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Dear Minister Lleshaj, dear Executive Director De Bolle, dear General Director Veliu, Excellencies, dear colleagues,
I am very happy to celebrate this inauguration with you today for several reasons.
First of all, because we have seen in recent months the concrete results of the cooperation between Albania and Europol, with the dismantling of transnational criminal groups. A number of well-coordinated police operations involving Europol and law enforcement authorities in EU Member States and in Albania have indeed led to the arrests of leaders of transnational criminal groups and the seizure of money, businesses, drugs, and other criminal assets. Operation Goldfinger is just the latest example in this series.
These successful operations provide evidence that Albanian law enforcement authorities are reliable partners who deserve the trust of their counterparts in EU Member States. The Albanian State Police is increasingly able to engage in very sensitive police operations with its European partners.
Allow me to mention here that this increased cooperation at operational level can only contribute to build Albania’s case in EU capitals in view of the Council decision in October on the opening of EU accession talks.
I was a strong advocate – in my previous position in the European Commission – of ensuring that Albania is one of the first countries to have a Europol Liaison Officer deployed. I am glad to see that the initial seeds planted some time ago are today bringing fruits. I remain more than ever convinced that the work of the Europol Liaison Officer will be very beneficial to EU-Albania police cooperation.
I am confident that – with the presence of Alen Perušić as Europol Liaison Officer in Tirana – Albania will deliver more on law enforcement.
We can also count on Alen in helping the Albanian State Police use the Europol Cooperation Agreement to its full potential. As a way forward, I encourage the Albanian Police to exchange information with Europol in a more proactive way. I am sure Alen’s presence in this building will also be instrumental in that respect.
The new Europol Liaison Office adds an operational tool to the already strong support the European Union provides to Albania on the rule of law. Let me mention here, in particular, the important technical support provided by our two projects PAMECA and EURALIUS.
We are also currently planning the Security Academy, developing the capacities of police officers on financial investigations, as well as the planned delivery of equipment to the Border and Migration Police.
The Europol Liaison Office also adds to the recent deployment of FRONTEX border guards at the end of May. This deployment has already provided positive results in preventing illegal border crossing and arresting migrants' traffickers.
The posting of Alen Perušić needs to be seen in this larger perspective, as yet another milestone in the EU-Albania cooperation on rule of law.
Last but not least, let me express the hope that the Eurojust-Albania Cooperation Agreement – signed last October – can enter into force very soon. I know that the last requirements – linked to the enforcement of data protection requirements – are being addressed by the Albanian authorities, and I can only encourage you to move forward on this as swiftly as possible.
All of this shows that the EU is delivering on its Western Balkans Strategy adopted in February last year, which included a commitment to increase the engagement of EU Justice and Home Affairs Agencies in the region. And Albania is the front-runner in the Western Balkans from this perspective.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am convinced that Europol and the Albanian State Police will now be able to bring police cooperation between the European Union and Albania to the next level. Let me wish you all the best in this endeavour, for the benefit of your country and of the European Union.