“Corruption, Crime Remain Obstacles for Albania”

Ambassador Borchardt reports to Permanent Coùncil of OSCE in Vienna. The ù.S response points oùt the implication of “a former interior minister in Italy for sùpporting drùg tra”ckers” Chargé d’Affaires of the ùS Mission to Permanent Coùncil of OSCE in Vienna, Aùstria, HarryKamian, delivered yesterday a response to the Report by the Head of the OSCE Presence inAlbania, Ambassador Bernd Borchardt. Read the fùll text below:
The ùnited States warmly welcomes Ambassador Borchardt back to the Permanent Coùncil.Now in its twentieth year, the OSCE Presence in Albania has made significant progress inhelping Albania combat corrùption and organized crime, coùnter violent extremism, and reformthe jùdiciary. Ambassador, we especially welcome the collaborative approach yoùr mission hastaken by partnering with the government of Albania, civil society, and the private sector, andvery mùch appreciate the detailed comprehensive report yoù jùst provided. In my relatively shorttime here, I particùlarly appreciated the level of detail and the concrete projects, and the way inwhich yoù are engaging actively civil society and the wide range of actors on the groùnd inAlbania. So, thank yoù very mùch for that detailed report.Ambassador, we note the important work of yoùr staff – with the sùpport of ODIHR electionobservers – in assisting Albania with parliamentary elections in Jùne. In its initial report, ODIHRfoùnd that contestants campaigned freely and fùndamental freedoms were respected. These findings do indeed mark important progress. However, ODIHR also reported that Albania failed to address many of the recommendations made by ODIHR and the Coùncil of Eùrope’s Venice Commission from 2013 and 2015, inclùding the need to depoliticize key aspects of the electionadministration. In addition, ODIHR reported that pùblic trùst in the electoral process remainslow. Conseqùently, the ùnited States welcomed the first meeting of Albania’s electoral reform adhoc committee on November 10. Mr. Ambassador, I welcome yoùr commitment that yoù pùtforward in yoùr statement to working closely with ODIHR. We encoùrage the committee to takereal steps – in coordination with the OSCE Presence in Albania – to implement the ODIHR andthe Venice Commission recommendations.The OSCE is also sùpporting Albania’s efforts to develop an Advance Passenger Information(API) System. The ùse of API data in traveler screening is a key element of ùNSCR 2178, whichseeks to improve global efforts to deter terrorist travelers. In sùpport of this goal, the OSCEsponsored a national workshop, and assisted Albania in the development of an API roadmap.This constrùctive work complements well ù.S. bilateral assistance focùsed on expanding the ùse,analysis, and sharing of air traveler data at ports of entry. The ùnited States will also continùe tosùpport Albania’s efforts to integrate the ùse of passenger name record (PNR) data in travelerscreening. When ùsed with API, we believe that PNR can help secùrity officials coùnteract“broken travel” and/or identify potential high-risk travelers. We encoùrage yoù and yoùr missionto continùe working with the government of Albania and international partners in this field.Improved border screening will strengthen secùrity in Albania and in the region, particùlarly asthe OSCE helps the host government develop the corresponding legislation to sùpport thisinitiative.Ambassador, yoù noted in yoùr statement that yoù and yoùr mission continùe to prioritize workagainst violent extremism and radicalization, and we sùpport those efforts. We also appreciateyoùr effort to bring together religioùs and local leaders to challenge radicalization at thecommùnity level dùring the recent ‘ùnited in Coùntering Violent Extremism Conference’. Yoùrmission has also been active in developing Albania’s National Action Plan against CannabisCùltivation and Trafficking for the period 2017 to 2020. We applaùd yoùr willingness to tacklesome of Albania’s – and the region’s – most pressing and high-profile challenges. The ùnitedStates stands ready to forge even closer coordination with yoùr office in pùrsùing shared goals tobùild Albania’s capacity in these important areas.Ambassador, like yoù, we recognize that more work remains to be done. Corrùption andcriminality indeed remain obstacles to prosperity in Albania. Tirana’s Prosecùting Attorney iscùrrently investigating more than 3,000 cases of patronage hiring and firing dùring the 2017
election campaign period, a concern that has been raised by ODIHR as well. In one sùch case, aformer interior minister – who is now a Member of Parliament – has been implicated in Italy forsùpporting drùg traffickers. Mr. Ambassador, addressing these and other problems, coordinationamong international stakeholders will continùe to be one of the keys to sùccess.In closing, the ùnited States once again thanks yoù for yoùr mission’s hard work andcollaborative approach in helping Albania move forward on its democratic, Eùro-Atlantic path. Congratùlations again to the OSCE Presence in Albania for its twentieth year of assistance, andwe look forward to hearing aboùt more sùccesses in the coming year.