Posted: 5. July 2018

The Power of Law in action

Prime Minister Edi Rama’s speech at the national security conference “The Power of Law in Action”:

 

Greetings everyone!

Albania today is a closer step to the European Union. All together, including the Ministry of Interior and the State Police, we face a 12-month challenge to successfully address the entire screening process of the accession negotiations, either by materializing all necessary aspects of consolidating the state-building process, which are directly related to the standards we must attain as part of the accession negotiations process itself.

It is important not to forge that whenever we discuss organized crime and crime as a whole, inviolability and punishment it is all about complex issues also linked with the complexity of interactions between law enforcement institutions.

If just four years ago, the State Police was the most discredited institution in the public eye, the least-trusted institution along with the Prosecution Office and courts, a radical and quality change has happened in the public opinion’s perception today, expressing at the same time in a much more meaningful manner also the basic deficiency in this process due to the discordance between what the State Police do and what the courts in the Republic of Albania decide.

The State Police are responsible, I would say, to ensure that nobody is untouchable, whereas the courts are responsible for ensuring that whoever violates the law are properly punished.

And since we are talking about the inviolability, just four years ago the Albanians were divided into touchable and untouchable ones.

Just four years ago, the traffic light was red to the ordinary people and it was always green for the powerful people to proceed.

Just four years ago, the MPs and cabinet members and all senior officials could park their cars on every sidewalk of the Republic of Albania and could block any passerby of the Republic of Albania.

Just four years ago, it was time when the indivisibility of political colours in enforcing the law by the State Police was a utopia.

This is the truth.

Just four years ago it was time when the individuals’ relationship with the law depended on the political affiliation through the level of influence in the society, either due to the social status or the wealth status.

Just four years ago, the State Police operations to crack down on high-profile criminals were betrayed and disclosed by the Ministry of Interior’s top officials and the high-profile criminals were informed well in advance of the operation.

Just four years ago, nobody could ever imagine a former Interior Minister under investigation would get any political protection and not only that but the ruling party made a clear division between politics and justice.

Just four years ago, cannabis was growing all over Albania, whereas Lazarat, a lawless village had become a “cannabis embassy” enjoying full political and diplomatic immunity, and openly turned into a protected drugs resort, with foreign troops filming as if in an important site for protection as natural area preserve.

Just four years ago, the State Police press releases were a secret and no police operation was revealed to the public, and let alone the media.

These all belong to the past.

I believe it is important to look to the future through this not a very distant past, the certain tomorrow about the fact that we will fully accomplish by the end of this mandate what we have set as a major objective during the election campaign for the first term in office 5 years ago.

The State Police, once the region’s oldest police force, least educated, worst-paid and the most ill-equipped in the region, will now be a police force meeting the benchmark performance standards of the police force in the European Union. This of course is feasible.

However, the public order and the issue of equality before the law are just one side of medal, ensuring that no individual who violates the law is untouchable and zero untouchable policy, which has been already implemented by the State Police. This has the other side of the medal too, which is imposing punishment and sentencing every convicted defendant regardless his height, social status and wealth.

In this aspect, we are well aware and it is in the eyes of everyone that the destruction of the law enforcement process in the courtrooms is no exception, it is the norm. We know not only 5, 15, 20, or 100, but over 100 cases of convicted criminals who have been released by the court and they have committed grave crimes, murder, rape and robbery after being released, although no defendant facing these three charges can be directly acquitted in the courtroom.

We are also aware that this is not a process which can take place in such a short time span, but the process is well underway and it is irreversible. Vetting the judges and prosecutors is providing the basis for the other side of the coin in the fight against crime and corruption.

Regardless of whether those who want to question this discussion agree or not, the State Police has guaranteed the inviolability of the individual in Albania no longer exists, from minor violations to the gravest ones. The point is that the justice system should also ensure that impunity no longer exists.

I am very pleased that the Head of the Senate of the Netherlands is attending this meeting and I would like to specially welcome her visit to Albania. So we have here a very institutionally undeniable witness to how hard the fight against drugs is. A fight that all countries – from the Netherlands, which is one of the most developed and powerful nations despite its size, to Albania – are all destined to work together, because there are no longer locally operating drug trafficking groups, but international drug organizations.

What several ambassadors underscored about the State Police’s international cooperation is absolutely not only true, but also indispensable. An agreement has been signed most recently with the government of the Netherlands on the cooperation on the ground, specifically to tackle common problems that require joint solutions.

Putting the ball back into the others’ hand won’t take us far. While cooperation with each other provides us greater security and higher efficiency in the fight against organized crime networks that are international networks. Even the most banal type of the traffickers has the phone codes of other countries on his phone.

I have also refused and categorically rejected the description of Albania as a country with specifics of the organized crime. Albania has no particular specifics.

Albania is not the hotbed of the organized crime, but considering its size and the size of the problem, Albania is a country faces a serious problem from the organized crime, just like many EU member states do, and it is a country where the organized crime is being fought steadily and with greater determination.

Of course, as for the efficiency we have a lot to learn from our European partners. Let me remind you that just four years ago, Albania inherited an average homicide rate of 110 murders a year, well beyond any EU statistics framework to refer to. 110 murders each year. The homicide rate has dropped to 60 murders a year during the four-year period from 2014 through 2017. The homicide rate has been almost halved at a trend towards the Europe’s average rate.

