, and industry.

Thanks to their rare and unique fauna and flora, the western Balkans lakes of Prespa, Ohrid and Shkodra/Skadar are biodiversity hotspots in Europe. Located

and shared between Albania and its neighboring countries, they are respectively the largest, the richest, and the deepest in Balkan, providing great opportunities for tourism and income generation for the local population and fisherman society. Protecting these values is key to Albania to ensure this richness is there for the next generations, to keep the water clean, the air pure, and life sustained. It will ensure visitors continue coming and enjoying these values, creating opportunities, jobs, and income for the Albanian citizens.

important when preparing a skilled workforce that has to be able to meet the industries’ demands. Therefore, we have contributed to developing a new model for VET provision that meets labor market demands, nationally and regionally. This means e.g., we will invest in more training on digital skills as in skills needed for setting up and maintaining the sector of renewable energies.

Sustainable management of biodiversity and proper management of lakes and fish in Prespa, Ohrid, and Shkodra/ Skadar was at the core of GIZ’s work on behalf of the German Government. These values have no boundaries and can only be managed in collaboration with riparian countries bringing them together and jointly progressing towards the European Union.

The Multifunctional Center of Kamza (MFC Kamza) is the biggest vocational school in the country and with our support is transformed into a successful model that serves as a basis for the optimization of the VET Public System to be implemented in the years to come. Besides, we support the National Agency for Employment and Skills to improve curricula and with infrastructure development (17 new laboratories and 33 new training programmes); teacher training (close to 80 % of the teachers working in the VET public system are trained), workbased learning in the businesses, and international exchange among students such as student exchange among MFC Kamza and the Technical University of Berlin. As a result, around 12.000 job seekers have been trained in long and short-term courses offered in MFC Kamza, in 10 public vocational training centers, and 20 private providers. More than 50 % of them found and still have employment half a year after the qualification measures.

Vocational Education and Training (VET) has been an essential component of GIZ’s work in Albania over the years. Quality and market-oriented VET providers are

Investment in both technical and soft skills is very important nowadays to ensure the employability of young and adults. Therefore, over 12,000 unemployed jobseekers have been part of the job search and soft skills training measure called Start SMART, implemented in 10 Public VET Centers. All of this has set a new standard for customizing support to every individual.

Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Koplik, Albania Photo credits: Claudia Imami Milking machines. Small Ruminant Value Chain, ATTC Korca
How much of a priority is for GIZ the vocational training of the Albanian youngsters?

EIB Global is already involved in the development of new projects in Albania, especially in the areas of digitalisation and innovation, environmental protection and water management, sustainable tourism and rail transportation.


“I Can Witness the EIB Impact in Albania”


“Mund të Dëshmoj Ndikimin e BEI-t në Shqipëri”

EU Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi visits EU-funded Vlora bypass in Albania ( July 2022

Petia Manolova, European Investment Bank (EIB) representative to Albania declares in an exclusive interview with TRAILBLAZING MAGAZINE that “as a trusted partner of Albania, the EIB has provided €637 million to date for financing investment projects for the country’s socioeconomic development.”

Detailing out the EIB projects in Albania and in the Western Balkans, she underlined that the EIB will work closely with the government of Albania and European Commission in delivering high-impact projects, “as they form part of the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans.”

accession and better living and business standards for all,” she relates.

Originally from Bulgaria, Manolova says that being in Albania has made her even more determined to work on projects in Albania.

Read full interview below:

Also Manolova highlights the launch of EIB Global, the EIB Group’s dedicated development finance branch, at the beginning of 2022 while stresses its crucial role in this specific moment.

“In Albania and the Western Balkans, EIB Global is working with international and local partners to help the region towards EU

1. Could you briefly illustrate to our readers what the European Investment Bank does in Albania and what its major projects are? The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the long-term lending institution of the European Union — owned by its Member States and operating in 160 countries — and is a key partner of Team Europe. Our investments around the world help create stability, promote sustainable growth and fight climate change. Over the last ten years, we have invested more than €70 billion beyond the European Union.

In Albania and the Western Balkans, EIB Global is working with international and

Petia Manolova përfaqësuesja e Bankës Europiane të Investimeve (BEI) në Shqipëri deklaron në një intervistë ekskluzive për TRAILBLAZING MAGAZINE se “Si një partner i besuar i Shqipërisë, BEI ka dhënë deri më sot 637 milionë euro në financimin e projekteve për zhvillimin social dhe ekonomik të vendit.”

BEI Globale po punon me partnerë ndërkombëtarë dhe vendas për të mbështetur rajonin drejt anëtarësimit në BE dhe për standarde më të mira jetese e biznesi për të gjithë njerëzit në rajon,” tha ajo.

Duke i shpjeguar në detaje projektet e BEI-t në në Shqipëri dhe në Ballkanin Perëndimor, ajo nënvizon se BEI do të punojë ngushtë me qeverinë e Shqipërisë dhe Komisionin Evropian në realizimin e këtyre projekteve me ndikim të lartë, “pasi ato janë pjesë e planit ekonomik dhe të investimeve për Ballkanin Perëndimor.”

Gjithashtu Manolova nxjerr në pah prezantimin e BEI Globale, dega e dedikuar e grupit të BEI-t për financat e zhvillimit, në fillim të vitit 2022 ndërsa thekson rolin kyç të tij në këtë moment specifik.

“Në Shqipëri dhe në Ballkanin Perëndimor,

Me origjinë nga Bullgaria, Manolova thotë se të qenurit këtu në Shqipëri e ka bërë edhe më të vendosur për të punuar në projekte në Shqipëri.

Lexoni intervistën e plotë më poshtë:

1. A mund të ilustroni shkurtimisht për lexuesit tanë se çfarë bën Banka Evropiane e Investimeve në Shqipëri dhe cilat janë projektet e saj më të mëdha? Banka Evropiane e Investimeve (BEI) është institucioni kreditues afatgjatë i Bashkimit Evropian, në pronësi të shteteve të tij anëtare dhe që ushtron aktivitetin në 160 vende në mbarë botën, si dhe është një partner kyç i Team Europe. Investimet tona në mbarë botën ndihmojnë në vendosjen e stabilitetit, promovimin e rritjes së


local partners to help the region towards EU accession and better living and business standards for all. The development and modernisation of sustainable infrastructure is particularly important in the current economic situation, where support for renewable energy, digitalisation, transport and agriculture will be essential for increasing resilience to crisis. Here, the European Commission’s Economic and Investment Plan provides an important blueprint and envisages €9 billion for these kinds of investments.

As a trusted partner of Albania, the EIB has provided €637 million to date for financing investment projects for the country’s socioeconomic development. The focus of our financing activities has been the modernisation of national and regional roads, the rehabilitation of infrastructure, energy production and transmission, urban regeneration and support for small and medium companies.

2. Can you provide some figures on the EIB’s activities in Albania and in Western Balkans?

Let me firstly say that we are a demand driven bank. Since the start of operations, the EIB has supported transport, water distribution, energy, urban development and small and medium companies (SMEs) in Albania. In the transportation sector alone, the EIB has invested €284 million to date to support the construction of motorway bypasses for the cities of Vlorë and Fier, as well as a 24 km long section on Corridor VIII between Levan and Vlorë, and the DurresTirana highway. As much as 44% of our entire financing volume has been allocated to the transportation sector, followed by energy and water infrastructure projects. By providing €110 million for water sector to date, the EIB is helping to protect the

environment and ensure access to water and sanitation services for people across the country.

At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the EIB scaled up its support for the countries in the region to help local economies recover faster and adapt to the new circumstances. Since 2020, we have allocated €95 million to Albania specifically in support of the challenges of the pandemic.

Out of this amount, €15 million has been dedicated to small and medium companies, as part of the Team Europe financial package for the socioeconomic recovery of the Western Balkans. These funds have been fully disbursed and are available under flexible and favourable conditions to companies operating in a wide range of sectors, to address their liquidity constraints, preserve employment and expand businesses.

All the financing is coming on top of technical and advisory assistance for the development and implementation of project which the EIB provides to the public sector.

3. How important is EIB Global in energy efficiency and infrastructure development for Albania and the Western Balkans?

The current crisis has made speeding up the green transition and climate action more urgent than ever which will contribute not only to fighting climate change but also to greater energy security. We recognise that this specific moment of our history is key to making a strong push towards decarbonisation and a more sustainable and safer future for all. The launch of EIB Global, the EIB Group’s dedicated development finance branch, at the beginning of 2022 was a timely step in this

qëndrueshme dhe luftimin e ndryshimeve klimatike. Gjatë 10 viteve të fundit, ne kemi investuar më shumë se 70 miliardë euro jashtë Bashkimit Evropian.

Në Shqipëri dhe në Ballkanin Perëndimor, BEI Globale po punon me partnerë ndërkombëtarë dhe vendas për të mbështetur rajonin drejt anëtarësimit në BE dhe për standarde më të mira jetese e biznesi për të gjithë njerëzit në rajon. Zhvillimi dhe modernizimi i infrastrukturës së qëndrueshme është i rëndësishëm sidomos në situatën aktuale ekonomike, ku mbështetja për energjinë e rinovueshme, digjitalizimin, transportin dhe bujqësinë do të jetë thelbësore për rritjen e rezistencës ndaj krizës. Këtu, plani ekonomik dhe i investimeve i Komisionit Evropian përbën një projekt të rëndësishëm që parashikon 9 miliardë euro për këto lloj investimesh.

