Albania in drive to reach EU standard

September 10, 1999

ROME

Italy is leading a drive to bring Albania into the European higher education network and bring its universities up to modern standards.

Italian and Albanian government and university officials have already met in Capri to map out the campaign. Italian university minister Ortensio Zecchino and Albanian vice-premier Ilir Meta were involved, together with the rector of the Second University of Naples, Antonio Grella, and Manlio Ingrosso, head of the economics department.

"The aim is to use academic collaboration to help Albania into Europe, to sow the seeds of economic development through a reform of its universities," explained Professor Ingrosso. "We believe a new generation of economists, doctors, lawyers, engineers and so on will be the foundations of Albania's future. Today Albania faces many difficulties, but we are thinking in terms of five, ten and 20 years from now."

A delegation from the Second University of Naples has been invited to Tirana in September and Professor Ingrosso hopes that a protocol between governments will follow.

The idea for the project came from Naples. "This could be a model for a reformed Albanian university covering an area from Tirana to Vlore," Professor Ingrosso said.

Albania's universities are designated "institutes of higher instruction" and are not directly comparable to most European higher education systems.

If the project takes off, academics will commute across the 70 kilometres of the Adriatic that divide Italy from Albania, waters that today are crossed by thousands of refugees who pay up to Pounds 1,000 to the mafiosi of both countries for an illegal passage to Italy.

Professor Ingrosso said: "Our idea is to initiate a 'virtuous circle' through university reform so that quality is boosted and (Albanian) degrees are recognised in Europe, and to create a new generation of Albanians who will develop the country economically so that Albanians will no longer risk their lives to emigrate."

The campaign would be financed by the Italian university ministry, Albania, and Europe. Mr Zecchino said: "This is an initiative aiming at a step forward in relations between our two countries, as well as cultural cooperation and economic development in the Mediterranean."

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