November 14th, 2017
This newsletter is drafted by the International Affairs Bureau of the Democratic Party of Albania in response to the growing interest from international partners and organisations on the democracy and rule of law standards in the country.

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CANNABIS 

Former convicted policeman and brother of Deputy General Director of the Albanian Border Police, arrested while trafficking 1.5 tons of cannabis.

Nov. 11, 2017 – Albanian Special Police Forces have seized a large amount of 1.5 tons of cannabis in the Vilun area (city of Shkodra) few moments before being trafficked to Italy via a speed-boat. The cannabis was being transported in a van which driver was Enriko Zylo, a member of the Albanian Border Police and brother of the Deputy General Director of the Albanian Border Police. Zylo is a former felon convicted in Italy for drug trafficking and trade in the city of Rome. He has served its sentence in the Italian Rebibbia prison. 

Internal sources declare that the fact he was involved in drug trafficking was known to Albanian Police international partners who have tried to raise the issue without success. Reports state that Zylo was a protégé of the Habilaj gang during the time Saimir Tahiri was Minister of Interior, and afterwards a protégé of Agron Xhafaj, brother of the current Minister of Interior, who is also convicted in Italy for drug trafficking.


CANNABIS 

Record high seizure of 2.4 tons of Albanian marijuana in the city of Ravenna (Italy) after massive manhunt and use of weapons by fugitives.

Nov. 13, 2017 - The Italian police has arrested an Albanian gang in the city of Ravenna after a road patrol has identified through a random control a van transporting 2.4 tons of marijuana, 62kg of cannabis and 4kg of cannabis resin. The seizure is considered as the largest amount ever captured in the province of Ravenna. During the control, one of the drivers has tried to flee by using his weapon and shooting to the road patrol. One policemen was injured. After several hours and a large number of policemen involved in an extended man-hunting, the police achieved to arrest all involved individuals. The total market selling value amounts up to 25 million euros. (follow link for Italian media report).


CANNABIS

Large Albanian crime organization specialized in heroin trafficking arrested by Napoli Police after investigations started on 2016.

Nov.13, 2017 - the Napoli police has arrested 26 members of an Italo-Albanian large criminal organisation specialized in the trafficking of heroin from Albania to Italy, which was being sold in turn in the region of Naples. More than 100 Italian policemen were involved in the action which concluded in the seizure of 500.000 euros in cash, 7.4kg of heroin but also of two Italian transport companies, two bakeries, one restaurant and one internet cafe. The investigations had started on 2016 and were implemented exclusively by the Italian police (follow link for Italian media report).


CANNABIS

Radio France International special report : “Is Albania becoming a narco-state in the heart of Europe?"

(Translated from french) As cannabis production and trafficking have exploded in this country for a few years now, the United States and European countries have begun to exert increasing pressure on the socialist government of Edi Rama.

Albania has always been known for its cannabis production, but since Edi Rama came to power in 2013, the situation has changed in nature. Production, once concentrated in the south, is now spreading across the country, pushing back traditional agriculture. Farmers are abandoning their land, preferring to work in plantations, where they can earn 20 euros a day, a very good salary for Albania. This production is massively exported to Italy and, to a lesser extent, Greece. Not only would the police protect the production, but air and naval bases of the army would be used to export the drugs, the money of which, in turn, would finance the electoral campaigns of the Socialist Party of Edi Rama. READ MORE

 


STATE AUDIT

National audit report: 2.5 billion euros of financial losses from public administration misdoings during last three years.

The last State Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) report for FY2016 has made a series of findings reflecting an overall worrisome situation such as: 
  
• The economic damage to the state budget for 2016 is 820 million euros. In 2015, the economic damage to the state budget was 1 billion euros and in 2014 the economic damage was 777.2 million euros. In total the economic damage according to SAI was 2.5 billion euros for three years altogether.
 
• There have been 7013 public procurement procedures based on "negotiations without prior announcement of the contract notice" corresponding to 30% of the total public procedures. SAI findings suggest that only 105 of these procedures have been audited. READ MORE


EU INTEGRATION 

Basha - Hahn: European integration needs concrete results in the fight against organized crime to progress. 

DP Chairman Lulzim Basha met with Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn in Tirana on Nov. 10th 2017. Basha reaffirmed DP’s determination to fight organized crime backed by government links, considering it as the top priority and the only mean to advance Albania’s EU integration.
 
One of the major issues discussed through the two hours-long meeting, related to the political situation in the country following the publication of new evidences as of the involvement of PM Rama's close associates, including former Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri, in international trafficking of narcotics.
 
Due to Rama’s governmental support, it is believed that organized crime has evolved and is currently cleaning dirty money and incriminating entire segments of the economy, particularly in the construction and the banking sectors (for details follow below DP update article).
 