Si një partner i besuar i Shqipërisë, BEI ka dhënë deri më sot 637 milionë euro në financimin e projekteve për zhvillimin social dhe ekonomik të vendit. Veprimtaritë tona financuese janë fokusuar në modernizimin e rrugëve kombëtare dhe rajonale, rehabilitimin e infrastrukturës, prodhimin e energjisë dhe transmetimi, rigjenerimin urban, si dhe mbështetjen për kompanitë e vogla dhe të mesme.

2. A mund të flasim për BEI-n në Shqipëri dhe në Ballkanin Perëndimor me shifra? Fillimisht më lejoni të them se ne jemi një bankë e drejtuar nga kërkesa. Që nga fillimi i operimit, BEI ka mbështetur transportin, shpërndarjen e ujit, energjinë, zhvillimin urban dhe kompanitë e vogla dhe të mesme (SME) në Shqipëri. Vetëm në sektorin e transportit, BEI ka investuar deri më sot 284 milionë euro për të mbështetur ndërtimin e autostradave për qytetet e Vlorës dhe të Fierit, si dhe ndërtimin e

Korridorit VIII prej 24 km. ndërmjet Levanit dhe Vlorës, dhe autostradës Durrës–Tiranë. Rreth 44% e të gjithë volumit tonë të financimit është ndarë për sektorin e transportit, i ndjekur nga projektet e infrastrukturës së energjisë dhe ujit. Me një vlerë prej 110 milionë eurosh të dhëna për sektorin e ujit deri më sot, EIB po ndihmon me mbrojtjen e mjedisit dhe sigurimin e aksesit në shërbimet e ujit dhe të kanalizimeve për njerëzit në mbarë vendin.

Në fillimin e pandemisë COVID-19, BEI rriti mbështetjen e saj për vendet në rajon, për të ndihmuar ekonomitë vendase të rikuperohen më shpejt dhe të përshtaten me rrethanat e reja. Që nga viti 2020, ne kemi ndarë 95 milionë euro për Shqipërinë, konkretisht në mbështetje të sfidave të pandemisë.

Nga kjo shumë, 15 milionë euro janë dedikuar për kompanitë e vogla dhe të mesme, si pjesë e paketës financiare Team Europe për rimëkëmbjen socioekonomike të Ballkanit Perëndimor. Këto fonde janë disbursuar plotësisht dhe janë të disponueshme në kushte fleksibël dhe të favorshme për kompanitë që operojnë në një gamë të gjerë sektorësh, për të adresuar kufizimet e tyre të likuiditetit, për të ruajtur punësimin dhe për të zgjeruar bizneset.

I gjithë financimi vjen si shtesë e asistencës teknike dhe këshillimore për zhvillimin dhe zbatimin e projektit që BEI i ofron sektorit publik.

3. Sa rëndësi ka BEI Globale në efikasitetin e energjisë dhe zhvillimin e infrastrukturës për Shqipërinë dhe Ballkanin Perëndimor? Kriza aktuale e ka bërë më urgjente se kurrë përshpejtimin e tranzicionit të gjelbër drejt një sigurie më të madhe energjetike dhe


regard and includes a shift in our operating model with the reinforcement of our local presence outside the European Union.

With more experts on the ground, we will be able to not only completely dedicate our attention to local projects — especially for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and electricity grid projects — but also build more effective partnerships with our clients and co-financiers to mobilise finance and technical support. As a key member of Team Europe, EIB Global will help drive forward EU initiatives, including the Global Gateway and the Green Deal. All these

should lead also to faster implementation of the necessary reforms and specific projects.

During the recent Western Balkans Summit in Berlin, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen announced a substantial energy support package of €1 billion in EU grants to help the region addressing the immediate consequences of the energy crisis and build resilience in the short and medium term. Within our new branch, we are already liaising with our partners in the Western Balkans in order to increase our technical assistance and additional financing

veprimit klimatik, gjë që do të kontribuojë jo vetëm në luftën kundër ndryshimeve klimatike, por edhe në një siguri më të madhe energjetike. Ne e pranojmë këtë moment specifik të historisë sonë si thelbësor për një shtysë të fortë drejt dekarbonizimit, si dhe të ardhmes më të qëndrueshme e më të sigurt për të gjithë. Ngritja e BEI Globale, dega e dedikuar e grupit të BEI-t për financat e zhvillimit, në fillim të vitit 2022 është një hap në kohën e duhur në këtë drejtim dhe përfshin kalimin në modelin tonë të funksionimit me një rritje të pranisë sonë jashtë BE-së.

Me më shumë ekspertë në terren, ne do të jemi në gjendje t’u kushtojmë plotësisht vëmendjen tonë projekteve lokale, veçanërisht atyre për efikasitetin e energjisë, burimet e rinovueshme dhe projektet e rrjetit të energjisë elektrike, por gjithashtu do të krijojmë partneritete më efektive me klientët dhe bashkëfinancuesit tanë për të mobilizuar mbështetjen financiare dhe teknike. Si një pjesëmarrës kyç në Team Europe, BEI Globale do të ndihmojë në nxitjen e nismave të BE-së, duke përfshirë Global Gateway dhe Marrëveshjen e Gjelbër. Të gjitha këto duhet të çojnë edhe në zbatimin më të shpejtë të reformave të nevojshme dhe projekteve specifike.

Gjatë samitit të fundit të Ballkanit Perëndimor në Berlin, Presidentja e Komisionit Europian Ursula von der Leyen njoftoi një paketë të konsiderueshme të mbështetjes energjetike prej 1 miliard euro në grante të BE-së për të ndihmuar rajonin të adresojë pasojat e menjëhershme të krizës energjetike dhe të krijojë elasticitet në afat të shkurtër dhe të shkurtër. afatmesme. Brenda degës sonë të re, ne tashmë po lidhemi me partnerët tanë në Ballkanin Perëndimor me qëllim rritjen e asistencës sonë teknike dhe financim shtesë për zbatimin e projekteve të reja të energjisë së rinovueshme dhe për të ndihmuar në zbutjen e rrezikut klimatik, përshtatjen dhe investimet e qëndrueshme mjedisore.

4. Me Shqipërinë pranë procesit të anëtarësimit në BE, si po kontribuon BEI në këtë drejtim?

Së pari, më lejoni të përgëzoj vendin për hapjen zyrtare të negociatave me Bashkimin Evropian, si dhe për përparimin e bërë në reformat kur bëhet fjalë për bazat. Aktivitetet tona në Shqipëri dhe në Ballkanin Perëndimor janë në përputhje me strategjinë e zgjerimit të BE-së dhe politikat

EIB Co-Finances Crete Attica Interconnection ( March 2021

for delivering new renewable energy projects and helping with climate risk mitigation, adaptation and environmentally sustainable investments.

4. Albania is nearing the EU accession process. How is the EIB contributing to this? Firstly, let me congratulate the country for opening formal negotiations with the European Union, as well as for the progress made on fundamental reforms. Our activities in Albania and the Western Balkans are aligned with the EU Enlargement Strategy and policies in specific sectors, such as the Green Agenda and Digital Agenda. Through the projects we finance, we provide strong support and advice to our local partners who are implementing the projects, promoting adherence to EU standards and policies which helps bring the country closer to EU.

EIB Global is supporting reforms in all sectors by providing technical and financial support for key infrastructure projects. In particular, the European Commission priorities under the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans released in 2020 are reflected in our own pipeline of projects for the region.

The pandemic has affected these priorities and we can see that climate and digital projects have become a focal point, with the aim of helping countries mitigate the effects of climate change (such as flooding or droughts) and adapt local economies to the new economic landscape. Support for the private sector is also among our priorities, as this sector is still facing substantial financial constraints. In addition, the war in Ukraine has shifted the focus on energy security, with the above-mentioned energy support package as immediate response.

According to the EIB Enterprise Survey, small firms in the Western Balkans are significantly more likely to be creditconstrained than large firms (16% vs. 7%). These credit constraints result from the insufficient transparency of SMEs, as well as limitations in the risk assessment capacity of intermediaries. Going forward, the legacy of the coronavirus pandemic and the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine are likely to further impede firms’ financial access. Over time, higher policy rates will translate into tighter financing conditions, with the credit demand-credit supply gap even greater for SMEs.

For similar reasons, firms in the Western Balkans lag behind in green management practices, specifically in setting targets for energy use and emissions. Over the last three years, only 21% of these firms have invested in energy efficiency. In this respect, EIB Global has also introduced innovative credit lines with social and climate components to help companies move forward with climate and energy efficiency projects, and expand their workforce by employing people from vulnerable social groups.

5. A key pillar of the EIB’s work is lending. What are its major investment projects in this category in Albania?

Along with the projects mentioned above, we signed an €80 million loan to improve the water distribution system of the municipality of Tirana, enabling continuous availability of drinking water for over 800 000 people and the reduction of water losses. This investment will modernise water management efficiency, improve water supply security and contribute to better health and environmental conditions in the capital, increasing resilience to climate change and promoting economic growth.

në sektorë të veçantë, si axhenda e gjelbër dhe axhenda digjitale. Nëpërmjet projekteve që financojmë, ne ofrojmë mbështetje dhe këshilla të forta për partnerët tanë lokalë që po zbatojnë projektet, duke promovuar respektimin e standardeve dhe politikave të BE-së, gjë që ndihmon në afrimin e vendit me BE-në.

rus të Ukrainës ka të ngjarë të pengojnë më tej aksesin e fortë financiar. Me kalimin e kohës, normat më të larta të politikave do të përkthehen në kushte më të shtrënguara financimi, me hendekun kërkesë-ofertë kredie edhe më të madhe për NVM-të.

