Thank you the OSCE Presence in Albania for the invitation today to discuss how organised crime and corruption can be addressed through the re-use of confiscated criminal assets.
The fight against organised crime and corruption is a key priority for Albania on its path towards European Integration. I am a strong advocate of the "follow-the-money approach", focusing on seizure and confiscation of illegally gained assets, which has proven very effective in countries like Italy.
Decisions such as the one taken last week that will allow municipalities to use apartments seized from to criminal activity for social housing are steps in the right direction.
As you know, the EU Delegation is at the forefront of this agenda in Albania. For more than 4 years now we have worked in establishing the first social enterprises of the country that make use of confiscated assets. This initiative was not only new to Albania but also to the region.
The EU-funded project CAUSE showed that it can worked. It was a victory of civil society against organised crime, sending the clear message that what is stolen can and should be given back to society.
I am very proud that the EU was behind this exciting journey.
The concept of social re-use of confiscated assets is not new within the European Union. It has clearly shown its efficiency and contribution to society, for example in Italy. And I am very happy that today we will listen to the experience of Libera. Allow to commend the work done since the 90s by Libera under the leadership of Don Luigi Ciotti, with whom I had the privilege to work together in the past.
It is a perfect example of a “whole-of-society approach'. And as I know from my own experience, the reuse of confiscated assets in collaboration with civil society organisations contributes greatly to reaffirming the value of legality and bringing hope to citizens.
Thanks to EU funding, three successful social enterprises have now been established and are functioning
In November 2018, we opened the social pastry shop KE BUONO in Fier, which will be presented to you today.
One year later, we opened the KINFOLK COFFEE LIBRARY for the young people of Durres. It turned a dusty criminal bar into a multicultural centre, offering a wide range of activities such as trainings, languages course, or summer schools.
And earlier this year we opened the SARANDA SOCIAL CRAFTS GARAGE which employs women and girls victims of organised crime, as human trafficking, forced prostitution, sexual abuse and domestic violence.
It was a difficult journey between fear and intimidation for those three projects to become real.
The EU Delegation has learned a lot from this first experience ever in Albania and we are willing to discuss the lessons learnt and ways forward. However, this is not the end of our assistance. The EU is currently, investing in the improvement of the regulatory framework by contributing to guidelines for the use of these assets for social purposes, and by supporting the establishment of an Asset Recovery Office.
Some of these activities lean very much towards the activities of the upcoming OSCE project, and the some of the same experts are involved. Coordinating assistance, building synergies and encouraging discussions between beneficiaries will be essential. I invite the Ministry of Interior to ensure that this coordination takes place.
As today you will also discuss the way forward and future opportunities for the social re-use, I am happy to announce that early next year new grants will be available. A call for proposals will soon be published to support social enterprises with the purpose on creating economic value, inclusive employment and positive social change
I would like to encourage the Government, the Agency, Civil Society organisations such as Libera and Engim to go even further and make sure that we see many more of these initiatives in the future.
I would like to end by personally thanking the local organisations for their courage to stand up against criminal networks. You are at the frontline of the battle for a good and caring society.
It was a difficult road and it took a long time, but the EU projects in Durres, Fier and Saranda have proven that social entrepreneurship within confiscated assets are possible in Albania.
The way forward has been set. Let's work together so that those become normal practice rather than exceptions.