TIRANA, July 19, 1999


World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn visited Albania from July 18 to 19, 1999, at the invitation of the Government. Mr. Wolfensohn was accompanied by his wife Elaine Wolfensohn, the Executive Director for Albania, Mr. Franco Passacantando, the World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia, Mr. Johannes Linn, the Country Director for Albania, Ms. Arntraud Hartmann, and the Director of Central and Southern Europe at the International Finance Corporation, Mr. Harold Rosen. Mr. Wolfensohn’s visit to Albania marked the beginning of his first visit to South-Eastern Europe since the Kosovo crisis. He will also visit FYR Macedonia and Kosovo this week.

Mr. Wolfensohn came to Albania to observe firsthand the country’s situation after the Kosovo crisis, and to discuss ways of strengthening the World Bank’s support to Albania, as well as to promote regional integration. Mr. Wolfensohn said, "I am deeply impressed by the extraordinary response and sacrifices made by the Albanian people and Government to help the Kosovar refugees. You have shown the world the strength and potential of Albania."

During his stay, Mr. Wolfensohn met with President Rexhep Mejdani. President Mejdani thanked the World Bank Group for their support not only in recent times, but since Albania first became a member of the institution in 1992. In their discussions, Mr. Wolfensohn and Mr. Mejdani focussed on their shared hopes and plans for development in Albania and the region. Mr. Wolfensohn praised the maintenance of economic stability throughout the crisis and commented: "Now is the moment for you to secure good governance and justice in Albania, to secure peace and economic development in South-Eastern Europe, and even beyond that to secure Albania’s position in the region and world. The World Bank will be your partner."

Mr. Wolfensohn met also with Prime Minister Pandeli Majko and members of his cabinet. Together, they reviewed responses to the crisis and the agenda for future collaboration. During the crisis, the World Bank Group responded very quickly, with US$125 million equivalent in new credits approved by the International Development Association (IDA) in the last six months. The first US$30 million of emergency support was transferred to the country’s coffers in early May. These funds assisted Albania in managing the crisis while safeguarding the longer term development agenda.

Mr. Wolfensohn and the Prime Minister agreed that Albania should continue forcefully with its domestic reform agenda, to benefit as much as possible from the support and cooperation to be developed under the Stability Pact. Mr. Wolfensohn stated that "good governance is a crucial necessity in every country, so that funds destined for poverty alleviation and social improvement have the maximum effect."

Mr. Wolfensohn and Finance Minister Anastas Angjeli discussed priority measures to strengthen public administration, improve public services, combat corruption, and continue privatization. Mr. Wolfensohn expressed his appreciation for the excellent collaboration with the Albanian authorities on reform.

The World Bank delegation also visited an IDA financed Urban Land Project site in Bathore. Mr. Wolfensohn expressed his admiration for the way partnership between local and national authorities, Albanian NGOs, and the community is leading to improvements in the physical infrastructure: "I will talk about your achievements in other parts of the world" In his conversations with local residents who are benefiting from the project, Mr. Wolfensohn learned about new productive activities emerging in the area as a result of better road access.

Prime Minister Majko and Mr. Wolfensohn signed legal agreements for three projects for which IDA is providing concessional financing: Community Works (a supplemental credit of US$5 million equivalent), Irrigation and Drainage II (US$ 24 million equivalent), and Microcredit (US$12 million equivalent). These credits are provided on very favorable terms: 40 years maturity, 10 years grace, 0.75 percent per year interest rate. Mr. Wolfensohn also signed a Small Business Credit Agreement between the IFC and FEFAD (Foundation for Enterprise Financing and Development, an Albanian/German Bank).

Mrs. Elaine Wolfensohn also visited the SHEFT Center, which will be a pilot location for the IDA-funded Social Services Delivery Project, and enjoyed meeting with First Lady Mrs. Lidra Mejdani, and the wife of the Prime Minister, Mrs. Enkeleida Majko.

On his way to FYR Macedonia, Mr. Wolfensohn will visit Kukes to learn about the needs of that community after the Kosovo crisis. He will meet local authorities, residents of Kukes, and representatives of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. He will also view the sites of former refugee camps and distribution point for refugees returning to Kosovo.

Contacts :
Carlos Elbirt (355-42) 405 87/88/89  fax: (355-42) 405 90   Email: celbirt@worldbank.org
Ana Gjokutaj (355-42) 405 87/88/89  fax: (355-42) 405 90   Email: agjokutaj@worldbank.org