BEI Globale po mbështet reformat në të gjithë sektorët duke ofruar mbështetje teknike dhe financiare për projektet kyçe të infrastrukturës. Në veçanti, prioritetet e Komisionit Evropian në kuadër të planit ekonomik dhe të investimeve për Ballkanin Perëndimor, të publikuar në vitin 2020, pasqyrohen në listën tonë të projekteve për rajonin.

Pandemia i ka prekur pjesërisht këto prioritete dhe ne mund të shohim se projektet klimatike dhe digjitale kanë dalë në fokus, për të ndihmuar vendet të zbusin efektet e ndryshimeve klimatike ( përmbytjet ose thatësirat) dhe të përshtatin ekonomitë vendase në situatën e re ekonomike. Mbështetja për sektorin privat është gjithashtu ndër prioritetet tona, pasi ky sektor ende po përballet me kufizime të konsiderueshme financiare. Përveç kësaj, lufta në Ukrainë ka zhvendosur fokusin në sigurinë energjetike, me paketën e lartpërmendur të mbështetjes energjetike si përgjigje të menjëhershme.

Sipas anketës së BEI-t për ndërmarrjet, përqindja e firmave të kufizuara kreditore në Ballkanin Perëndimor është dukshëm më e lartë midis firmave të vogla krahasuar me ato të mëdha (16% kundrejt 7%). Këto kufizime kreditore vijnë nga transparenca e pamjaftueshme e NVM-ve, si dhe kufizimet në kapacitetin e vlerësimit të rrezikut të ndërmjetësve. Në vazhdim, trashëgimia e pandemisë COVID-19 dhe ndikimi i pushtimit

Për arsye të ngjashme, firmat në Ballkanin Perëndimor mbeten prapa në praktikat e menaxhimit të gjelbër, veçanërisht në përcaktimin e objektivave për përdorimin e energjisë dhe emetimet. Gjatë tre viteve të fundit, vetëm 21% e tyre kanë investuar në efikasitetin e energjisë. Në këtë aspekt, BEI Globale ka prezantuar gjithashtu linja kreditore novatore me komponentë sociale dhe klimatikë për të ndihmuar kompanitë të ecin përpara me projekte efikase për klimën dhe energjinë, dhe të rrisin fuqinë e tyre punëtore duke punësuar njerëz nga grupet e cenueshme sociale.

5. Nëse një nga shtyllat e punës së BEI është kreditimi, cilat janë projektet kryesore të investimeve të BEI në Shqipëri brenda kësaj kategorie?

Së bashku me projektet e sipërpërmendura, ne nënshkruam një hua me vlerë 80 milionë euro për përmirësimin e sistemit të ujësjellësit në bashkinë e Tiranës, duke mundësuar aksesin e vazhdueshëm në ujë të pijshëm për mbi 800 000 banorë dhe reduktimin e humbjeve të ujit. Ky investim do të modernizojë efikasitetin e menaxhimit të ujit, do të përmirësojë sigurinë e furnizimit me ujë dhe do të kontribuojë në kushte më të mira shëndetësore dhe mjedisore në kryeqytet, e cila do të rrisë qëndrueshmërinë ndaj ndryshimeve klimatike dhe do të nxisë zhvillimin ekonomik.

Pavarësisht rritjes së kërkesës për ujë për shkak të rritjes së shpejtë të popullsisë së qytetit, Tiranës aktualisht i mungon furnizimi i vazhdueshëm me ujë në të gjithë qytetin:


Despite the increased demand for water due to the rapid growth of the urban population, Tirana currently lacks a constant water supply throughout the city: 36% of consumers receive water for less than eight hours per day and only 12% for 24 hours a day, according to a dedicated study. Water use and the percentage of water losses are currently high. Further changes such as the unification of the systems within the entire service area and improved water supply quality will help address the needs of a fastgrowing population.

This is the second project implemented by EIB Global with the municipality of Tirana. In 2019, we signed our first urban development loan with Albania’s capital to help reduce water pollution in the Lana River, and reorganise car and pedestrian traffic and urban space near both riverbanks. Both projects aim to increase the functionality of the capital in terms of urban redevelopment improving quality of life, public safety and resilience to emergencies.

In addition, in July this year, a 29 km road segment along the Vlorë bypass was opened for traffic, shortening travel times to the Albanian Riviera and reducing congestion in Vlorë itself. The project was financed by the EIB and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, complemented by a €20 million EU grant. The bypass is a vital connection in south-western Albania. It will improve road transport conditions in Vlorë and surrounding areas, including on the coastal road along the Bay of Vlorë. This road segment will bring benefits for tourism, stimulate the private sector and facilitate trade, promote regional and national growth and contribute to economic and social cohesion.

As a key provider of financial and technical assistance for project preparation and implementation, EIB Global is already involved in the development of new projects in Albania, especially in the areas of digitalisation and innovation, environmental protection and water management, sustainable tourism and rail transportation. We will work closely with the government of Albania and European Commission in delivering these high-impact projects, as they form part of the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans. EIB Global’s regional teams will also be on hand to help our partners in Albania to improve their project preparation and implementation capacities. This will help them to access the funds available under this plan as part of the latest EU initiative for supporting the development of sustainable infrastructure — Global Gateway.

EIB Global has helped increase technical assistance for the entire region for the preparation of new projects. For Albania in particular, we recently provided a €2 million technical assistance grant, under the Bank’s Economic Resilience Initiative (ERI), for the preparation of an affordable housing project in Tirana. The grant will strengthen the municipality’s

36% e konsumatorëve furnizohen me ujë për më pak se tetë orë në ditë dhe vetëm 12% e tyre furnizohen me ujë për 24 orë, sipas një studimi të dedikuar. Konsumi i ujit dhe përqindja e humbjeve të ujit janë aktualisht të larta. Përmirësimet e mëtejshme, të tilla si unifikimi i sistemeve brenda të gjithë zonës së shërbimit dhe furnizimi me cilësi i ujit do të ndihmojnë në adresimin e nevojave të popullsisë me rritje të shpejtë.

Ky është projekti i dytë që BEI Globale po zbaton me bashkinë e Tiranës. Në vitin 2019, ne nënshkruam kredinë tonë të parë për zhvillimin urban me kryeqytetin e Shqipërisë, për të ndihmuar në uljen e ndotjes së ujit në lumin e Lanës, riorganizimin e trafikut të makinave dhe këmbësorëve dhe hapësirës urbane pranë të dy brigjeve të lumit. Të

dy projektet synojnë të rrisin funksionalitetin e kryeqytetit në drejtim të rizhvillimit urban që rrit cilësinë e jetës, sigurinë publike dhe qëndrueshmërinë ndaj emergjencave.

Gjithashtu, në korrik të këtij viti u hap për qarkullim një segment rrugor prej 29 kilometra përgjatë bypass-it të Vlorës, i cili ka shkurtuar kohën e udhëtimit drejt Rivierës Shqiptare dhe ka ulur mbipopullimin në qytetin e Vlorës.

Projekti është financuar nga BEI dhe Banka

Evropiane për Rindërtim dhe Zhvillim, i plotësuar me një grant prej 20 milionë eurosh të BE-së. Bypass-i është një lidhje jetike në Shqipërinë Jugperëndimore. Ai do të përmirësojë kushtet e transportit rrugor në qytetin e Vlorës dhe në zonat përreth, duke përfshirë edhe rrugën bregdetare përgjatë gjirit të Vlorës. Ky segment rrugor do të sjellë përfitime për turizmin, do të stimulojë sektorin privat, do të lehtësojë tregtinë, do të promovojë rritjen rajonale dhe kombëtare si dhe do të kontribuojë në kohezionin ekonomik dhe social.

6. Në shtyllën e shërbimeve këshillimore, duke qenë se në Shqipëri kemi shumë mangësi ndër shumë pika të forta, cilat janë projektet që BEI po sponsorizon në sektorin publik?

Si ofruesi kryesor i asistencës financiare dhe teknike për përgatitjen dhe zbatimin e projekteve, BEI Globale është tashmë e

6. In Albania we have many strengths but also many weaknesses. With this in mind, what public sector advisory projects are currently being sponsored by the EIB?
Continental Europe’s first floating wind farm in Portugal makes dramatic carbon savings ( November 2021

capacities and develop the necessary documentation in line with EU standards, aiming to provide improved and energyefficient accommodation for the city’s most vulnerable residents. The project concerns the construction of new buildings and ancillary infrastructure over an area of 86 600 m2 to host nearly 6 500 people and about 1 600 low and middle-income households.

Through Jaspers assistance advisory support, the EU and the Bank is helping public sector administration in preparing top quality projects that can have impact on people’s lives. So far, Jaspers is providing strong support in the transport sector and their contribution is expected to further increased in the near future.

In that context, the EIB looks forward to further investing into flagships projects for modernisation of the digital, energy and healthcare sectors, as well as railway and road networks, to strengthen regional connections and boost economic development.