The number of recorded murders in Albania hit a record low in the past six months and if compared to the previous years, respectively 58 murders in 2014, 28 in 2015, 33 in 2016 and 28 in 2017, this year may record the lowest number of murders ever.

I don’t know – the local police and foreign experts attending this meeting may know better – is there any country around the world, where the mafia and organized crime are so active, but still maintaining the public order and security parameters be like in Albania today? No, there is not. I have studied both sides of the medal. Every country face organized, structured crime problems. Many countries suffer homicide rates disproportionate to the murder trends in countries where the organized crime may be a serious problem, just like it is in Albania, but where fight against organized crime goes on. This is a fact.

Another figure is worth mentioning. In 2013, the then government seized 1 million euros in money and assets generated by criminal activities. In the past six months alone, some 18 million euros were sequestered. The 1 million euro in crime assets in 2013 represents the highest figure in the first decade of 2000. Today, the relevant agencies have seized 137 million euros worth of crime assets over the past four years, plus 18 million euros in past six months. The seized amount of money is generated from criminal proceeds. It is not statistics over other things, but financial assets generated from organized crime activities.

Does it indicate that organized crime was a problem and nothing has changed?

No, the organized crime is a problem and it remains there in terms of our focus and the indispensability to further diminish its presence and influence, but the organized crime in Albania today is much weaker than it was four years ago. This is unquestionable. Whoever questions this, either he understands nothing in this area, or he has other reasons to do so.

This entire process is related to a fact that is now obvious to everyone. Attending this meeting are all our partners and co-operation, assistance and interaction with partners has been key throughout this period and remains as such, just like the whole process of European integration, from receiving candidate status to today, has always been and remains key in this respect.

I understand the concern the Ambassador voiced so many times over one of the high-profile criminals. Arresting this personage of the world of crime is a must and it would be a great success, but we should not forget it has not happened 40 years ago. It was just few years ago. He used to serve as a director with political links, as the Ambassador said, and politically promoted, oddly enough, not a fishing director, but a transport director. Today he is wanted and, certainly in cooperation with our partners, sooner or later he will be caught, although it is not so an easy task, just like similar examples either in the U.S., Italy or other countries show when it comes to such high profiles with strong links in a tiny territory the operate in.

However, we today are frontally determined and for this reason we see even incredible shows of crime cooperation with the politics. The Minister of Interior was recently under attacks that was aimed not merely at attacking him, but at discrediting the whole fight against organized crime in the eyes of each and every one of you attending this meeting today and listening to me speaking Albanian without using the headphones. Albanians cannot afford and cannot be fooled by this kind of show, but it is brought into play for anyone standing behind a desk in Berlin, the Hague, and Paris, since these are the most loved capitals in Europe for the time being, and in other capitals too, when receive a report saying “wiretapping, the Minister’s brother discussing drug quantities with traffickers,” he might have no time or desire to figure out what is the truth, but instead says “here it is, this is Albania.”

Indeed, Albania is not this, but quite the contrary, while I consider it one of the most exemplary examples of the politics cooperation with the crime to attack and hamper exactly the state’s determination to crack down on crime, although it may sound an exaggeration. I believe in this and that’s why I confidently share it with you. I see no other reason forcing a political party to cooperate with individuals who enter and exit the prison’s door just like the tourists do in their hotels to theatricalise a movie with characters who are completely different from what they claim they are.

I am very hopeful that the Prosecution Office will shed light on this issue, but what is important to underline is how difficult it is to combat crime under such conditions when crime and politics operate every day and without being hampered by the shadows of the doubt the politics casts, precisely stimulated to cast a shadow of doubt between the public and the police, between police and political leadership, between Albanian police and international partners and so on.

I don’t want to go further on talking about it was in the past and what it is now. What the findings of this survey, which were presented by the organizers to show the public’s perception about the State Police, contain a bitter truth. The most serious problem is the level of politeness and communication of the State Police with the citizens.

If the citizens are today much more satisfied with the State Police, as they feel much safer in their daily lives, but this doesn’t absolutely mean that the State Police is where it should be in the relations with the citizens; to this end the new community policing program is a step in the right direction.

Therefore the opening of the Security Academy and the Academy’s already full functioning to combat aging and seniority in the State Police is a step in the right direction;

Therefore the renewal of the police force and the State Police vetting is a step in the right direction;

That’s why the pay raise for the police officers we have made and will keep on making is the step in the right direction;

That’s why the second stage of the new technical transformation program for the State Police, which will be launched by the Minister of Interior in the coming weeks, either on the online monitoring of the country’s roads, either for the digitalization of the traffic police control and penalties for breaching the traffic rules, are a step in the right direction.

In short, we are on the right path, not because of the formality of this meeting – since many of my friends here know well that I would have never become a career diplomat and they would have expelled me from the diplomatic career due to the inability to be a good diplomat – but for the sake of truth, without these attendees, without the assistance from the countries they represent, this right path would have been impossible path to go to the end of it.

Therefore, I would like to express a very sincere appreciation for your assistance and support!

Thank you all!