While an unconstitutional law proposing the demolition of the National Theater passed in Parliament, clearing the way for a dubiously funded project, Prime Minister Edi Rama and Minister of Interior Affairs Fatmir Xhafaj held a propaganda-laden conference last week named “The Force of Law in Action.”
Two departing ambassadors, US Ambassador Donald Lu and EU Ambassador Romana Vlahutin, as well as UK Ambassador Duncan Norman, took part in the conference.
This conference comes a few days after Albania’s hopes for opening accession negotiations with the EU were dashed by the latter, mainly as a result of the government’s failure to achieve any tangible results in the fight against crime and drugs. This failure is considered to be mainly the responsibility of Prime Minister Rama and Minister Xhafaj.
However, during the conference, the ambassadors described an entirely different reality, praising the achievements of the police and thanking Rama and Xhafaj for their work.
US Ambassador Donald Lu, once the main supporter of Saimir Tahiri when he was being accused by the opposition for being involved in drug trafficking and today an open supporter of Fatmir Xhafaj, as he stands accused of covering for his convicted drug trafficker brother, declared that “much has happened in the last 8 months” with regards to the fight against crime.
During the conference he listed several supposed achievements of the Albanian police, though some of them were, in fact, achievements of foreign law enforcement agencies, such as the Turkish police which apprehended Met Kanani or the German police that arrested Arbër Çekaj, after the Albanian police allowed the latter to quietly leave the country, even though they had been alerted of his presence.
Meanwhile, UK Ambassador Norman stated:
The UK ministers can hardly wait to spend time with Minister Xhafaj and his team during various meetings. We have examples of success. A year is a very short time when it comes to law enforcement. There are still challenges ahead.
Note that both ambassadors chose to refer only to the Rama government’s second term, though Rama and the Socialist Party have been in power for five years.
Ambassador Romana Vlahutin, on the other hand, praised the professionalism of the police force, even as dozens of high police officials are currently wanted or under investigation for collaborating with drug traffickers:
Arrests of organized groups, the fight against cannabis, the confiscation of criminal assets have been some of the police’s most successful operations. One of the largest achievements is the establishment of a quality group of professionals.
As Exit has argued earlier, the law for the National Theater that passed in Parliament is in clear violation of Albania’s Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU. Nevertheless, Vlahutin – who will return to her private life in Croatia, following the end of her term and her departure from Albania at the end of August – seems unconcerned by this fact.
Prime Minister Rama organized a similar grand ceremony on November 7, 2017, two weeks after the Catania Prosecution Office wiretap files on former Minister of Interior Affairs Saimir Tahiri and the confiscation of €860,000 and two of Tahiri’s driving licences found within the car of businessman Orest Sota, were made public. Then, the pretext given was that of the launch of the “Force of Law” task force, that has generally been a clear failure, as no drug lord or criminal group has been arrested, and no criminal organization has been dismantled, even as Minister Xhafaj himself declared that dozens of them exists.
The same ceremony, with ambassadors Lu and Vlahutin as protagonists, took place several other times during Rama’s first term, in order to advertise supposed achievements against drugs and, on one case in 2015, to declare the final triumph over the cultivation and trafficking of drugs in Albania. This conference was followed by Albania’s return as the main country for the production and trafficking of cannabis in Europe.