7. How would you describe your experience in Albania so far?

Living in Albania has been an enriching experience of learning more about a country that has fascinated me since ever. Being originally from Bulgaria, I see many similarities in the culture, the food, the mentality, and yes – even the language –since we share some Turkish words. It feels so familiar and at the same time exotic, for example with orange and olive trees growing everywhere, that we don’t have in Bulgaria. The kindness and warmheartedness of the people here has made me feel welcome and the whole family settled in very quickly. Tirana is such a vibrant city, with many events happening, never boring. Excellent restaurants everywhere and quirky coffee shops for friendly meetings.

On the other hand, nature is within easy reach and one can admire the beautiful landscapes the country has to offer. Of course, it is easy to miss Luxembourg (I arrived from EIB’s headquarters) and its comforts, but I know that when I have to leave Albania I will miss its sun, its markets, its sea and mountains, the wonderful people and everything else I’ve come to love about the country. Being here has made me even more determined to work on projects in Albania. I can witness the impact of EIB efforts firsthand and get direct feedback from Albanian people.

angazhuar fort për zhvillimin e projekteve të reja në Shqipëri, veçanërisht në fushat digjitale dhe të inovacionit, mbrojtjen e mjedisit dhe menaxhimin e ujit, turizmin e qëndrueshëm dhe transportin hekurudhor. Ne do të punojmë ngushtë me qeverinë e Shqipërisë dhe Komisionin Evropian në realizimin e këtyre projekteve me ndikim të lartë, pasi ato janë pjesë e planit ekonomik dhe të investimeve për Ballkanin Perëndimor. Ekipet rajonale të BEI Globale janë gjithashtu në dispozicion për të mbështetur plotësisht partnerët tanë në Shqipëri për të përmirësuar kapacitetet e tyre për përgatitjen e zbatimin e projekteve, për t’i ndihmuar ata me fondet e disponueshme sipas këtij plani, si pjesë e nismës më të fundit të BE-së për mbështetjen në zhvillimin e infrastrukturës së qëndrueshme - Global Gateway.

Dega jonë e re BEI Globale na ka ndihmuar të rrisim asistencën teknike në të gjithë rajonin. Për Shqipërinë në veçanti, së fundmi kemi dhënë një grant asistence teknike me vlerë 2 milionë euro, nën Iniciativën për Rezistencën Ekonomike të Bankës (ERI), për përgatitjen e një projekti strehimi të përballueshëm në Tiranë. Granti do të forcojë kapacitetet e bashkisë dhe do të përgatisë dokumentacionin e nevojshëm në përputhje me standardet e BE-së, duke synuar ofrimin e akomodimit me kushte më të mira dhe më efikas në energji për banorët e shtresave më të cenueshme të Tiranës. Projekti ka të bëjë me ndërtimin e ndërtesave të reja dhe infrastrukturës ndihmëse mbi një sipërfaqe prej 86 600 m2, e cila do të strehojë rreth 6500 njerëz dhe rreth 1600 familje me të ardhura të ulëta dhe të mesme. Përmes ndihmës këshillimore të Jaspers, BE-ja dhe Banka po ndihmojnë administratën e sektorit publik në përgatitjen e projekteve me cilësi të lartë që mund të kenë ndikim në jetën e njerëzve. Deri më tani Jaspers po ofron mbështetje të fortë në sektorin e transportit

dhe kontributi i tyre pritet të rritet më tej në të ardhmen e afërt.

Në këtë kontekst, BEI pret të investojë më tej në projektet kryesore për modernizimin e sektorëve dixhital, të energjisë dhe të kujdesit shëndetësor, si dhe të rrjeteve hekurudhore dhe rrugore, për të forcuar lidhjet rajonale dhe për të nxitur zhvillimin ekonomik.

7. Si e përshkruani përvojën tuaj të deritanishme në Shqipëri?

Të jetosh në Shqipëri ka qenë një përvojë pasuruese për të mësuar më shumë për një vend që më ka magjepsur që nga ajo kohë. Duke qenë me origjinë nga Bullgaria, shoh shumë ngjashmëri në kulturë, ushqim, mentalitet dhe po – madje edhe në gjuhë – meqenëse ndajmë disa fjalë turke. Ndihet kaq e njohur dhe në të njëjtën kohë ekzotike, për shembull me portokalli dhe ullinj që rriten kudo, sa nuk kemi në Bullgari. Mirësia dhe përzemërsia e njerëzve këtu më kanë bërë të ndihem i mirëpritur dhe e gjithë familja u vendos shumë shpejt. Tirana është një qytet kaq i gjallë, me shumë ngjarje që ndodhin, asnjëherë të mërzitshëm. Restorante të shkëlqyera kudo dhe kafene të çuditshme për takime miqësore.

Nga ana tjetër, natyra është lehtësisht e arritshme dhe mund të admironi peizazhet e bukura që ofron vendi. Sigurisht, është e lehtë të humbasësh Luksemburgun (kam ardhur nga selia e EIB) dhe komoditetet e tij, por e di që kur të më duhet të largohem nga Shqipëria do të më mungojë dielli, tregjet, deti dhe malet, njerëzit e mrekullueshëm dhe gjithçka tjetër. Unë kam filluar të dua për vendin. Të qenit këtu më ka bërë edhe më të vendosur për të punuar në projekte në Shqipëri. Unë mund të dëshmoj ndikimin e përpjekjeve të BEI-së nga dora e parë dhe të marr reagime të drejtpërdrejta nga populli shqiptar.



Christmas is just around the corner, and our contacts in the Finnish corridors of power got us an interview with Mrs Claus. Santa and his wife, Mrs Claus, have a hectic schedule, but here at Trailblazer pulled a few strings and managed to get an interview with Mrs Claus about life in Finnish Lapland. Officially Santa hails from Korvatunturi, but in recent years he and Mrs Claus have spent more and more time in the more accessible location of Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi where we managed to get hold of her.

Whenever children – or adults for that matter – have a chance to meet Santa Claus, their heads are packed with questions they’ve always wanted to ask. But the excitement of the moment usually makes them nervous, leaving them with only one thought: “What was it I wanted to ask?” And so the questions go unanswered.

Side by side with every great man is a great woman. Through our extensive Finnish contact network we at Trailblazer managed to obtain an extremely rare interview with Mrs Claus about Santa, the elves and the gift delivery process.

Read on to find out if Santa is ever in a bad mood, if you can get work as an elf, if Santa has ever got stuck in a chimney, and much more!

10 questions about Santa

1. How old is Santa Claus?

That’s something not even he can remember exactly. Once when he was sitting in his favourite rocking chair in front of the fireplace, he began to count how many Christmases he could remember. But when he got to something like 364, he fell asleep.

2. Does Santa Claus have a family?

Of course! Everyone in the world is his family. Adults and children are equally precious to him.

3. Can people visit Santa in Korvatunturi? Of course they can, if they know how to get there. But it’s a long and difficult journey. And everyone gives different directions. But

Mrs Claus, pictured here in her cottage kitchen, granted Trailblazing Magazine an exclusive interview / Photo by Santa Claus Office Santa learning more about technology with Elf Ferdie / Photo by ThisisFinland

you have to turn left after the little spruce tree, or if you’re coming from the west along the narrow path, then you should turn right, that is, if you have passed Spruce Pond already.

In practice though it may be easier however to visit us in the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi. Santa spends most of his time year-round there taking care of his mission in life; to enhance the well-being of children and the kindness of grown-ups, as well as spread the message of love and goodwill and the Christmas Spirit across the globe.

4. Does Santa Claus have to be good?

Santa Claus is always good. Sometimes he has to be strict, but he is always fair. Sometimes he’s a little angry, sad or upset. He gets really upset if he hears about

places in the world where they don’t care for children’s well-being.

5. What does Santa Claus think about the way people celebrate Christmas in different cultures?

Every culture has its own customs that deserve to be respected, and that’s just what Santa Claus does.

6. Was Santa Claus ever a child, and did he go to school?

Santa Claus still feels like a child to this day. Life has been one long education for him. You have to keep studying because the world’s always changing. He’s gone to a lot of schools. Once he even visited an elementary school.

7. How tall is Santa?

It depends on whether he is walking deep

Santa and one of his reindeer taking a break after a winter training session / Photo by Santa Claus Office
Elf stamping a letter in Santa’s Official Post Office / Photo by Santa Claus Office

in thought, or if he is examining little berry branches on the floor of the forest, or if he is looking at the horizon. He’s taller than the tallest elf, but shorter than the old spruce trees in Lapland.


What hobbies does Santa have?

Taking saunas, especially old-fashioned Finnish smoke saunas, is something he really likes. Taking naps is also an extremely important pastime for him.


Where does Santa Claus live?

Korvatunturi is his permanent residence and the place he loves the most, but all year long he drops by different places around the world. He only stays in places where he feels content. Nowadays you can find him almost always in his village in Rovaniemi.

2. Are elves Santa’s children?

Santa Claus believes that everyone should be everyone else’s child and that being a child is the most important thing in the world.

3. Are new elves still being born?

New Christmas elves and other kinds of elves are born frequently. When the last rays of the evening sun meet with the Northern Lights, the wind is blowing from the north and the stars are shining, that is when elves are born.

4. Is it possible to become an elf?


How many names does Santa Claus have?

I think every country has a different name for him. Here in Finland he’s called Joulupukki, and in America he’s Santa Claus. If remember correctly, in Germany they call him Weihnachtsmann, and in nearby Holland, Kerstman. He has all these names, and many more, because he is so well loved.

