The fellowship program was launched in the year 1998. Traumatized by the transition upheavals and insecurity of life and employment in Albania, the well educated Albanians headed massively for emigration. Many graduates of overseas universities did not return to Albania due to high unemployment levels and a passive resistance of the institutions to accept them. This “brain drain” in addition to the social problems, augmented also the consequences of impoverishment of the intellectual potential in the country. This potential was presently more necessary then ever to contribute to the progress of the country and the consolidation of the democracy. Both the central and local administrations suffered from low effectiveness and efficiency, poor quality of service for the citizens, interruption of good practices due to frequent staff turnovers, partisanship and political interferences, etc. In this context, prompted from the need to strengthen the weak public administration, OSFA designed the Fellowship Program to motivate young graduates to seek employment in the Public Administration. Priority was given to governmental agencies responsible for absorption of foreign aid, the strengthening of the rule of law, improvement of public services, etc. The program ran from 1998-2004 and provided supplementary salaries to about 150 returnees of overseas universities. The main pillars of the program were:
Supplemental salaries returnees with a position in the public administration. The financial support continued for three years.
The creation of e fellows Club that would create networks of fellows and offer them facilities such as internet connection, access to international journals; etc.
Opportunities to research and write about Albanian issues such as the working paper “Albania think again!” which consisted of papers written by Albanian fellows in foreign academic and research institutions.
The program was open to fellows in both the central and local level of government.
The Fellowship Program at the central level of public administration
The fellowship Program at the local level of public administration
Impact of the Fellowship Program on the political institutions in Albania
The fellowship program at the central level of public administration
The fellowship program served as catalyst of change by creating a chain reaction at all the levels of the public administration. This program aimed at improving the administration’s capacities towards increasing Albans’s progress on the road of reforms that would integrate the country with the democratic world. The beneficiaries of the program were Albanian citizens who have spent a certain period of schooling abroad, had obtained a foreign diploma (at undergraduate, graduate of PhD level) from prestigious universities abroad. The fellows should hold a position in the public administration, primarily in sectors related to policy design and implementation of reforms. The fellowship went primarily to people in the following posts: policy making, law formulation, international relations, economic policies, management, environmental protection, local governments, community development and democratic processes. The program was conceived to be implemented at several levels simultaneously: (a) OSFA would provide supplemental salaries t a number of people for three years each; (b) the government would make available certain posts to returnees from foreign universities; (c) these people would receive higher salaries than normal employees; (d) their jobs would be secure despite political rotation or changes of leadership, etc. “Albania think again” was designed to provide space to this category to publish research and analysis on Albanian phenomena. It was open also for contributions from foreigners with an interest in the Albanian developments, or the regional processes including European integration processes.
The fellowship program and its implementation
at the local level
Lack of effectiveness and efficiency that plagued the public administration during the transition was very visible in the sectors that were connected with providing services to the public. The local governments were plagued by legislative, administrative, political, moral and other issues. It would be over ambitious for OSFA to involve itself with all of these problems. What OSFA\could do based on the success of previous interventions was to design strategies to encourage young people to work at the local level. These people had to be progress oriented and with comparative higher qualifications than their peers. The aim of OSFA intervention was two fold: to demonstrate that new skills were necessary in order to address some of the grievances at the local level and open up the administration at the local level for people of this category by offering them key positions thus breaking the refraction that had characterized this local of administration toward progress and challenge.
However, OSFA received few applications for the local government fellowship. It was not very attractive for young people to accept employment at this level because of a number of reasons; poor intellectual life in the provinces, few competences of the local government units due to excessive centralism, conservatism, and harsh moral at the provinces. Therefore, in contrast with the Fellowship program at the central level of government, the local government fellowship targeted young people with diplomas from the University of Tirana with high achievements. These people had to have a 2-3 year experience in the area of their specialization. They had to have received their job in compliance with the competitive recruitment procedures contained in the Civil Service Law. In addition, the fellows had to be Albanian citizens less than 30 years of age and should have received their diploma following the year 1997. The priority areas for which the fellowships were awarded were: finance offices, tax related posts, urban planning, legal departments, public works departments, policy making, foreign relations and community development policies.
Impact of the fellowship program on
political institutions in Albania
One of the most important impacts of the fellowship Program is that it contributed to filling the posts which were key to integration processes of Albania. The main goal of institutional reformation is essentially to help the public administration towards the approximation of European Union standards. The Fellowship Program was designed to contribute to the attainment of this goal. This is so true that its impact also spread to other institutions outside the governments such as the political parties or the NGO-s which became progressively more open to accepting in their ranks returnees from overseas universities.
The best example to illustrate the phenomenon is the establishment of the Committee for Policy Orientation inside the Democratic Party of Albania. CPO’s membership was overwhelmingly made up of people with outstanding expertise who had completed undergraduate and graduate program in the best universities of the world. CPO defined itself as the embodiment of “professional alliance of the intellectual potentials with the academia and civil society with the Democratic Party of Albania for responsible and efficient governance to serve Albania and the Albanians. This definition which came right before the general elections of 3 July 2005 was essential in the Democratic Party’s victory in this election. Another important aspect which may illustrate the contribution of the Fellowship Program to the creation of capacities for such structures is the fact that former fellows were working mainly in the field supported previously by the Fellowship Program, i.e., education, health, anticorruption, law and justice system, economy and finance.