Tirana must beat raging corruption

TIRANA – A US corporation that promotes investment in Albania yesterday called on the country to do more to fight corruption and improve transparency and the rule of law in order to better integrate into world markets. The Albanian-American Enterprise Fund (AAEF), a private corporation first funded through a 24-million-euro grant from the US government, has made 62 investments in 25 companies of more than 52 million euros. «Transparency, rule of law and corruption are a few of the issues Albania needs to grapple with in the years ahead,» said Michael D. Granoff, chairman of the AAEF board. Albania’s new Democratic Party government of Prime Minister Sali Berisha, created after the July 3 parliamentary elections, considers the fight against corruption its top priority. Albania, one of Europe’s poorest countries, slipped 18 places to 126th among the 159 nations surveyed by Transparency International, which earlier this week released its 2005 corruption perception index – an annual ranking that is closely watched in Eastern Europe. The enterprise fund’s largest investment is the opening of the American Bank of Albania in 1998, having now over 410 million euros in assets and lending 143 million euros. It also became part of the privatization of the Mother Teresa International Airport, as a partner of the German-led Airport Partners Consortium, investing 83 million euros for its renovation. The fund has invested in industries ranging from banking, metal fabrication, garment manufacturing, marble processing, insurance, plastic pipe manufacturing and real estate development.