Of course. And it is possible to stay an elf. Taking care of smaller and weaker people is elf work. Making someone happy who doesn’t have anything to be happy about, or giving toys or clothes to children who need them – these are the best ways to be an elf.

5. Does Santa read all the letters he gets?

The elves help him read the letters and make inventories. Santa Claus gets a lot of Christmas cards, too. And he tries to answer all of them.

6. What kind of elves does Santa Claus have?

10 questions about elves

How many elves are there at Korvatunturi?


No one knows for sure. Elves are fast and they are rarely all in the same place at the same time. But when the sun sets in Lapland, there are probably as many little elf toes under the blankets as there are stars in the sky, if not more.

He has reindeer herder elves. They respect reindeer as wild animals that have learned to live in harmony with humans and elves. He has mapmaking elves and pathfinder elves. He has a wood elf who is so old and wise that he knows how to make the best of each piece of wood, because he understands the spirit of the wood, and he looks like a knotty old pine himself. There are also professor elves who study various important things.

7. Do all the elves have names?

Almost always. They have names like:

Threshing Barn Elf of Hill Farm, Sauna Elf of Bay House, and so on. Some of them have nicknames that refer to their profession, like Ink Splotch, Mapmaker, Compass or Surveyor. The nicknames may relate to a personal trait, such as Old Wiseman, Speedy, Wise Guy, Long Beard, White Beard or Black Whiskers.

8. What do Santa and his elves do during their free time?

They play lots of games. One of their favourites things to do is sit by the fireplace and talk about everything in the world. They reminisce about past journeys and recall interesting people and places that they have visited through the years.

9. Can humans see elves?

Elves are good at sneaking around, so

it’s usually hard to detect them. Children are often able to see a branch move, or notice something looking through the window or peeping from behind the curtains. Then they know that it’s their own personal elf tiptoeing around. Sometimes elves move something or leave some other sign to show that they have been around. They have also been known to pick up mail addressed to Santa Claus.

10. Do Christmas elves also go by different names?

Yes, indeed. In Finnish we call them Tonttu; in Swedish and Norwegian, Tomte or Nisse; in German, Heinzelmännchen; in Dutch, Kabouter; and in English some call them gnomes as well.

Santa and elves discussing in Santa’s chamber / Photo by Santatelevision

10 questions about delivering presents

1. How does Santa Claus travel?

Lots of ways. He has a sleigh drawn by team of reindeer, but he also has a team of dogs, a car, an aeroplane, a snowmobile and a helicopter. Santa uses whatever means of transport is best suited to the weather conditions and the purpose of his journey.

2. Are all the presents made at Korvatunturi?

Not all of them. Some are made at home, and they are especially precious. Surely you’ve heard of homemade jelly or mustard or hand-knitted wool socks. In some places there are little workshops that also help Santa Claus by making gifts.

3. How does Santa have time to deliver all the presents?

He takes advantage of the differences between time zones. When children in Finland are awake, children in Japan are asleep and vice-versa. There is also some magic involved. Sometimes Santa Claus may delegate the elves to deliver presents. The most important thing is that the gifts get there on time.

4. Has Santa ever got stuck in a chimney?

If that happened, delivery would get cut short. Santa Claus has a big book entitled Chimneys of the World. It is important to know how to get down them, and that is Santa’s specialty.

5. Is it possible to get presents even if you haven’t been good?

Santa Claus is certain that, deep down, all children are good. If a child is hungry or tired, it’s only natural that crabbiness can creep in. Voicing disappointment or not feeling well has nothing to do with being good.

6. What does Santa Claus do when he’s not delivering presents?

He relaxes by walking in the forest and listening to the voices of the wilderness. He also spends time preparing the next Christmas delivery by reading children’s letters. His favourite pastime is reading books.

thoughts that children want him to read definitely come through. There is a special understanding between children and Santa Claus.

9. How does Santa know how to get to everyone’s house?

This is how it works: The elf secretaries keep exact records of all children by country, state, county, province, city, town, village or district, by house or apartment building, by bedroom or even by bed. These records are used to plan the delivery route. It’s very demanding work; 284 elves work in the address department year round.

10. Where does Santa Claus get all the money it takes to fly around the world?

7. Does Santa get any presents?

Oh yes, often. The best gifts, in Santa Claus’ opinion, are the happy smiles of children and the joyful look in their eyes.

8. Can Santa read children’s thoughts? Maybe not every thought, but at least the

Shhhh! We don’t use the word “money” here. Santa is extremely lucky, because in his world money doesn’t exist. The important thing is that he catches the plane, and that it’s the plane going to where ever he needs to go when he needs to go. He usually takes a long nap on the flight.

Santa relaxing in his office for a while / Photo by
Planning the route is extremely important / Photo by Martti Kainuilainen, Lehtikuva

Time for the Right Choice!

In the digital age, where even humor has become digital, social media posts often make us laugh, but they also reveal vast truths. So, one day, as I was scrolling through Instagram, I saw a meme that at first made me laugh, but after second thought, I reflected and...almost cried at what it said: “Another day has passed without using the Pythagorean Theorem”. Indeed, discussions about whether school teaches us practical things that come into play in our daily lives are frequent and intense. Or as we say “viral”, in the language of memes and social media.

We all know a lawyer who works part-time as a waiter just as well as vice-versa, someone with a high school diploma, who started as a bricklayer in Greece and is now a billionaire; having become a construction entrepreneur with pure experience (not a degree). Doors open left and right if you have technical skills or are in a tech. field, such as engineering, programming, IT, graphic design, etc. Some of us even personally know young men and women who live in Albania, where the cost of living is cheaper, but they work remotely and receive a salary that is at least six times higher than what it would be locally.

For all these reasons, but also because today the world is screaming its lungs out with the concept of the “digital age”, where all services are provided online, parents have an important question to ponder: should they take their children to courses that empower them in digital profiles, such as programming, robotics, animation, game development, graphic design or 3D modeling? Just as in medicine the best thing you can do is prevent a disease ahead of time, in the job market the best thing you can

do for your child’s future is to anticipate trends. There are people in the market today who come from dying industries, such as print journalism, and are trying and struggling every day to reinvent themselves, however parents can make the right choice to guide their children in the professions of the future. Until a few years ago, even if you had this mindset, it was difficult to find places that would act as a hub to facilitate these skills, but thankfully things have changed…

TUMO Tirana is the ideal place if you have finally realized that the most useful course a child can do after school is the one that trains him in a digital profile. The learning method is also contemporary in this center, which currently numbers around 1000 students. At TUMO Tirana, the youth learn not only through workshops and self-learning sessions (which urge students’ independence and nurture their curiosity) but also through learning lab projects, where the best technology experts globally carry out projects that give solutions to concrete problems from everyday life.

Yes, it occurs to us that the first thing you will do as soon as you read this article is search the official website of TUMO Tirana to understand more and see the experience of the older students. Many of which, have had tremendous success after attending TUMO Tirana, through internships and even employment at such a young age.

Ultimately, if your child is adept in a technological profile, rest assured that not a day of their life will pass by without using that knowledge and, never say never, but we haven’t seen a programmer yet who does not work in his field or is forced to change his profession!


TUMO Tirana has a different educational perspective from schoo It is the only p ace where I come to learn by my own wil . I am look ng forward to all surprises that I know TUMO Tirana has in store for me

For more information about TUMO Tirana you can contact us at 044524065

TUMO Tirana accomplished ts very f rst Learning Lab!

Il ustrator Leo Antol n came to T rana al the way from Copenhagen to hold a Learn ng Lab with the aim of creating and illustrat ng an iconic Alban an character inspired by e ements of our culture

Leo s a character il ustrator and art director with over 15 years of professional experience He has worked as a des gner for various animation stud os, as we l as i lustrated chi dren s books for wel -known publishers

He has also created series for Nickelodeon and Amazon Stud os

S driti created an entire c ty lost n the desert in the disc pl ne of 3D Mode ing.

my name is Hebi and am a student at TUMO Tirana TUMO s my comfort space and the coaches around are very friend y


Our Dream is to Make MADE IN ALBANIA an International Tech Tag

“Our goal is to reach our target clients and introduce them to great potentials they can reach locally and internationally by opening up new ideas and reaching their clients in many languages.”

Born in Albania but moved to America with her family some 12 years ago, Erisa Hysi, Co-Founder of Albania Language Service, reveals for TRAILBLAZING MAGAZINE the great opportunity she has launched together with her spouse, Ani Xhani, since 2018 for everybody who wants to provide remote language services. Later they decided to open another branch, Global Communication Services which focuses on creating and promoting new technologies in the field of language services.

Regarding Albania, she says that her native country is the focus. “We see a great potential and humongous need for professional assistance in language service, professional programs to help current business expand globally, technology advancement to facilitate several operations in different industries”

They aim at introducing the services to different industries in Albania such as tourism and hospitality, transportation, education, governmental, etc.

Full interview below:

Ani Xhani (co-founder) (L), Erisa Hysi (co-founder), Agron Xhani (Administrator/GM) on the 4th year of our office in Albania.

1. Erisa, please can you introduce yourself and your company - Albania Language Service?

Greetings! My name is Erisa Hysi, born and raised in Berat, Albania. Some 12 years ago, my family moved to the US to pursue the American dream and provide a better future for my sister and I.