DP Chairman Basha and Commissioner Hahn shared the same view that Albania's European integration should be based on merit, and that the country needs strong evidences of the impartial implementation of the justice reform, as well as concrete results in the fight against corruption and organized crime, so no more impunity and “untouchables” shall exist in Albania.


EU INTEGRATION  
German MFA Director for SEE, Hellbach: Albania’s future EU integration lays on its advances on the five priorities. Abuse with political immunity should not impede justice in the case of concrete evidences. 

In an interview given to the Deutche Welle on Nov.11th 2017, the Director for South-East Europe Department at the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Christian Hellbach, declared that Albania should invest itself towards concrete advancements as of the justice reform and five priorities, if it’s looking to accelerate its EU integration process. Mr. Hellbach reminded also that in a country reigned by rule of law, no political immunity shall be above justice when concrete proofs are publicly available.  
 
DW: Does Germany support Albania’s ambition to open its adhesion negotiations next year?
Christian Hellbach: Germany stands to the promise that all SEE countries have the prospect of integration and we support them in their efforts to implement the necessary reforms. The criteria to start the membership negotiations are known. It’s now in the hands of Albania to achieve the required progress in all five key priorities. A very important step is justice reform and the recently completed vetting commission. We look forward to their work and we will observe them thoroughly. Success is also expected to be achieved in the fight against organized crime and corruption.
 
DW: What is your comment on the current political situation in Albania? Namely, the investigations on corruption and on the links with drug trafficking groups of former Minister of Interior, but also the resignation of the Secret Services’ General Director?
Christian Hellbach: Allow me to answer this question in principle: one of Albania's major tasks in the framework of EU integration is the uncompromising fight against organized crime and corruption. For this reason, there is a need to consolidate law enforcement bodies in their activity as well as criminal prosecution processes regardless of the person involved. Likewise, one should not abuse with parliamentary immunity to protect elected officials from being addressed by justice, if there are enough concrete moments of suspicion. This is an imperative of a state governed by rule of law

During his stay in Tirana Mr. Hellbach met personally also with DP Chairman Basha and the Head of the parliamentary European Integration Committee Pollo.


FREE MEDIA

Rama on Albanian and Italian media: “You’re untrustworthy. Your licence is a hunting licence. You’re a trash can.”

PM Rama made the umpteenth declaration in recent weeks against the media and journalists during an event organised in Tirana in partnership with the European Union on Nov. 9, 2017. Rama made an indirect assumption that Albanian media licences could be the object of an executive order by impeding directly their independence. He also accused the investigative TV show “Le Iene” (in English "Hyenas")produced by the Italian national TV channel “Italia 1” as a source of fake-news using manipulated footages after they broadcasted a story on mining working children in the poor region of Bulqiza. The journalist in charge of the investigation of "Le Iene" replied by considering as shocking PM Rama's declarations. READ MORE


ECONOMY
Democratic Party MP Salianji threatened during Parliamentary Security Commission’s meeting after questioning on use of military compounds for trafficking cannabis 

Ervin Salinaji, Democratic Party MP was violently threatened during the budget debate in the Parliamentary National Security Commission by two ruling Socialist MPs, Pjerin Ndreu and Paulin Sterkaj, known for their strong links with criminality and organized crime. 

The threats came during a Q&A on the issue of military compounds being used to stock cannabis by governmental-backed criminal organizations and the switch-offs of military sea radars to facilitate cannabis traffics by boats. 
 
Pjerin Ndreu (current ruling Socialist Party MP and former chief of Police officially dismissed for corruption charges) has been involved alongside with another socialist MP (with a renowned criminal past), in a physical assault within the Parliament premises against a Democratic Party MP, Gent Strazimiri, on July 2014. The opposition protests following this event led to the “Decriminalization” law and process.


External links

Stability requires commitment from EU and WB leaders ", European Western Balkans, November 10th, 2017

" The Western Balkan countries face increased authoritarianism, reflected in state capture by political parties in power, slow and inconsistent reform processes, high youth unemployment (47,7 % in 2015) and large informal economies (up to 30-50 % of GDP [while] illegal production and trade in arms and drugs remain problematic in the region.".
 

L’Albanie est-elle en train de devenir un narco-Etat au cœur de l’Europe ?", Radio France International, November 9th, 2017
 

The Fraught Legal History of the “Special Task Force ", Exit.al, November 9th, 2017
 

Balkans media days : la colère des journalistes, le silence de l’UE ", Courrier des Balkans, Novembre 11th, 2017 (translation in english available here)
 
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Democratic Party of Albania. 


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Democratic Party of Albania · Selia qendrore PD · Blv. Zhan d'Ark, No.11 · Tirana 1001 · Albania

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