Delegation of the European Union to Albania

Ambassador Vlahutin's speech at the "Operation Power of Law in Action - Achievements and Challenges" meeting

Tirana, Albania, 05/07/2018 - 17:52, UNIQUE ID: 180705_10
Speeches of the Ambassador

Your Excellency Prime Minister, dear Minister Xhafaj, President of the senate of the Kingdom of Netherland, dear colleagues, but in particular members of State Police I greet you with utmost gratitude.

In the past four years we mentioned words rule of law, justice system and law enforcement I don’t even know how many times, not only because they are among five key priorities, or because they sound right – but because they are fundamental to what the overwhelming majority of Albanian citizens want and demand: functional institutions that serve the nation and keep it safe and secure.

Four years ago we started the reform of the justice system not from zero, but from lower than that. Today, we are about to witness the priority list of highest ranking judges and prosecutors fully vetted, and very soon establishment of new judicial institutions, including Special Prosecutor for Corruption and Organized Crime. Decades of deficiencies and abuse cannot be fixed in a year or two, it takes time but the way is clear and the progress is good. Albania has become a model of bold reforms that are needed not only for the integration in the Union but for the overall progress of this region as well.

Eight months ago we got together to publicly support the start of the operation Power of Law, because it was evident that after the reform of the justice system the next phase of bringing the house in order was strengthening the law enforcement.

In those eight months very many things were accomplished, be it curbing cannabis cultivation and trade, arresting organized criminal groups in Shkoder, Durres, Tirana, Elbasan, Vlore, Gjirokaster, Lezha, Fier, Berat, Korca, Kukes, we heard the numbers. Successful operations in identifying shipments of drugs, money laundering, organized crime related to property, human trafficking. Also, the assets gained through criminal activity have finally being seized and will hopefully soon be fully given back to the society for the most urgent social needs.

One of the most important achievements of this operation is the establishment of the core group of focused and dedicated professionals from different institutions who are reinforcing each other’s capacities so that this operation will have tangible and long lasting results.

Our meeting today is to look at the progress and discuss what more needs to be done. Fight against crime is not an easy battle, it requires brave people, from police to prosecution to judges. It also requires cooperation and coordination among many institutions, and international partners as well. It requires skills and equipment, capacities and leadership.

First and foremost though, it requires political will and a firm decision to do it.

Many countries have faced and are facing the heavy challenge of fight against organized crime, including EU member states, and the issue is not whether such crime exists but whether the institutions are both capable and willing to destroy it.

Organized crime is not a local phenomena, it is highly dependent on transnational links and cooperation among criminals of different nationalities.

Organized crime thrives on weak institutions and corrupt politics, and this is exactly why good governance is a fundamental principle that is non-negotiable.

Organized crime counts on fear of the majority in front of the arrogance of the ruthless minority.

But we have to be clear today - there should be no fear, and organized crime cannot be stronger than the State. When crime strikes state must strike even harder nothing can be stronger than the functional institutions of a democratic state.

These institutions are being reinforced and need to be led with the clear mandate of zero tolerance to crime.

In the fight against organized crime society as well has a very important role, families first and foremost. We need to teach our children about human decency and good citizenship primarily through the example of our own lives.

Our children see all kind of mixed up values, and some of them might get confused to think that expensive things and big cars and arrogance of criminal money is great because it makes you feel important. Important to who? Important about what?

Education is key. I see many schools in small and far away places and I can tell you - there is major work still to be done, and we need to do it together. These children need to see that they are respected and taken care of, that there are opportunities and possibilities, that they will be helped to make the best out of their lives.

If there is one thing that really upsets me, it is when I hear that the perception of Albania in some countries abroad is a reflection of brutal crimes committed by people of Albanian origin or nationality in those countries.

I have travelled Albania from North to South, from West to East, and have met hardworking, honest, and genuinely good people.

And it is not fair and it is not right that they are in any way, absolutely in any way, mentioned or put in same context with those who bring shame to their families and their name.

Albanian nation is not responsible for criminals of Albanian origin. But the rule of law institutions in Albania and in all countries where they commit crimes are responsible to do everything to bring them to justice.

European Union is putting very considerable financial and human resources in the assistance to Albania. We have three rule of law missions, Pameca, Euralius and IMO, dedicated to assist long term, but there are also many other activities and actions undertaken.

I am grateful to all Member States who have extended help to Albanian law enforcement, be it with experts or joint investigative teams or any other way of cooperation.

I am certain that much more cooperation will be built in the future, based on these successful experiences.

Organized crime is a phenomena that nobody can fight alone, and for us investing in partnerships is investing in our own security.

Safe Albania means safer Europe, strong Albania means stronger Europe.

I thank you all for your dedication and hard work, and invite you to double our efforts and our partnership so that there is absolutely no slightest doubt who is winning this battle.