The Albanian government has signed a working arrangement with the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) to step up their work to prevent drug trafficking and drug-related crime.
In a statement released this week, the EU delegation in Tirana stated that the new agreement would provide for the exchange of expertise between the EMCDDA and the Albanian Interior Ministry. They added that the collaboration would also help to develop reliable drug data-collection and reporting in the EU candidate country.
Albania has become the first country in the region to come to such an agreement with the EU body, which could be considered as a confirmation of the problems drugs originating from the country cause in EU member states.
The EMCDDA first started its cooperation with the Albanian government in 2007 as a part of projects designed to prepare Western Balkan countries for accession to the EU.
It is hoped that the agreement will facilitate the consolidation of the country’s capacity to monitor the ongoing issues with drugs, via the use of tools and knowledge that has already been tried and tested in the EU. The new agreement will also include an exchange of data on new psychoactive substances and the eventual establishment of a national early warning system, the lack of which was mentioned in a 2018 European Commission report.
Albania has had a long and documented struggle with drugs, and the same report also stated that Albania was the main source of cannabis that is trafficked into the EU. In addition to this, the country is considered a transit country for harder substances such as heroin and cocaine.
The number of final convictions for those arrested for drug-related offenses over the past few years is described as “negligible”. In 2017, 2,071 cases were submitted to the Prosecutor’s Office but only 532 offenders were convicted in the first instance.
Previous Interior Minister Fatmir Xhafaj once stated that “Albania is no longer a producer of marijuana” despite significant hauls being found by the police, totalling almost 60 tonnes between 2015 and the first quarter of 2018. Xhafaj resigned without giving a reason in October.
Xhafaj’s brother, Agron Xhafaj was convicted of drug-related crimes following the publications of wiretaps that detailed arrangements he made for the trafficking of drug shipments.
His predecessor, and Rama’s former right hand, Saimir Tahiri was charged in February with drug trafficking and involvement in criminal groups. He called the allegations a “political setup” and denies all charges.
– Alice Elizabeth Taylor