The First Step for Albanian Corruption Reform Begins at Home, in USA and EU
By By Mark Crawford
Albanian Daily News
Published March 26, 2016

Albania is currently undergoing significant reform impacting judicial and law enforcement.  Within this context EU and American officials, including support from US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), have taken a leading role in shaping the path forward.  According to US polls the FBI retains the highest public confidence of all federal or local law enforcement agencies, with 90% of Americans showing various levels of confidence in the institution.  The FBI website lists successful high profile cases ranging from Political Corruption to Organized Crime, Counterterrorism and so on; all of which are relevant to the Albanian experience.

Though the business community is not directly involved in this process, there has been significant support from investors, who are seeking further development of a positive business environment and an unbiased judicial system.  The business community looks at the current negotiations for reform with some skepticism.  Considering the accusations between the local parties against one another, the suggestion is that all of the politicians in Albania could be indicted for corruption.  Most likely, the public expectation is that a solution shielding the higher politicians from charges will be arranged, while a few lower level former or current ministers or heads of quasi-state institutions (such as utilities or the state petroleum company) will be indicted.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome in Albania, the FBI’s role in this process should start at home, in the United States and equally in the EU.  Perceptions are that a series of public officials or quasi-state institutional directors have enriched themselves and then moved abroad, to the USA or the EU, in one form or another.  When this happens the US and the EU lose some credibility as they try and support corruption reform in Albania, begging the question, “Why are former officials given what appears to be safe harbor outside of the country?  Why are enriched officials allowed to finance their children’s education in the US or EU with suspect funds? Can the FBI and the EU control corrupt Albanians that have moved to their own backyard, and if not, then how can they operate effectively in the challenging local environment that Albania currently faces?”

When you have a rat in a room in your house, in order to increase your chances to kill it you might block the exits before turning your cat loose on it.  In the same way, the business community would like to see that the exit avenues for corrupt Albanian officials have been sealed off by revoking visas and prosecuting those that have already relocated to the USA or EU.  Taking care of your own backyard is the first step in cleaning up the neighborhood. 

Reform, including judicial reform, is important and critical if Albania is to take the next step forward.  The FBI and EU are going to play a major role in helping Albania along that path.  Both the Americans and the Europeans should start the process by investigating Albanian current and former politically exposed individuals who are in the United States and the European Union.  How they handle this process will set the tone for what shape the next steps of reform look like here in Albania.





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