The US Special Envoy to the Balkans, Gabriel Escobar, has also criticised the Albanian government’s plan for a fiscal amnesty, saying any rule must be in line with international standards and that concerns have been shared with the state.
Under the proposal, any foreign citizen or Albanian can deposit up to €2 million in non-declared money into the Albanian banking system while enjoying legal immunity and a 5-10% tax. A previous version of the law was slammed by the IMF and EU, while this version has been subject to tense discussions between the government, the EU, and various diplomatic missions in Tirana.
“Yes, we also have some concerns. We have discussed them with the government of Albania. I would call on the government of Albania to listen to these voices and adapt the approach to fiscal amnesty to be in line with global standards and EU requirements”, Escobar told VOA.
The main concern from international stakeholders is that criminals will use the scheme to launder the proceeds of crime, such as drug and human trafficking, without fear of penalty, prison, or any consequence. But Finance Minister Delina Ibrahimi stated that the fiscal amnesty bill has a very long list of exceptions for those individuals who do not benefit, and it will be ensured that the money obtained from criminal activities will not be amnestied.
Ibrahimi said that anyone who wants to amnesty money must apply by completing a self-declaration form.
On the subject of former president and prime minister and now Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha being declared persona non grata by the US and then the UK, Escobar was clear it was not a political decision.
“It was not an individual decision, and it was not a political decision. It was a decision we took because of the corruption we found. I would call on the institutions in Albania to look into this.,” he said.
He added that the US has strong partnerships within the party and wants it to be a vital contributor to Albania’s political stability. “I would call on the supporters of the Democratic Party to think about the image they convey if they had people in charge who have been designated by the Secretary of State for corruption,” he added.
In September, ruling Socialist Party chief whip Taulant Balla said Berisha would be declared non-grata in the EU as well “soon” after a motion was filed in EU Parliament to align with those declared non-grata in the US.
“I think that regarding the character of the fight against corruption, the undermining of democracy, the United States of America, Great Britain and the European Union are always coordinated among themselves. In fact, there is an effort in the European Parliament, an initiative already filed, where it is required that persons who have been declared non grata by the United States of America, but other bodies that the US is implementing to identify anyone who works to the detriment of the interest of the Western Balkans, naturally this will also happen in the countries of the European Union,” he said.