From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
EC to Start Evaluation of Whether to Suspend Visa-Free Travel for Albanians

The European Commission has confirmed that it has begun an evaluation of whether Albanian citizens should be able to continue to travel without visas within the European Union.

EC Spokesperson Natasha Bertaud said in a statement today: “If the necessity of specific actions is established, the Commission will adopt an implementation act in a span of a month after receiving the request. The evaluation would have to be approved by the Council as well.”

On Friday, the Dutch government asked the EC to suspend free movement of Albanians for a period of 9 months due to “problems faced in relation to Albanian nationals”. The letter which was presented to the Commission cited a number of alleged breaches of Regulation 2018/1806 Article 8 which pertains to the right of third country nationals to move freely within the Schengen Area, and reside for a maximum of three months at a time.

According to the letter, a number of issues have arisen over the last 12 months including “increased or imminent threat to the public policy or internal security of Member States”, an “increase in serious criminal offences” committed by Albanians, and “a substantial increase in the number of nationals found to be staying in a Member State without a right to do so”.

These claims were backed up with various statistics collected over the last few years which show an increase in cocaine trafficking, money laundering, and trafficking of human beings. The presence of Albanian criminals in the bloc was also described as becoming “more prominent”.

A total of 1685 Albanian suspects were registered by the police between 2016 and 2018, and Albanian speaking suspects ranked number two in the top five alerts registered by the Netherlands in the Schengen Information System. In addition to this, the number of Albanians who were found to be staying in an EU country illegally almost tripled between 2017 and 2018. The number of asylum requests had also increased with the recognition rate hovering below 1%.

The letter submitted on Friday came following a parliamentary debate on Albanian organised crime in the Netherlands that took place on 11 April. A motion was passed to request that the government notify the commission and request suspension.

Prime Minister Edi Rama and members of his cabinet had dismissed the motion at the time, stating they were just due to political motivations during the lead up to the European Parliament elections.

Following the formal request that was made after the elections, thus refuting Rama’s claims, he then claimed that those found violating the Electoral Code could be stripped of their right to enter the US and EU forever.

Exit contacted the US Embassy and the EU Delegation in Tirana but only the EU had responded at the time of writing, also refuting the extraordinary claims of Rama.