In the U.S., I pursued University for Premedical Education and during my years at school, I was working as an interpreter for English-Albanian, and English-Spanish in hospitals, courts, governmental agencies etc. It was my first experience as an interpreter and not only I enjoyed helping others in difficult situations but also, I saw the opportunity to continue and learn more in the language industry.

In 2018, while on a trip to Albania, with the help of my co-founder/husband Ani Xhani, we opened Albania Language Service and created a group of bilingual people that will be willing to undergo certified training

with US companies and work as a remote interpreter outsourcing work from some of the biggest Language Service Providers. Thus, Albania Language Service was born first as an LSP vendor for major companies with offices in Tirana. We, then branched to more of technological company promoting new technologies in the language industry that will help our clients/ end-users communicate with linguists in a better and shorter time and most important in a very efficient way.

We partnered with major US companies to provide full training and certifications for interpreters and translators located offshore.

2. Why did you choose this field? How does your experience crisscross with it?

Later in my education I pursued law and business management, and as a class assignment I had to analyze the example of technology disruption in an industry and how it will affect businesses in the

future. During that research, I realized that two things that make a business different and prosperous is its originality and its approach to advancement. Thus, we decided to open another branch which is Global Communication Services which focuses on creating and promoting new technologies in the field of language services but not only. Thus, my experience as a medical student, as an MBA and law student intertwined the idea that whole fields that we operate need technology advancement and facilitation to make it easier and more accessible for people around the world. Even though it looks like we are divided by borders and confined by customs, we are global citizens and the interchange is so powerful that you realize that the world is just a small grip.

3. In what way, your company is related to other areas and which ones in particular? We promote technology that creates an opportunity to have a linguist and take care of language needs, in a press of a button,

that creates a job opportunity for qualified linguists that live everywhere in the world to work and earn income by providing remote language services. What distinguishes us is not only the technology advancements we have incorporated for our clients that in a press of a button can have not only an interpreter, but can have a linguist for translation, transcription, all in one device but also our training and certification program that allows bilingual individuals to pursue and graduate with the recognized interpreting certification in the US.

Our clients do not need to have lengthy and tedious contractual agreements with us, just need to use the device when they need it as we operate as a SAAS model.

On the other hand, what also distinguish us is the training and employee development program that we use and operate in order to provide the best and the highest quality for our clients which is based on the linguist efficiency and capabilities on serving as an


interpreter but not only as we also provide language courses in 25 languages for beginners that want to enter the world of language services.

Thus our goal as a company now has shifted from not only servicing the highest quality in an one stop shop for language services to our clients but also consulting and working on expanding technology advancement in different areas that need tech incorporation in our clients operations. Thus we provide custom made localization services for our clients that need to enter a new market, that need to change and reach a different and bigger target group and also need to expand and reach to a global market.

4. What are your plans to expand your company in Albania? What is your invitation to the prospect clients in Albania and in the region?

Albania is our focus for this year, as we see a great potential and humongous need for professional assistance in language service ,professional programs to help current business expand globally, technology advancement to facilitate several operation in different industries and more over an immediate need for opportunities for youth employment , training and facilitation to make them not only hire-able by local and foreign companies , but mostly to make them entrepreneurs and business makers. First, our goal is to reach our target clients and

introduce them to great potentials they can reach locally and internationally by opening up new ideas and reaching their clients in many languages. Also, current LSPs, we would like to introduce them to our technology that will facilitate their work and make them more efficient and profitable. Introducing the services to different industries such as tourism and hospitality, transportation, education, governmental, etc.

We want to give businesses a cutting-edge technology that will distinguish them in a larger global market.

5. What challenges do you find in your job?

It is hard to talk about challenges because

it is like asking a mother pointing at her own child‘s poor behaviors ,which you know and face every day ,but still can‘t affect you because the love you have doesn‘t let you.

We love languages ,we love their uniqueness and how much of a differentiator factor are those not only in the business world but everywhere But everything has a price and working with a global team with hundreds of linguists all over the world makes the operation a challenge .It is a difficult task to integrate hundreds of contractors and coordinate them properly so that clients have24/7 services for their demand .

Another challenge that we are facing in a market like Albania ,is the openness of business owners ,CEOs and management to the tools that they can incorporate to make a huge impact into their business

It is the dedication and perfectionism of details that distinguish companies thus what we provide is not only a necessity that companies/ governmental agencies need to address ,but it will set them apart and it will be their” finest jewelry” in what they do and provide to their clients.

6. What comes next for you and your company?

Our goal is to expand our services in Albania and the region and also our focus now is to provide the tools to our current clients to reach new market and expand globally more efficiently. Our dream is to make MADE IN ALBANIA a tech tag that will be known in the international markets. We are investing in creating a hub of technological advancement and working with programs that implement youth advancement as their goal.


Hotel Mediteran

the Multi-Million Investment in Ulcinj, Montenegro

“Hotel Mediteran” launched its first taste of luxury with the renovation of the 5-star Villa 400 encompassing 17 large rooms with a sea view. Every room is equipped with a fast wi-fi, well-selected exclusive facilities including quartz for the bathrooms, touch screen systems which are the latest innovation in Montenegro, American branded central AC and many other luxury touches for a unique guest experience.

The Villa 400 is the first villa which opened its doors on August 1, 2022. It is part of the 5 villas’ complex which will be launched fully renovated in 2023 alongside with outdoor swimming pools and outdoor restaurants.

BECOVIC MANAGEMENT GROUP (BMG) is an US family-run company whose activity focuses on the development of immovables management. Based in Illinois, USA, this company was founded in 1972 by the Albanian emigrants from Montenegro, Husein and Ese Becovic. BMG in the United States runs more than 5000 apartments and the hotel complex, “Hotel Mediteran” in Montenegro.

“Hotel Mediteran” is a success story which

spread its wings with the “blessing” of Dritan Abazoviq government. The project totals more than 15 million euros and is set to be completed by 2025. During 2022, the company has managed to complete the full renovation of one villa (17 rooms) and launched it successfully under the brand “The new hotel Mediteran”.

The General Manager of “Hotel Mediteran”, Mrs. Suzana Muja said: “It was a privilege for me that in this point of my career, I had the possibility to launch this prestigious product which will be the new image of Ulcinj. This is only the half of the first phase of the three-phased investor’s plan. Villa 400 offers premium rooms equipped with the last technology – smart rooms –which is pioneered by “Hotel Mediteran” in Montenegro. Every balcony overlooks the magnificent sea and the Ulcinj Castle while the villa is surrounded by a unique natural vegetation where every touristic attraction of Ulcinj is within the reach… this is the future of the elite tourism in Ulcinj.”

The Executive Director of BMG Company, Mr. Isa Becovic from USA, who was present in the inauguration of Villa 400, organized

Mr. Becovic (R) touring the Montenegrin ministers in the renovated rooms. View from one of the renovated rooms.
General Manager of Hotel Mediteran, Mrs. Suzana Muja (R) holding the opening speech during the ceremony.

alongside with the head of Ulcinj commune and various Montenegrin government officials, a ceremony to welcome the first clients in the renovated rooms, thus marking a success story in the tourist investments in Montenegro.

“Hotel Mediteran’s villas offer it all: relaxation and privacy within a short walk to the sea and the old town.

from the hustle and bustle of it all in the comfort of your own room, which opens up to a private balcony with castle and sea views.

The sound of the waves, the aroma of the old Mediterranean pines that surround the property and the inspiring panorama combine to whisk you away to a perfect vacation retreat.”

So not only can you explore the heart of the city on your doorstep - you can retreat

What are our expectations for 2023?

In 2023, the fully renovated complex of the five villas will be launched offering a total of 100 luxurious rooms. The villas will be surrounded by an oasis of swimming pools, outdoor restaurants and many other venues to enhance the guest stay. Under the name “The new hotel Mediteran” a luxury brand is setting grounds to be the new image of Ulcinj.


Montenegro Concierge DMC

the Ticket for an Unforgettable Experience in Montenegro

In this exclusive interview with Emil Omeragic, Managing Director of Montenegro Concierge DMC, we talk about the exclusive services of his company, designed to create lasting memories while underlines how Montenegro Concierge DMC is impacting the domestic luxury travel scene.

“Montenegro Concierge DMC focuses on tourism and sustainable activities by nurturing a special relationship with the tradition, heritage, and nature of Montenegro,” Omeragic told TRAILBLAZING MAGAZINE.

According to him, the Montenegro Concierge DMC strives to deliver exclusive and unique experiences to its clients “by crafting authentic and exceptional service while presenting Montenegro in a new light.”

“The team of Montenegro Concierge DMC together with our partners will provide the highest level of customer service in Montenegro. Whether our clients require personal or business assistance, we will give our best to reduce their traveling stress so they can have an unforgettable stay in Montenegro,” he said.

Montenegro Concierge DMC is based in Tivat, one of the winners of Sustainable Top 100 Destinations Award of 2020.

Read full interview below:

1. Could you tell us more about the Montenegro Concierge DMC and its potential to create lasting memories?

Montenegro Concierge DMC is a lifestyle and Destination Management Company servicing many satisfied clients thanks to its experienced team. Our profound local and regional expertise and more than twelve years of experience allow us to assure our clients that we will provide services at the highest standards! Montenegro Concierge DMC focuses on tourism and sustainable activities by nurturing a special relationship with the tradition, heritage, and nature of Montenegro. Having an overview of the Montenegro MICE industry’s happenings, our multilingual team will deliver an ideal product launch, signature incentives, successful meetings, motivating conferences, team buildings, and much more.

