Photo: Bank of Albania, Aldo91 / Shutterstock
In 2019, when Banca d’Italia embarked on the Twinning project “Enhancing Bank of Albania’s alignment with the EU acquis” as the leading institution, no one could imagine that the project would turn out the way it did. Not only did it bring together professional expertise, fruitful exchanges and 155 enthusiastic experts from Albania, Italy, Germany, Romania and France, but it also showed resilience and determination of all partners involved to pursue the objectives and conclude the goals of the project under challenging circumstances.
In 2010, Banca d’Italia had already led another Twinning project with the Bank of Albania, in collaboration with Banque de France, covering a number of different central banking functions, translating into more than 350 working days, including 100 missions in Albania and almost 20 study visits in Rome. Additionally, extensive bilateral activities were organized thereafter.
Thus, in 2019 the Banca d’Italia were ready to start a peaceful, although complex and challenging, journey, following the path successfully built in previous experiences with BoA. The new Twinning was expected to be another building block in the special relationship between the institutions, based on a long-standing, and still growing, partnership. In addition, the strong ties between our peoples, a common working ground, and a renewed commitment to share best working practices gave both sides a feeling that they would sail in calm waters.
Two dreadful shocks were waiting just around the corner: an earthquake in Albania and the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unexpectedly, all working plans changed, forcing the suspension of the programme for four months. During those months the activities were re-designed and, even though the Twinning partners were physically separated, we were still working together, with the same goals and determination. Following the flexibility arrangements promptly adopted by the European Commission, since July 2020 all missions and study visits were transformed into videoconferences and remote activities, and all project documentation was digitalised. Even though sometimes the lack of direct personal interaction required considerable extra effort to implement the programme, the virtual format allowed reaching many more beneficiaries, as more experts from Albania could be involved.
In the end, the digital leap allowed for full implementation of the project in a remote format: over 100 activities were carried out in the fields of banking supervision, monetary policy, statistics, internal audit, payment systems and human resources. This was made possible by the commitment of Bank of Albania staff and the spirit of cooperation of all the European partners, along with the continuous support by the EU Delegation in Albania.
The project helped implement among others new provisions aligned with EU standards relating to capital adequacy, some of the provisions of the Payment Accounts Directive, as well as several recommendations issued by the European Systemic Risk Board. More robust and efficient data management system has been introduced, leading to refinement and expansion of monetary and financial statistics. With the help of the participating experts, a significant progress was made towards the adoption of the ECB standards in the domain of payment system oversight and in increasing awareness of cyber-risks in online payments.
Once more, the Twinning instrument proved to be an effective tool through which candidate countries and EU Member State administrations can build together an inclusive future.
Project title: Enhancing Bank of Albania’s alignment with EU Acquis
Project ID: AL 15 IPA FI 01 19, 2019-2020