Albania strips honorary consuls off their controversial diplomatic number plates

A meeting of the Honorary Counsels Society in Tirana

Tirana, Albania | 01 Apr 2019 (Tirana Echo) – Albania’s Foreign Ministry has called on all honorary consuls in the country to give up their diplomatic CD number plates as it decides to call off a controversial practice which is unique to the small Balkan country.

The new measure comes days after Acting Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Gent Cakaj decided to recall almost 30 diplomats in an apparent clean-up of the Albanian Foreign Service.

The decision comes also at a time when Albanian authorities are under fire for granting an Indian citizen wanted on international money laundering, honorary consul status which he later used to get Albanian citizenship together with his brother.

Nitin Sandesaras managed to convince Albania’s former foreign minister to grant him diplomatic status by naming him Albania’s Honorary Consul to Nigeria, where he held residency. Subsequently the Indian citizen received fast-tracked Albanian citizenship for himself and for his brother Chetan. Both are wanted by Indian authorities on bank fraud charges.

During a press conference this morning, Mr. Cakaj said it is time to rectify a problem in his service, as “much original in its absurdity, as it runs contrary to the current laws in Albania and to the best international practices in use”, promising to strip around 38 honorary consuls off their diplomatic privileges which are not provided by law.

In open breech of the law, 38 honorary consuls have obtained a CD number plate for their cars, getting in and out of our country not as simple Albanian citizens, not even as most government officials do, but through the same privileges as the highest international diplomatic representatives,” said Cakaj.

Albania’s Foreign Minister said his country is honored to have such honorary consuls, but that they would more honorable if their activity is conduced according to the law.

During the past 15 years, Albania has awarded around 48 businessmen, media owners and other entrepreneurs with the title of ‘honorary consul’ which gives them the right to represent the interests of other countries in the territory of the Republic of Albania, granting them certain diplomatic privileges, among which the registration of their cars under a CD diplomatic number plate, which gives them immunity from police stops and searches.

However, Cakaj revealed that such a controversial practice has been operated against the current legal provisions in the country.

According to State Ceremonial Manual of the Republic of Albania, Chapter 7, Article 5.8, honorary counsels should use a normal number plate for their cars, engraved with the ‘HCC’ symbol on its right side, indicating their status.

Mr. Cakaj said this unique and unjustifiable practice in Europe should end immediately and called on all honorary counsels to return their diplomatic number plates to the Ministry.

In order to avoid previous experiences where certain individuals have neglected the state because they feel too powerful, I would like to inform them that we will cooperate with the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry for Transport to ensure that such CD number plates are seized and put out of order,” said Mr. Cakaj.

It is yet unclear whether any former ministers would be held responsible for breaking the law in granting such privileges.

Honorary consuls are not career diplomats. They are usually citizens of the host country, where they live, work and pay taxes.

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