2. What are the major services you offer ?

As the name of the company says, we specialize in concierge services, MICE services, weddings, and eco-tourism with an accent on sustainable events and trips. We strive to deliver exclusive and unique experiences to our clients by crafting authentic and exceptional service while presenting Montenegro in a new light. Our pillars for achieving such service are connected with first-rate service, personalized content, and tailor-made solutions – to discover undiscovered.

The team of Montenegro Concierge DMC together with our partners will provide the highest level of customer service in Montenegro. Whether our clients require personal or business assistance, we will give our best to reduce their traveling stress so they can have an unforgettable

stay in Montenegro. With a vast knowledge of the MICE industry in Montenegro, we will deliver a perfect product launch, memorable incentives, successful meetings, motivating conferences, and team building, with a white-glove service approach. We are specialized in organizing various events - from annual forums, and hybrid conferences to summits and fairs, from international conferences to those based on a concept, etc. We believe that every event should be a piece of art, from venue to food selection, from staff to entertainment selection, and by that, we strive to deliver the most extraordinary events.

Montenegro Concierge DMC aims to assist in the sustainability of society and tourism in Montenegro by reducing its operations’ negative impact on the environment.

For instance, it is not a coincidence that Montenegro Concierge DMC chose Tivat for its base and home office. This famous coastal town was proclaimed one of the winners of the Sustainable Top 100 Destinations Award of 2020! Therefore, we always encourage our clients to enjoy the landscape of national parks, bird watching, hiking, horseback riding, and many more, while staying in eco villages

or glamping in the most unique places in Montenegro.

3. Is Montenegro Concierge DMC opt for designing non-traditional tourism programs? Is this a key aspect to fight off competition ?

Montenegro Concierge DMC was created with the aspiration to create and offer programs that were not made in Montenegro before existence of our company. We drive inspiration from our surroundings, from nature to culture even from food, which helps us to combine the essence of Montenegro with our ideasultimately offering unique programs for our clients.

4. Can you describe the potential clients of Montenegro Concierge DMC?

The most important stuff that our potential client needs to possess is the desire to explore Montenegro and the ability to see how special this small but mighty country is. Some additional things that I would use to describe our potential client is someone who is ready for challenges (of any sort), someone who is keen to learn about new things and someone with the ability to connect history, tradition and luxury.


5. What are some of the options and the destinations that Montenegro Concierge DMC offer and that you wish to share with our readers?

Montenegro Concierge DMC covers the entire Montenegro. Each offer is tailormade based on the request we get, therefore, none of our offer is a blunt copy and past rather a unique offer. Based on the conversation with the client, we assess what would be best for them, whether it is a luxury venue or some unique experience that’s not available/accessible to regular tourists or is not thought of by them.

6. Does Montenegro Concierge DMC cover Albania and the other regional countries or is it solely in Montenegro?

As of now, we are solely covering Montenegro, but there are always possibilities for expansion of business.

7. Did the post-COVID times give you a chance to curate new experiences or discover new locations/destinations and if yes, can you mention any of them?

It most certainly did. Personally, COVID gave me a chance to do a lot of selfreflecting, which resulted in me finally getting the courage to take a risk and open Montenegro Concierge DMC. When you work for yourself, everything suddenly changes, you become more self-aware, proud and you get this unexplainable willpower to create and discover. It’s not all about discovering something totally new, it’s about utilizing what you know and have but adding your special touch.

8. How did you get into the business you are in today and what do you find most challenging about the MICE industry?

My journey started long time ago, to be more precise it started more than 10 years ago. I was working as Retail Manager after college in a huge company in Montenegro, but after a year or so I figured out that that job didn’t fulfill me whatsoever. Thus, I decided to start exploring other fields of work. I was lucky enough to have found my dream job at such a young age. It was thrilling to experience tourism in its truest and rawest form at the age when you feel bigger than yourself. Now that a lot has passed, I look back at that time with fond memories. I look back at how many people I’ve met and befriended, how many memories I’ve collected and most importantly how much I’ve learned.

There are a lot of challenging things about tourism in general, lack of knowledge, training and understanding, which immediately influences the position of MICE industry in Montenegro and elsewhere. What people also need to understand is the amount of work people do in this

industry, it’s a 24/7 job, especially on the days of the projects. In those moments you are separated from your daily routines, family, friends, and hobbies, which is in itself a very hard thing, especially if you have small kids back at home waiting for you. Nonetheless, we all knew what we are getting ourselves into when starting this job, maybe not to the extent but we had a general idea. However, I wouldn’t choose to do any job other this one, I truly believe that this was my calling.

9. In your view, what are the future trends of the travel tourism industry?

It is no secret that the experience is one of the most important things in tourism industry. Whether you enter a local coffee shop that might not be the best looking, how you are approached by the waiter, how the coffee is served and how the ambiance matches the coffee shop, and its offer is what ultimately influences your experience. Thus, providing the authentic experience for the clients is and will only be on the rise of trends in tourism.

Another thing I would like to mention is sustainable and ecotourism trends, which combine the passion for travel to preservation of the surrounding environment. This trend combines multiple factors, like cost-effective travel, exploration of nature, exercise, and most importantly preservation of our planet Earth. It worthy to mention that Montenegro has to offer all of this and is seeing a higher interest in this specific trend as the time goes.

What’s worth mentioning is the rise of leisure travel, or in other words an extended business travel to leisure travel. This phenomenon can be preplanned or thought-off on the spot, and is a great

chance to explore the destination without pressure of business meetings. This is a great chance for DMCs to take advantage of and create offers for business travelers. We have had a few of those in the past year, and it’s always a pleasure to be creating such offers.

Lastly, personalization is always worth mentioning when discussing trends in tourism industry. The satisfaction that personalization allows is what tourism is all about. As I mentioned, Montenegro Concierge DMC has taken personalization as the most important factor when creating an offer. Personalization offers you a chance get to know your client better and to show you country in the best light possible.


“I am very thankful to the program management for design such valuable courses for enhancing my professional knowledge and personal development. Then it is the support and the advice from the excellent professionals of the LEAD 9 cohort and mentors who encouraged me to be the best version of myself.”

Starting from January 2023 I will closely work with the Rule of Law Regional Network which is a Dutch initiative aiming to strengthen the rule of law across the Western Balkans.


If You Aim to be a Leader of Tomorrow, Apply for LEAD Albania Program!

Edlira Osmani stood out among the fellows of LEAD Albania Program 2021-2022. This was another opportunity for her to show her virtues and values. A lawyer by training, licensed to practice law by the Albanian Chamber of Advocates, she serves as Senior Rule of Law Expert, specialized in justice capacity/institution building.

TRAILBLAZING MAGAZINE is pleased to sit with Edlira and share her wit and talk about her future aspirations to continue to work for the rule of law in Albania and in the Western Balkans.

various specializations including executive education program at Harvard University. Can you tell us more about yourself and what you do?

Full interview below:

Your impressive CV includes prestigious universities like the University of Graz and

Thank you for inviting me! I enjoy reading your interviews and you have already interviewed many trailblazers including the Dutch violinist and conductor, André Rieu. I would have wished being interviewed as a violinist, although I ended up being a lawyer which is also a profession that enables doing some good in the world. Thus, I am a lawyer by training, licensed to practice law by the Albanian Chamber of Advocates and I serve as Senior Rule of Law Expert, specialized in justice capacity/institution building. While my academic journey started at Barleti University in Tirana (Albania) where I held a double diploma in Law and International Relations followed with an LL.M. in European Law and European Integration from the Karl Franzens University, Graz

1. Thank you Edlira for accepting my request for this interview with Trailblazing Magazine!
Edlira Osmani

(Austria). As a seeker of lifelong learning, I have completed courses in teaching and research at the Europa Institut, Saarland University (Germany), in competition and regulation for the digital era at the European University Institute, Florence (Italy), in diversity management at the Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas (Lithuania) and I am an Alumna of the Albanian School of Political Studies of the Council of Europe. Recently, as part of the LEAD Albania fellowship I completed the Executive Education Program for Emerging Leaders at John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University (United States).

2. How did you hear about the LEAD Albania Program and what inspired you to apply for it? What did you expect to achieve through it?

I became familiar with the LEAD Albania Program through my professional network. I was willing to attend the LEAD Albania Program from the outset, yet I

was waiting for the right time. Therefore, when the LEAD Albania included in its program the governance institutions of the justice system, I decided to apply. When I submitted my application, I was still working for the EU funded project “Consolidation of the Justice System in Albania” (EURALIUS) where in the capacity of Legal Expert I was providing expertise to the governance institutions of the justice system, as well as to the Parliament for the justice reform laws and capacity building of the justice institutions. Despite that, I was keen to learn how the governance institutions of the justice system function in practice and how they were strengthening their capacities and implementing the justice reform laws. I was eager to exchange experiences working inside these institutions and LEAD Albania Program offered to me a unique opportunity to serve as Adviser of the High Inspector of Justice which is the newest institution emerged from the justice reform.

3. You were considered one of the ‘hardworking bees” of LEAD Albania Program 2021- 2022. What inspired you about this program to be so active?

Well, it is a saying, “Doing nothing is very hard to do… you never know when you’re finished”, and I knew that LEAD Albania Program finishes in one year. Despite this funny quote, I take work very seriously and so I did in this engagement. I believe that great things come from hard work and perseverance, and I wanted to be efficient during the one-year LEAD Albania Program.

