Speech of Ambassador Vlahutin to the Launch Event of PAMECA V. Consolidation of Law Enforcement Agencies - Support to the Ministry of Internal Affairs Albanian State Police and Prosecutor Offices
Tirana, 13/02/2018 - 16:22, UNIQUE ID: 180213_9
Speeches of the Ambassador
Dear Minister Xhafaj, dear ambassadors, colleagues
Dear gentlemen and few but very special ladies,
I will keep my remarks short and precise, because the task before us is very demanding but crystal clear: Albania needs to remove itself entirely from the map of countries that are suffering from organised crime activities and the culture of impunity.
People of Albania have put too much sacrifice and too much work has been put in this country, and no one has a right to abuse it for their own criminal and vested interests.
Like many other countries in transition, Albania has paid a hefty price for systemic poverty, lack of institutional memory and functioning institutions, and widespread culture of impunity.
But that time is over. Albanians have very clearly said their mind, and their choice is clear – it is prosperity and predictability of the European standards, and rights and responsibilities like everywhere else in the European Union.
This is exactly what has been in our joint focus in the last years, from most comprehensive justice reform to the current major undertakings in the law enforcement.
In this battle of all battles Albania is not alone, to the contrary. It will take time, there will be ups and downs, but I have no doubts in victory.
Transnational Organised crime is a threat to our security, hindering the social, economic, political and cultural development of our societies. Organised crime knows no borders and has no scrupules, and is very often unfortunately better organised and coordinated that some institutions.
So the logic of our response is very clear: we need to fight it together. And this is exactly what we do. European Union, Member States, United States of America, international organisations --- we have all got together in a joint effort to pull resources and assist Albanian institutions in becoming stronger and more efficient in the fight against organised crime and corruption.
However, the key in this effort is political will and firm determination to deal with a problem without any compromise.
I want to thank Minister Xhafaj and his team for serious and dedicated work and partnership in this fight.
In 2017 we have seen for the first time in decades a dramatic decline in cannabis plantations, but we are waiting to hear from Guardia di Finanza on the 2018 surveillance results later this summer, because we all want to be sure that the victory is sustainable.
We have also witnessed a number of successful police operations in Shkoder, Fier, Lezhe and other towns targeting organised criminal groups. We finally see more determination in confiscating criminal assets.
I see this just as a beginning, definitely to be strengthened and followed up by tougher operations going against key criminal interests.
Pivotal for all this effort is the work of prosecution, and we are all waiting for far more efficient and timely results of criminal investigations. There are no people, if they commited crimes, who can be above the law, regardless of their name or function. It is the responsibility of prosecution to make sure they are brought before the courts.
We as the European Union try to assist as much as possible. The EU is investing 6 Million euros only in PAMECA V with already significant results. Many of PAMECA's recommendations have been included in the strategic plans of the Minister of Interior –the operation Power of Law.
The EU specialized Agencies such as EUROPOL, FRONTEX and EUROJUST are also increasingly cooperating with the country. Only yesterday during the visit of Commissioner Avramopoulos a very important agreement has been initialled, on the operative cooperation between European Agency of Coastal and Border Guard and Albanian MoI. Albania is a frontrunner in the region, with other countries to follow soon, in an arrangement that will make national and EU borders safer.
The Strategy for the Western Balkans proposes closer, more systemic and more advanced partnership on law enforcement with the countries of the region. Member States' and experts' contributions should be increased to support and bring pressure to bear on reform implementation.
To be even clearer, a solid track record of proactive investigations, prosecutions and final convictions against organised crime groups, including high level members of groups involved in cannabis cultivation and trafficking, still needs to be established as a matter of urgency.
I am certain that many concrete measures, assistance and expertise that the EU is providing will be matched by results and establishment of strong culture of legality in Albania.
Thank you all for your commitment, your investment and hard work on this most important chapter of Albania's integration into European Union.