Import regulations and customs duties
Albania became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in September 2000 and since then has liberalized its import regulations and customs regime according to WTO guidelines. By deciding to accede to the WTO, Albania has committed itself to the three basic rules of international trade:
- transparency in laws,
- equal rights and privileges for foreign and domestic firms and citizens, and
- most-favored nation treatment.
The Directorate General of Customs (DGC) is the institution responsible for the management of the customs in the country and works under the Ministry of Finance. DGC is governed by the Customs Code of the Republic of Albania and its respective by-laws (Law No. 8449 of 27.01.1999). The Albanian Customs Code is inturn based on the Instruction of the Council of Europe EEC No. 2913/92 of 12 October 1992.
Customs duties are generally applied to almost all the products being imported into the country. The nomenclature of custom tariffs is largely based on the Harmonized System (HS).
Currently there are are 5 basic custom rates for imports depending on the type of the product:
0% , 2%, 5%, 10% and 15%.
The maximum rate of 15 percent is applied on products such as: textiles, jewelry and some food products. The lowest duty rate of 0 percent is applied mainly for humanitarian aid and waste processing equipment.
Albania being a signatory to the WTO's Information Technology Agreement (ITA) requires the elimination of import duties on a wide range of information technology products, including software and computer hardware. In general for the importation of used computer equipment customs duty is assessed on 50 percent of the value of new equipment.
Note: The duty is assessed on the CIF (cost, insurance and freight).
Import tax at the rate of 1% is applied on all goods imported into the country.
Importers should fill out a Declaration Form of Goods for setting goods in free circulation. Customs officer carry on a physical check of the merchandize prior to allowing it to free circulation.
Excise and Luxury Taxes: For various imported luxury products such as soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, coffee, mineral water, perfumes, deoderants, automotive fuel and oil by-products, cigarettes and tobacco, excise taxes also are applied in addition to custom duties. Excise taxes are determined by the type and quantity of the product and range between 20-65 percent.
Regulations governing payments
TheBank of Albania (the country's central bank) is responsible for managing the foreign currency. It along with all commercial banks licensed by it are authorised to carry out foreign payments. Payments between private individuals and legal entities are considered to be a civil-law relationship and are subject to the Civil Code (1994).
The use of foreign currency is allowed as means of payment within the country. There are no constraints on trading in hard currency. Every local or foreign person could own an unlimited number of accounts in any currency in any bank within the country.
The transfer of capital into and out of Albania can be carried out without any limitations. A non-resident person can open an account in the country, without limitations, in the domestic or foreign currency, in a local bank or a branch of a foreign bank licensed by the Bank of Albania and can buy or sell securities, etc.
Foreign companies seeking to market and distribute their goods in Albania can find a considerable number of merchants, agents, middlemen, wholesalers and retailers in Albania. Most distribution channels are in place, although with a lesser degree of sophistication than in European markets. The most important market area in Albania is its capital Tirana where primary business activity is based.
The per capita income in Albania remains among the lowest in Europe. Thus pricing plays an important at the time of buying a product. The focus on price is most visible by the relatively poor quality of merchandise in traditional shops. Counterfeit brands are also evident. However, now more and more customers are willing to pay a higher price for better quality of goods.
In order to conduct business effectively, it is essential for a foreign distribution company to select local partners. Information and access to this market is difficult without local partner who will have contacts and know-how to do business in this small-but-complex market.
The Business to Consumer (B to C) market
Small shops dominate Albania's retail sector. Retail outlets vary from roadside shops and open-air markets to city storefronts. While many stores specialize in goods such as shoes, leather, or bags; it is still common to find stores with an unusual mix of merchandise (for example, bicycles sold next to paper products and small appliances).
Private companies dominate the retail industry and many of the shops carry Italian and Greek goods. Fruits and vegetables are typically sold at open-air, non-refrigerated public markets.
Consumer-oriented trade shows are an important part of the retail scene in the country. Frequent sector-specific shows such as food shows and consumer electronics shows attract regional and local participants and exhibitors.
The Business to Business (B to B) market
There is a wide variety of import/export companies in Albania. They may be broadly defined as traditional foreign trade companies, large organizations with capital resources, and newly established small companies.While considering a potential agent or distributor, a due diligence background check of the potential business partner is very much required. Deloitte & Touche, KPMG and some local banks may be helpful in determining the credibility of a potential business partner. Business partners can also be found by participating in trade shows.
Franchising is a relatively new concept for the business community in Albania. Also the legal system in Albania does not explicitly address franchising; while as the existing legislation permits joint ventures, mixed ownership investment, and both foreign and domestic investment. Laws on labor relations are clearly spelled out, leases can be freely negotiated, and laws exist to protect trademarks, patents and copyrights. While legislation is in place, the enforcement of such legislation can be sporadic. Often a local company teams with a foreign company that provides equipment and merchandise, while the local company provides buildings, warehouses, office space and personnel.
Trade fairs and exhibitions are a viable means to promote industrial products. Local and foreign firms rely strongly on trade fairs to build business contacts, increase market visibility, and learn about new technology. Sponsorships and Special Promotions are also organised to launch new products. Because event promotion is new to the country, they offer companies an opportunity to stand out.
Transportation of goods
The total length of roads in Albania is around 18,000 km, out of which only 7,450 km are considered main roads. Currently the major cities of the country are linked with first-class national roads. There is a four lane highway connecting the city of Durres to the city of Tirana as well as the city of Durres to the city of Lushnje.