I was fortunate to work at the Office of the High Inspector of Justice, in a welcoming and friendly environment and surrounded by colleagues who worked with dedication. Therefore, it was easy for me to find motivation and to collaborate with the staff members of the High Inspector of Justice. Besides, I liked very much the tasks I was performing, especially the engagement with thematic and institutional inspections

as well as conducting research on European best practices in such regard.

Moreover, the LEAD Albania Program itself keeps you involved with training and courses on professional and personal development. I am very thankful to the program management for design such valuable courses for enhancing my professional knowledge and personal development. Then it is the support and the advice from the excellent professionals of the LEAD 9 cohort and mentors who encouraged me to be the best version of myself.

4. What sorts of research projects did you work on and how did research add to your career and experience?

Thank you for this question! It will help me to clarify the multidisciplinary answer I gave for the first question and limit it to what I did during the recent years. Still, I think that research is a sort of formalized

Edlira Osmani (sited in the first row, the second from the right) among other LEAD Albania Fellows 2022, at Harvard University.
LEAD Albania 9th cohort during a visit at the High Inspector of Justice

curiosity, and I am a very curious person trying to narrow my research. Therefore, during the past seven years I focused my research on issues related to the rule of law and the capacity building of justice institutions. Hence, in my position as Legal Expert of EURALIUS, I conducted various research on discrete fields of law and on performance evaluation of judges and prosecutors, on courts and prosecution office administration and commented laws for the electronic commentary of the School of Magistrates. Recently, as part of my engagement in LEAD Albanian Program at the High Inspector of Justice, I focused my research on thematic and institutional inspections, first by identifying the best practices from the European Inspectorates

and then sharing these findings with colleagues. Research has helped me to expand my professional knowledge and to have a better work performance.

5. What are your aspirations for your future practice?

I am a rule of law practitioner and qualified lawyer working with international organizations and governance institutions of the justice system. My future aspirations are to continue to work for the rule of law in Albania and in the Western Balkans. Rule of law is one of the fundamental values on which the European Union is founded and where the Western Balkans countries are aiming to accede. Starting from January 2023 I will closely work with the Rule of Law

Regional Network which is a Dutch initiative aiming to strengthen the rule of law across the Western Balkans.

6. What would you say to somebody on the fence of applying for LEAD Albania Program?

Whenever you are in your journey, devote a year to public service and then decide if you would like to serve longer. LEAD Albania Program is a unique opportunity that offers the possibility to serve as Adviser at the Office of the President of the Republic, Office of the Prime Minister, Ministries, Municipality of Tirana and governance institutions of the justice system (High Inspector of Justice, High Judicial Council, High Prosecutorial Council, Prosecutor General and SPAK). LEAD Albania

Program aims to provide successful Albanian professionals with first-hand experience in the process of governing Albania.

In addition, during the LEAD Albania Program you will be able to attend course on professional and personal development including executive education program at Harvard University. The most beautiful discovery of the program, besides gaining valuable competences that will enrich your career, will be the exceptional friendship you will build and the outstanding network you will become part.

Thus, if you are aiming to be an effective leader of tomorrow or to bring a positive change with your contribution to the public service, apply for LEAD Albania Program, and consider the governance institutions of the justice system. I assure it will be a memorable experience!

7. Any last words of wisdom or advice for your colleagues in LEAD Albania Program 2021-2022?

I often repeat to myself the words of wisdom of Martin Luther King Jr., which I have already shared with LEAD Albania fellows, and I would like to share with your readers as well. He said, “If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run then walk if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” I believe that the art of moving forward is a virtue and I try to live my life based on virtues and values. Persistence is another virtue that I seek to cultivate and my journey as LEAD Fellow taught me that nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Therefore, a little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seems hopeless may turn to glorious success.

Thank you!

Edlira Osmani during an event at the High Inspector of Justice
Edlira Osmani during the graduation ceremony of LEAD Albania Program 2022



Emiljano Kaziaj, a Fellow of LEAD Albania Program 2016-2017, is currently the Program Manager for International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) in Albania, an international organization that focuses on working with youth and adults in the fields of media, leadership, and community engagement.

“LEAD Albania is a program that provides you with a holistic experience on leadership. It offers you the opportunity to exercise your skills in a real leadership environment and it provides you with continuous mentorship and capacity building in leadership which are crucial to success,” Kaziaj says in this exclusive interview. Therefore, it was for him “a learning experience and a career milestone.”

He comes to TRAILBLAZING MAGAZINE to share with its readers how LEAD Albania Program impacted his own career.

Full interview below:

Emiljano, thank you for having some time for this interview! You were a 2016-2017 LEAD Fellow. During this time, you acted as Advisor to the Minister of Social Welfare and Youth. What has this experience meant to you? What do you think made you a competitive candidate?

Being a LEAD fellow and having the opportunity to serve for one year as the advisor to the minister has been one of the most enriching experiences I have ever had in my professional career. The ‘platform’ that LEAD Program provides to all young professionals to serve in the highest ranks of the public administration institutions, is unique in the sense that it offers you the opportunity to be exposed to and become part of important decision-making processes that directly impact the lives of citizens.

I think my previous experiences on working with human rights (with a focus on child rights) and my doctoral studies in this field made me a competitive candidate as I was ready to apply both my experience and knowledge gained through my doctoral studies to the improvement

of policies and practices for which the Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth was the main institution responsible, in a political level.

What would you highlight about this experience? What was the main advantage of this experience for you and your career?

LEAD Albania is a program that provides you with a holistic experience on leadership. It offers you the opportunity to exercise your skills in a real leadership environment and it provides you with continuous mentorship and capacity building in leadership which are crucial to success. As such it could be seen as a learning experience and a career milestone.

The main advantage for me by participating in LEAD Albania has been the increase in understanding on how political processes and decision-making happens in central public institutions, getting involved in those processes, understanding leadership better and your role in exercising leadership and enriching your professional network.

What do you do now and how are you applying what you gained during the LEAD Program in your daily work?

Currently I am the Program Manager for International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) in Albania. IREX is an international organization that focuses on working with youth and adults in the fields of media, leadership, and community engagement. As such, the experience I had as a LEAD fellow and skills I gained through that program has helped me in better managing my team, successfully implementing two projects on media literacy, and making use of the professional contacts with public institutions and other partners in increasing impact of the work we do.

Were there specific people that were an influence during this Program? Can you share any episodes?

There were great people I met through the program both in the host institution and my LEAD class of 2016-2017. With some of them I am still in close touch for professional reasons and collaborations and with some others we have found great

friendships that I’m sure will be long lasting. It is difficult to highlight specific episodes during the program in terms of influences.

LEAD is composed in such a way that the routines of the program itself- the daily work you do in the host institution, the communication with the minister and the cabinet, the capacity building sessions you receive from leadership experts, the socializing with the lead fellows etc.influence and transform you in meaningful ways which I believe has been the real value of my experience with LEAD.

What advice do you have to future LEAD Albania Program applicants?

LEAD program is like a journey of selfreflection and professional development. It helps you understand your leadership role better, your strengths and weaknesses and helps you with the necessary tools and contacts to put all that into practice. For all those young professionals who think that they have accumulated a leadership potential and professional expertise and are looking for an opportunity to try all those, then LEAD Albania program is the right place to do so.



10 years of Achievements in Financial Education and Entrepreneurship in Albania

Junior Achievement of Albania celebrated its 10th anniversary. Teachers, pupils, students, administrators of the education system in the country, collaborators and partners of JAA from the business sector, assembled in the presence of Albanian Minister of Education and Sports Mrs. Evis Kushi, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of AADF Mr. Michael D. Granoff and the Board of Directors of the Albanian American Foundation for Development - AADF, Mr. Martin Mata and Mr. Aleksandër Sarapuli, the Board of Directors of JAA, the Executive Director of Junior Achievement Europe Salvatore Nigro, the US Deputy Ambassador in Tirana, Mr. Demian Smith and the Deputy Mayor of Tirana, Mrs. Keti Luarasi, as well as over 500 students, teachers, associates of JAA from the business sector and civil society, celebrated 10 years of JAA’s contribution to financial education and entrepreneurship in Albania.

JAA’s 10th anniversary was an event that unfolded the impact of JAA’s activity in the education sector, the investments made and the strategy for the near future. It was a moment that brought together all the actors who have worked and contributed

over the years to the JAA activities, to express their gratitude and appreciation to those who conceived, founded, believed and made it possible for Junior Achievement of Albania to be the only organization among 41 JA organizations in Europe, which has penetrated 100% into the competencybased curriculum of the pre-university education system in the country, with the subjects and modules of financial education, entrepreneurship and work readiness.

The beneficiaries and supporters of JAA in these 10 years shared their experience and achievements through this program.

Among the key achievements of JAA in these 10 years, we emphasize the 100% inclusion in the pre-university education system in place of financial and entrepreneurship education, the training and accreditation of over 8,600 teachers on teaching methodologies and the education of 400,000 students every year through JAA modules.

The year of the 10th anniversary of JAA activity in Albania. closes with another achievement at the European level, where Junior Achievement of Albania was announced JA Europe Model Organization 2022.

JAA is a success story, built upon a strategy and a lot of love to contribute to the future of generations, to inspire and prepare them to succeed in the world of business and work. Despite all the achievements, there is still much to do, in a changing world that breaks every prediction.


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