TIRANA, April 1 – In the US Department of State 2019 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Albania was valued as being “both a source country of cannabis and, increasingly, a transit country for cocaine and heroin commanded largely by organized crime elements moving illicit drugs from source countries into European markets.”
According to the report, the increased volume of drug seizures and drug-related arrests during 2018, although significant, was mainly driven by increased international pressure and Albania’s efforts to become a European Union member.
“Albania’s role as source or market for illicit drugs beyond cannabis is minor, but there has been an increase in seizures of cocaine transiting Albania to Europe, in addition to discoveries of heroin and cocaine processing labs in northern and central Albania,” the report reads.
Further on, it was highlighted that in addition to institutions being moderately equipped to fight drug crimes, corruption at every level of government limits their effectiveness.
“Official corruption is pervasive and fosters an environment in which drug traffickers are largely able to operate with impunity,” the report says.
The report added that efforts to prosecute cannabis growers, although extensive, have been uneven due to the hardships presented in disrupting a drug trafficking infrastructure that has developed over two decades.
“A high rate of unemployment and weak rule of law have created an ideal environment for the organized crime groups driving Albania’s drug control problem. Albania’s exportation of cannabis and movement of illicit drugs to European markets is a highly lucrative enterprise for drug traffickers. The status quo, which infrequently leads to convictions or imprisonment, is no deterrent for criminals,” the report states.
Meanwhile, Albania’s acting Foreign Minister Gent Cakaj said on Saturday the report offers a realistic picture of Albania’s situation and is encouraging for all the reforms that are underway.
According to Cakaj, the report notes that “the country has made substantial achievements in the fight against narcotics and organized crime” and that “sustainable co-operation with the United States has been translated into capacity-building to fight corruption.”
Cakaj also said that according to him, the report affirms the results achieved in the justice reform.
Cakaj’s reaction came a day after the report’s publication and the strong criticism that followed by the country’s opposition.
Head of the Democratic Party Lulzim Basha said the report is, according to him, “a destructive document for Albania, for the state of crime, drugs, money laundering, corruption on all levels of government and state capturing.”
On a similar note, the Vice President of the Socialist Movement for Integration Luan Rama said it is “embarrassing Albania continues to be a country accused of trafficking narcotics, money laundering, corruption and for its role as the transit country for drug trafficking and organized crime.”