London, UK | 16 Feb 2019 (Tirana Echo) – The Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama has told The Independent his country is not the ‘Columbia of Europe’ following a tarnishing report by the UK daily.
The Independent claimed last month that Albania is no longer a hub of cultivation. It’s become a centre of investment, distribution, and recruitment – it has now become the continent’s drug trafficking headquarters turning into the “Columbia of Europe”.
Following the damaging special investigation, the Government of Albania decided to counter its findings and hit back with its own version of the country, objecting to being called the ‘Colombia of Europe’
In a letter send to the Independent, Albanian PM Edi Rama wrote that compared with other European nations, let alone with the worst drug economies of South America, Albania is far from being a drugs capital.
“Your report was based on a world as it once was; but huge progress has been made since my government took office in 2013. Cannabis cultivation in Albania has been virtually eliminated, a fact verified by Italy’s Guardia di Finanza through EU-sponsored aerial monitoring.” wrote Rama in his letter.
Rama said that his socialist run government ordered an immediate crackdown in drug cultivation and the small Balkan country is now playing a full part in international efforts to curb the flow of drugs from elsewhere through the Balkans and finally to Northern Europe.
“We have joined forces with Europol, Interpol, Frontex and our Balkan neighbours to target the criminal organisations behind this vile trade. And, we have recently initiated an ambitious programme of criminal asset confiscation.” wrote Rama.
The Prime Minister of Albania, which has traditionally suffered from a negative image across western Europe, admitted that his country had an historic problem with corrupt judges and police, and now thanks to huge reforms introduced, several crime bosses are behind bars, while others are on the run.
“Step by step we are closing down their safe havens, removing their levers of influence and bringing them to justice. Removing corrupt judges, prosecutors and police fuels a backlash. A small but vocal minority in Albania would prefer a return to the old days. They make themselves accessible to roving journalists perhaps unfamiliar with Albania’s difficult pre-2013 history. As Albania accelerates along its path to EU membership, media interest is natural and expected. But we would like the whole story to be told, not just sensational and baseless headlines.” PM Rama told The Independent.
Albania is an EU candidate country since June 2014 and hopes to formally open membership talks later on this year. According to the European Commission, the country has made progress towards meeting the political criteria for membership and, overall, steady progress continued in the five key priorities – reforming the judiciary and the public administration, fighting corruption and organized crime, and protecting human rights.
Following a positive assessment last year, the European Commission recommended opening EU accession negotiations with Albania, conclusions which were endorsed by EU heads of state during their European Council meeting in June 2018.
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