Albania is undertaking the construction of what it sees as three major corridors of transportation. The first project as of now is the costruction of the Durres-Pritina highway. In 2004 a deal was signed to connect the port of Durres with city of Pritina in Kosovo with a four lane highway. Construction has begun and the highway is expected to be finished by 2009. The second project involves the construction of European corridor-8 linking Albania with the Republic of Macedonia and Greece. The third project would be the construction of the north-south axis of the country; it is sometimes referred to as the Adriatic-Ionian highway as it is part of a larger regional highway connecting Croatia with Greece along the Adriatic and Ionian coasts. By the end of the decade it is expected that the majority of the sections of these three corridors will have been built. When all three corridors are completed Albania will have an estimated 759 kilometers of highway linking it with it's neighbours.
There are strict speed limits according to the type of vehicle and type of road. Normal rules and international road signs are applied. Traffic drives on the right. At night-time driving should be avoided, as there have been reports of carjackings.
The total railway network runs to approximately 447 Kms, having a standard gauge. There are no double track lines, except in the immediate vicinity of major railway stations, and the track used depends on operating convenience. Tracks are not electrified.
The national railway sytem is called Hekurudha Shqipėtare (HSH), the Albanian Railways. As compared to other European systems, HSH is a very primitive railway, partly due to damage arising from civil disturbances in 1990-92 and 1997. Trains have diesel engines, are in dilapidated conditions and are mostly overcrowded.
There are no international passenger trains connecting to Albania, the one railway into Montenegro being used only for freight traffic.Local railway services operate from Tirana to Shkodra, Vlora, Fier and Podgorec.
The ports and terminals in Albania are located at Shėngjin, Durrės, Vlora and Saranda. The biggest of them is the Durrės Port, where 80% of all freight volume is exchanged. Albania has 24 cargo ships (1000 GRT or over).
There are 43 Kms of waterways in the country around the sections of Shkodėr Lake, Ohėr Lake, and Big Prespa Lake.
As of 2007 Albania has only one international airport: Tirana International Airport Nėnė Tereza. It is commonly known as Rinas International Airport (TIA). It is located 25 km (16 mi) Northwest of Tirana, in the village of Rinas (Albanian: Rinasi). The airport was named after Mother Teresa, who was of Albanian descent, in 2001. The airport is linked to 29 destinations by 14 airlines. There has seen a dramatic rise in terms of passenger numbers and aircraft movements since the early 1990's. In the year 2006, TIA served 906,103 passengers and had 43 landings and takeoffs per day. There are also 14 domestic airports operating in the county.
The national carrier is Albanian Airlines (LV). Established in co-operation with Tyrolean Airways, the airline operates services to major European cities. Other airlines offering services to Tirana include Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa, Malev Hungarian Airlines, Olympic Airways, Swissair and Turkish Airlines.
An Albanian Airline shuttle runs to the city centre where its offices are based (travel time - 30 minutes). Taxis are also available to and from the airport.
The international airport of Kukes is expected to open in early 2008, making this the second civilian airport in Albania.
A local news paper announced on March 16, 2007 that the Italian government would help rebuild the airport in Gjirkoastra as international airport. The airport would be dual functional, both a civilian and military airport. The first phase of construction is expected to start in September of 2007.
The national body responsible for administration of standards in Albania is the General Directorate of Standardization (DPS). It is an independent government body established by law in the year 1999. It is a member of international organisations like ISO, IEC, CEN & CENELEC. The main activites of DPS are as follows:
1. Adopting international and European standards (ENs)
2. Increasing the effectiveness of standardization
3. To modify international and European standards in order to adopt them as Albanian standards provided they promote the interests of the country.
Conformity assessment in Albania is the responsibility of the relevant ministries and coordinated by the Certification Department of DPS.The conformity mark S SH(Albanian Standard) needs to be affixed to a product or its packaging to demonstrate the products conformity with the standard and technical specifications to which it belongs.
Patents and brands
The authority responsible for protection of intellectual property in Albania is the Directorate of Patents and Trademarks (DPT). DPT is a public insitution working under the Ministry of Economy The working of DPT is governed and regulated by the law on 'Industrial Property' approved on 27th April' 1994, and based on international conventions and treaties to which Republic of Albania is party. Main activity of DPT are:
1. Administer all the procedures for granting and protecting the industrial property rights.
2. Provides reliable examination and registration related to: patents, trademarks, industrial design and geographical indications.
3. Make laws and regulations related with the country's IP system.
4. Represent the country in the court and other international organisations for issues related to the Industrial Property.
Texts currently applying to patents/brands
||Date entered into law
||Period of validity
Patents and Utility Models
Law on Industrial Property
27th April 1994, amended on 22nd April 1999.
20 years incase of invensions and 10 years incase of utility models, counted from the date of filing of the application.
The period of validity incase of invensions related to pharmaceutical products can be extended beyond 20 years but only for a total of 5 additional years.
Law on Industrial Property
27th April' 1994, amended on 22nd April' 1999.
5 years, counted from the date of filing of the application
The registration may be renewed, on payment of the prescribed fee, for additional terms of five years
each up to a total term of 15 years counted from the filing date.
Trademarks and Service Marks
Law on Industrial Property
27th April'1994, amended on 22nd April' 1999.
10 years, counted from the filing date
The registration of a mark may be renewed , on payment of the prescribed fee, for additional terms of 10 years.
Appellation of Origin
Law on Industrial Property
27th April'1994, amended on 22nd April' 1999.
20 years, counted from the filing date.
An appellation of origin is a collective right and may be used as such only by those who produce or market the product for which an appellation of origin has been established.
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