'Environmental Crime Threatens Albania's Economic Resources'
By By Bernd Borchardt
Albanian Daily News
Published December 1, 2016

Below the Head of Presence's remarks at the Inter-institutional Group on Environmental Crime Conference:

It is a pleasure to be here among you today, to open this conference and discuss Environmental Crime in Albania. A Sector to which Minister Koka and his team have devoted the past years, with first results in environmental governance.

The OSCE works to promote peace and stability through environmental co-operation and sustainable development in South-Eastern Europe. In Albania we have supported our partner's efforts to improve environmental governance. We recognize that sustainable environmental development is key to long-term local, national and regional security and stability.

Albania has stunningly beautiful lakes, rivers, coastline and landscapes. These natural resources are vital to Albania's sustainable economic development, and the citizens' health and wellbeing. However, during the past 25 years, these resources have been under constant pressure, due to poor waste and water management, industrial pollution, overfishing and uncontrolled construction. These activities, many of them illegal, are a real threat to the country's environmental security, regardless of whether they were committed intentionally or through negligence.

Environmental crime threatens Albania's economic resources and is a barrier in its path towards a resource-efficient economy with secures employment and growth. This situation poses a major risk, degrades natural resources and increases pollution with all its social and economic consequences. These challenges need a constant, solid and collective response that should include public participation, accountability and respect for the rule of law.

The Inter-institutional Group on Environmental Crime and its multi-agency approach has the potential to play a critical role in tackling the important challenges ahead. Its creation acknowledges that criminal activities have a significant impact on Albania's environment, economy and communities and that the most effective way to fight environmental crime is through partnership among all relevant stakeholders. However, concrete achievements depend on the implementation of an action plan for the 2015-2020 Strategy.

There is already some agreement to develop an annual action plan, in order to detect and investigate environmental violations in the country. After substantial preparation 2017 has to become a year of action against environmental crime. For this it is imperative that the Group's representatives receive the necessary institutional support, resources, logistics and equipment. A strong engagement and commitment, is equally important, to make this body sustainable and achieve tangible results.

The Presence is fully committed to assist the Group's in protecting and improving the environmental situation. Albania can only benefit from sustainable development in its path towards being a competitive economy.

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