Promoting EITI initiative and public benefits at country level

Promoting EITI initiative and public benefits at country level

On April 24, 2014, the Albanian Secretariat of Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, in cooperation with OSCE presence in Albania and The Ministry of Energy and Industry organized a Forum on “Promoting EITI initiative and public benefits at country level” at Tirana International Hotel.

The meeting was attended by Mr. Damian Gjiknuri, Minister of Energy and Industry, Mr. Lefter Koka, Minister of Environment, Mr. Ambassador Florian Raunig, President of the OSCE Presence in Albania, Mr. Alexander A. Arvizu U.S Ambassador to Albania and Mr. Eduard Shalsi, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Productive Activities, Trade and Environment. The Head of the International EITI Secretariat Mr. Jonas Moberg came with his message to the event, through a live Skype connection.

Local government, Biggest Oil /mining companies, and civil society representatives were present at the meeting.

A forum to promote the Initiative for Transparency in Extractive Industries and the benefits for local communities was organized by the Ministry of Energy and Industry and also by the presence of OSBE in Tirana. This forum aims the creation of a discussion platform and also the growth of awareness to the government authorities and businesses, in order to increase the public benefits, by developing projects affecting their natural resources.

Minister of Energy and Industry, Mr. Damian Gjiknuri during his speech, highlighted:

I consider the EITI Initiative in Extractive Industries as a very important initiative. There have been a lot of debates in which the main question was: How much do the public profits by the Extractive Industries?

In the places that own extractive industries there has always existed a kind of tension related to the public for the advantage by these kinds of industries. How much does the public really profit?

This is a normal stress, the public and also the policy groups are waiting more transparency from the extractive companies in order the public to be protected and to profit what it really should.

Our country, Albania, is blessed with natural resources and as a result it has a lot of possibilities to develop industries connected with extractive industries.

In fact, the transparency is a very important issue. Does the public or the Albanian government receive what it really deserves? This kind of tension exists in Albania, also exists in other countries. This is the reason why transparency process is needed, and also is needed the definition of strict rules for the division of these assets. As per my opinion the public hasn’t received what it deserves, especially in the mining section. I’m talking about the natural resources, we have a lot of illegal activities and often the rent is not calculated correctly because of these illegal activities. The Ministry that I lead is doing an extraordinary job trying to increase the transparency and the control especially in extractive section.

Some of the most important steps we are undertaking are:

We are dialoguing with the representatives of the extractive industries of oil in order to guarantee the investments in the field and the public to profit what it really could.

Another important decision of our government is to give new licenses for the oil resources through the auction, transparency and competition procedures. This is a very important decision that will take place in Albania, for the first time, after 20 years. The interest of international companies on the oil industry is growing too much and Albania is very interested to withdraw the interest of serious investors to come and visit in this field.

We are working hard to make some necessary changes in Mining Law in order to avoid a lot of problems this sector already has.

On the other side, with the support of the funds from EBRD, we are developing for the first time a register for the concessions. It will contain all the data for the concessions, mining permissions and companies. It will also contain the development phases of each process. This is a very important step for the transparency process and for everyone to know what is happening with our natural resources.

Let’s put our natural resources at the disposal of serious companies’ even international ones, but we should achieve this, through a transparent and competitive process. Our Ministry is working hard for this initiative and to support Albanian EITI, which hasn’t been functioning quite well during the last years. The Albanian Government is paying each day more attention to the transparency process, and we hope that this process will give good results for the Albanian public and also for the foreign investors.

As per the transparency, I congratulate EITI for this forum, and for the next report that will publish. We hope in this report to find answers for some of the most discussed concerns.

I also congratulate the Director of Albanian EITI for the work done and I want to assure her that she will have all the support of Ministry of Energy and Industry in her job for the transparency process.

Mr. Lefter KOKA, Minister of Ministry of Environment during his speech said:

The investment in the extractive industries are welcomed in Albania, but, meantime, the companies should compensate the possible damage of the environment by contributing to the environment, for example  by increasing the forestry surfaces, by planting and increasing green areas.

“Total lack of transparency and misguided policies for these last 24 years have caused abusive exploitation from the extractive investors showing bad results in environmental issues and use of natural resources”. Due to these opaque policies we continue to not have the confidence of our citizens, and they continue to not get the benefit they deserve from such exploitation. I assure everybody that we are committed to change this mentality forever. We have started to draft legal and policy frameworks to change reality.

By aiming the protection of the nature and the environment, I invite the companies to get engaged in the rehabilitation process of the area in which they operate, by repairing every part of the environment that should have not been destroyed.

He appreciated the role of EITI, extremely necessary as it provides fair and transparent relations between the state, companies, and civil society, and to contribute all together for the benefit of the country and community.

In his speech Mr. Florian Raunig, Head of the OSCE Presence in Albania mentioned that each of the stakeholders involved in extractive process and which have concerns and expectations should discuss and address their concerns in a constructive and serious way. Transparency in the extractives is a very serious concern; it is becoming an increasing need, and requires that Albania fulfills standards. OSCE is fully committed to support the Ministry of Energy and EITI to fulfilling this major objective.

On the other hand during his speech at the forum, U.S. Ambassador in Tirana, Alexander Arvizu, stressed the importance of the transition from informality to formality in the extractive industry sector. “An important component of this is the concept of reporting requirements. Every business should have a reporting requirement. It goes hand in hand with more transparency, “said Arvizu.

During his speech, Mr. Eduart Shalsi, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Productive Activities, Trade and Environment said:

I really welcomed the invitation to participate to the Albanian EITI forum. I am a personal fan of this initiative and from the perspective of the Head of Parliamentary Commission I Invite you to bring all the issues and the needs that EITI faces for consideration in the Albanian Parliament. I will be your voice there.

Mrs. Dorina Çinari, the Head of EITI Secretariat, highlighted the results of the work done so far and current status for the EITI activities in Albania. Mrs. Çinari mentioned the preparation of two EITI reports, 2011 and 2012, which are expected to be published in 2014 and the work done for the new EITI Standards of 2013. The new challenges: such as the transparency in all the extractives value chain rather than just payment/revenues reconciliation were set for the new agenda. The Revenue potential study, the Transfer pricing were also set as our new challenges.