Signing a strategic agreement with Europol will greatly help Albania fight organised crime.
By Erl Murati for Southeast European Times in Tirana -- 31/12/13
Albania Minister of Interior Affairs Saimir Tahiri (centre) signs an agreement on co-operation with Europol. [Ministry of Internal Affairs of Albania]
Albania is steadily deepening relations with EU law enforcement agencies in an effort to stop organised crime and consolidate the rule of law on its path to EU membership.
The country signed a co-operation agreement with Europol, EU's main law enforcement agency, in The Hague earlier this month.
The purpose of the agreement is to enhance co-operation EU member states acting through Europol and Albania in preventing, investigating and suppressing serious forms of international crime, according to Saimir Tahiri, interior minister of Albania.
"The agreement is historical because it recognises the achievements of the state police, but above all, [provides a] boost for the on-going reforms and the results already achieved in the fight against organised crime and corruption," Tahiri told SETimes.
Albanian police will now be able to access Europol's database to co-ordinate activities with police in EU member states in cases against trafficking of narcotics, people, human organs and tissues, motor vehicles, works of art as well as historical artefacts.
Europol officials said Albania's greater inclusion in the work of EU's law enforcement is mutually beneficial.
"Through the signing of this agreement, we confirm our joint commitment and solidarity in the fight against serious organised crime and all forms of terrorist activity," Rob Wainwright, director of Europol, said.
Officials said they expect a better information exchange and police activity co-ordination to strengthen Albanian police's efforts directed against money-laundering, counterfeit money and computer crime.
"The signing of the co-operation agreement between the state police and Europol is a decisive step forward," said Ditmir Bushati, foreign affairs minister of Albania.
The arrangement with Europol brings Albania closer to the EU, said Sokol Bizhga, deputy director of police in charge of investigating organised crime.
"Specifically, if Europol asked for information from Albania in the past, we could not do the same. Being part of this organisation puts us in a position to exchange information in a reciprocal way. This is converted into efficiency in the fight against organised crime and corruption," Bizhga told SETimes.
Meanwhile, Albania has been also intensifying co-operation with neighboring countries' law enforcement. Last month, Greek police caught three out of seven escapees from a high-security prison in Albania. Both police forces acknowledged their joint engagement led to the prisoners being quickly captured.
Some Albanians said they expect the authorities' efforts to address organised crime will improve Albania's EU bid, but they also hope for the opportunities to do business with EU member states.
"Every day, Albanian police in the port of Durres and the Italian police arrest traffickers of stolen vehicles and marijuana. This has raised suspicion about Albanians every time they cross the border. I wish such a situation ends as soon as possible and trade flows more freely," said Halit Turtulli, 56, a clothing trader from Durres, told SETimes.
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