The European Fund for the Balkans, the Academy of Political Studies and the European Movement in Albania in cooperation with Gallup Europe organized a public discussion on "Albanian's Perceptions and European Integration: Satisfied with life, satisfied with the EU but happy to leave" at Hotel Tirana International, Balsha Hall, on Friday 19 February 2010.
The discussion was opened with short introduction by Ms. Biljana Meshkovska, Program Manager of the European Fund for the Balkans. The country specific results for Albania were presented by Mr. Robert Manchin, Director of Gallup Europe. The findings were discussed by Mr. Selim Belortaja from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Thomas Von Handel from EU Delegation in Albania, Mr. Lutfi Dervishi from Transparency International Agency and Mr. Gledis Gjipali from European Movement in Albania. The discussion was moderated by Ms. Rudina Xhunga, journalist from National TV, Top Channel.
The meeting was held in the presence of representatives of international institutions, media, NGOs, students and other personalities. The participants and guests in panel discussed and exchanged views on the key findings of the survey in the light of political, economic and social developments of the country emphasizing issues such as visa liberalization, corruption, EU accession etc. in
a comparative approach with neighboring countries or previous studies of this kind.
Albania has turned out to be the surprise packet in this wave of the survey: the results showed an improving sentiment in many fields such as the standard of living or identification with the political leadership.
Despite the financial crisis, satisfaction with the standard of living rose by 10% from last year and is now
at 54% - one of the highest figures in the region.
Support and expectations from EU accession
Albanian support for EU accession has also increased from the already high levels of past years to 88%: together with Kosovo, this was the highest level recorded in the region.
However, the developments that people expect after the potential EU accession also shed light on some of the country's most acute problems: people thought it could bring them freer travel, more security and a stronger rule of law.
Corruption, trust in institutions
The latter was reflected by the figures on corruption - 52% of Albanians had to pay a bribe in the past year, by far the highest figure in the Balkans. On the other hand, the level of corruption in the business world was assessed to be the lowest in the region and the country's respondents felt they were the least affected by organised crime.
A positive trend in Albanian public opinion is the rising identification with the political class: 63% said there was a party or politician that completely represented their political views - the highest such figure in the region and a steep rise from the level of 34% in 2006.
Government support, however, remains mixed: while 40% said the government was doing an excellent or good job, 30% found it to be rather poor.
The relatively high satisfaction of Albanians with their standard of living should be put into perspective given the high proportion of people seeing better opportunities abroad (64%) and of those willing to leave the country (38%, up from 32% in 2006). Roughly 4 in 10 (41%) Albanians reported that family members had left the country over the past five years - the highest level of family migration in the region.
The public discussion on "Albanian's Perceptions and European Integration: Satisfied with life, satisfied with the EU but happy to leave" was widely covered by print and electronic media.