"Corruption, Crime Remain Obstacles for Albania"
Albanian Daily News
Published November 24, 2017
Ambassador Borchardt reports to Permanent Council of OSCE in Vienna. The U.S response points out the implication of "a former interior minister in Italy for supporting drug tra"ckers" Chargé d'Affaires of the US Mission to Permanent Council of OSCE in Vienna, Austria, HarryKamian, delivered yesterday a response to the Report by the Head of the OSCE Presence inAlbania, Ambassador Bernd Borchardt. Read the full text below:
The United States warmly welcomes Ambassador Borchardt back to the Permanent Council.Now in its twentieth year, the OSCE Presence in Albania has made significant progress inhelping Albania combat corruption and organized crime, counter violent extremism, and reformthe judiciary. Ambassador, we especially welcome the collaborative approach your mission hastaken by partnering with the government of Albania, civil society, and the private sector, andvery much appreciate the detailed comprehensive report you just provided. In my relatively shorttime here, I particularly appreciated the level of detail and the concrete projects, and the way inwhich you are engaging actively civil society and the wide range of actors on the ground inAlbania. So, thank you very much for that detailed report.Ambassador, we note the important work of your staff - with the support of ODIHR electionobservers - in assisting Albania with parliamentary elections in June. In its initial report, ODIHRfound that contestants campaigned freely and fundamental 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 Council of Europe's Venice Commission from 2013 and 2015, including the need to depoliticize key aspects of the electionadministration. In addition, ODIHR reported that public trust in the electoral process remainslow. Consequently, the United States welcomed the first meeting of Albania's electoral reform adhoc committee on November 10. Mr. Ambassador, I welcome your commitment that you putforward in your statement to working closely with ODIHR. We encourage 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 supporting Albania's efforts to develop an Advance Passenger Information(API) System. The use of API data in traveler screening is a key element of UNSCR 2178, whichseeks to improve global efforts to deter terrorist travelers. In support of this goal, the OSCEsponsored a national workshop, and assisted Albania in the development of an API roadmap.This constructive work complements well U.S. bilateral assistance focused on expanding the use,analysis, and sharing of air traveler data at ports of entry. The United States will also continue tosupport Albania's efforts to integrate the use of passenger name record (PNR) data in travelerscreening. When used with API, we believe that PNR can help security officials counteract"broken travel" and/or identify potential high-risk travelers. We encourage you and your missionto continue working with the government of Albania and international partners in this field.Improved border screening will strengthen security in Albania and in the region, particularly asthe OSCE helps the host government develop the corresponding legislation to support thisinitiative.Ambassador, you noted in your statement that you and your mission continue to prioritize workagainst violent extremism and radicalization, and we support those efforts. We also appreciateyour effort to bring together religious and local leaders to challenge radicalization at thecommunity level during the recent 'United in Countering Violent Extremism Conference'. Yourmission has also been active in developing Albania's National Action Plan against CannabisCultivation and Trafficking for the period 2017 to 2020. We applaud your willingness to tacklesome of Albania's - and the region's - most pressing and high-profile challenges. The UnitedStates stands ready to forge even closer coordination with your office in pursuing shared goals tobuild Albania's capacity in these important areas.Ambassador, like you, we recognize that more work remains to be done. Corruption andcriminality indeed remain obstacles to prosperity in Albania. Tirana's Prosecuting Attorney iscurrently investigating more than 3,000 cases of patronage hiring and firing during the 2017
election campaign period, a concern that has been raised by ODIHR as well. In one such case, aformer interior minister - who is now a Member of Parliament - has been implicated in Italy forsupporting drug traffickers. Mr. Ambassador, addressing these and other problems, coordinationamong international stakeholders will continue to be one of the keys to success.In closing, the United States once again thanks you for your mission's hard work andcollaborative approach in helping Albania move forward on its democratic, Euro-Atlantic path. Congratulations again to the OSCE Presence in Albania for its twentieth year of assistance, andwe look forward to hearing about more successes in the coming year.