BelCCI representative in Albania Aleksander Gjurbavija: "Belarusian and Albanian businesses need to reach a new level of cooperation"

№ 4, 2021

Mr. Gjurbavija, it's been not a long time since you were appointed the representative of the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. What goals did you set and what do you plan to achieve in connection with this appointment?

I would like to begin with the goals that were set even before my appointment.

The level of trade and economic co­operation between Belarus and ­Albania is still modest today. At the same time, the potential for such cooperation is huge, and the appointment of a ­BelCCI representative in ­Albania should undoubtedly give an additional impetus to bilateral partnership.

I would compare trade and partnership relations strengthening between countries with the construction of a building, where the structure reliability depends on the strength of the foundation. According to my plan, the creation of the BelCCI representative office in Albania in the conditions when the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries has not yet been completed will be an important "brick" in this foundation, will facilitate the discovery of Belarus for potential partners and investors, and will create a direct platform for economic and trade dialogue for entrepreneurs from both countries.

The priorities for today are to make ­Belarusian and Albanian markets mutually accessible, ensure a worthy representation of Belarus in Albania, protect the interests of national manufacturers and promote them, facilitate the develop­ment of economic integration, build strong mutually beneficial links and create guarantees for the successful implementation of joint projects. In this work, it is important not only to understand the interests of both countries, but also to study in what time period and what projects can be launched, and for which ones it is still necessary to develop interest and prepare the infrastructure. Moreover, it is important to know exactly how the technological cycle will be built, how much time and resources it may require.

These are my plans as the Chamber representative, including studying the available opportunities and niches, searching for promising areas, creating conditions for business contacts, strengthening economic links and increasing trade.

Besides, one of the next steps is to monitor various student and cultural programs, establish links between the universities of both countries, explore the possibilities of cooperation in the scientific and educational fields.

How are you personally connected with Belarus? What do your companies deal with? What are the prospects you see for interaction with ­Belarusian businesses?

My first steps as an independent entrepreneur began in the television industry. It was my company that created the first cable operator in ­Albania, which afterwards united all cable structures of the country into one platform. Now I am taking charge of the company that is engaged in international trade with a focus on Eastern Europe, and I am also a shareholder of an energy photovoltaic park in ­Albania.

Since I have many years' experience in the field of trade and promoting economic links between the Balkan ­Peninsula and the states of Eastern Europe, I could not but note the special attention that Belarus shows to the quality of its products, as well as the country's potential as a whole. This was the first step towards my study of opportunities and prospects that may open up when the interests of both countries are united. And, of course, the desire to see more high-quality Belarusian goods on the shelves of our stores – meat and dairy products in particular.

Thus, I began actively establishing contacts with companies and organizations in Belarus, took part in the events aimed at developing business links and presenting the potential for interaction in the trade and economic sphere. Moreover, I want to emphasize that the work in this direction for several years has served to achieve significant results: we have made progress in the development of cooperation, we follow a completely new practice of trade relations, that is subordinated to the unification of economic potentials of companies to increase joint competitiveness in order to jointly produce state-of-the-art products, which would be in demand not only in Belarus and Albania, but in neighboring countries as well.


In your opinion, in what directions is it possible to intensify the Belarus-Albania interaction?

As I have already mentioned, it's just the beginning stage of economic co­operation between Minsk and Tirana. At the same time, Belarus is increasing­ly considering Albania not only as an interesting tourist destination, but also as an opportunity to enter a new level of trade relations with the Western Balkans. In turn, Albania is very interested in the timber reserves of Belarus, the products that are manufactured here – steel structures, seeds, oil and grain crops in general, and many other goods.

In the situation that has developed in recent years, in response to the crisis associated with the pandemic, the search for new reliable economic partners has become top-of-the-agenda for almost all countries worldwide. I know Albania's need for raw stuff for the production of building materials, electricity, petrochemical, light, food, timber and woodworking industries, as well as I am aware of the Belarusian potential in these industries, so I am sure that cooperation in these areas will be mutually beneficial.

I also see good prospects for the develop­ment of bilateral partnership in agriculture, the development of port and tourism infrastructure, hydro­power, IT, metallurgy, pharmaceuticals sector, the production of food – particularly meat and dairy products.

Being the BelCCI representative in ­Albania, I am determined to create the necessary basis to make the parties see and assess the potential of bilateral relations and find new ways to strengthen them.

The tourism sector is rapidly develop­ing in Albania. Moreover, in recent years, this country was one of the few that Belarusians could visit without a certificate or self-isolation. Could you, please, tell if this has facilitated the growth in the tourism service turn­over? Are Albanian citizens interested in visiting Belarus?

Indeed, Albania is increasingly attracting tourists with its rich archaeological heritage from the times of Ancient Greece, the Roman and Ottoman ­Empires, azure beaches, mountain paths, traditional cuisine and the distinctive atmosphere of the countryside, as well as a friendly and open attitude towards tourists. In addition, national programs for the development of the tourism industry have been crea­ted and are being implemented, which are producing very tangible results.

While the pandemic has become a challenge for the global economy and the majority of its branches, the ­volume of tourism services provided by Albania has significantly increased compared to the pre-Covid years. More­over, the data of the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index show the rapid growth of the country's position in many respects.

This year alone, from June to August, Albania was visited by more than two million tourists from the so-called ­former Soviet states. The Belarusian citizens were not an exception – over the past two years, a significant number of ­Belarusian tourists have discovered Albania not only as a Covid-free country, but also as an interesting and attractive tourist destination. We are looking forward to even more active development of cooperation in this field.

In turn, Belarus is still a mystery country for many Albanians. At the same time, ancient forests, unique landscapes, national parks and reserves, as well as a huge number of objects of historical, cultural or architectural value, can attract a curious Albanian tourist. And this is also the task of the BelCCI representative office – to present the ­Belarusian potential to the citizens of ­Albania, to create a bridge between these two countries not only in the trade and economic sphere, but also in culture, to promote tourist exchange.

Are there any bilateral events planned with the participation of representatives of Belarusian and Albanian business circles shortly? What are businesses interested in? How effective, in your opinion, are such bilateral initiatives and activities?

Albania and Belarus are the countries that are open for investors, new ideas, projects and successful cooperation. The fact that they have identified the investment sector as a strategic aim allows us to integrate the practice of sharing experience and economic opportunities. Therefore, together with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, we are planning to organize a visit of the Albanian business delegation to Belarus, and we also invite representatives of the Belarusian business community to Albania with a corresponding visit.

The agenda of the meetings planned during these visits includes presentation of industrial, trade, economic and tourist potential, enterprises of both countries, investment attractiveness, the establishment of mutually beneficial contacts between Albanian and Belarusian business circles, expansion of market outlets, search for partners for industrial and other forms of cooperation, as well as attracting investment into the tourism sector and the financial sphere.

Both countries have the potential to make their partnership deeper and create joint ventures. Business needs to find points of mutual interest and reach a new level of cooperation. Moreover, I am sure that the planned events, as well as the BelCCI work and my work as the Chamber representative, will contribute to this.