By ROLAND QAFOKU
The month of January will see the Albanian state being healed from the plague of crime and corruption. Based on the promises that have been made, a powerful earthquake will strike politics and the administration with the aim of cutting off its ties with crime. 16 months have gone by from the voting of 21 July 2016, when 140 votes turned the judicial reform into a unique case in the history of the Albanian parliament. But that day seems very far away and January, which is on its fourth day, is expected to turn into the prelude of this reform. In fact, this month is not expected to be a happy month for those who are expected to fall in the net and for them, FBI agents who have been in Tirana for a while now, have turned into a real nightmare. On 7 November 2017, the US ambassador in Tirana, Donald Lu said:
“You say that the big fish eats the small fish. But let us make this the first time when the big fish is eaten. FBI is here to engage in a fight against crime. Albania has a real problem regarding the ties that exist between criminal groups and politics and this reality cannot be denied”.
More important than the 40 criminal charges expected to be applied in arresting corrupt politicians and officials who have ties with the underworld, are the data issued by domestic and international reports in order to indicate the critical moment that Albania finds itself in. The new permanent Prosecutor, the creation of the High Board of Prosecution, the establishment of SPAK and the establishment of the National Bureau of Investigation are the only ones which can deal with the data issued about the situation in Albania.
- In 2017, Albania had 60 thousand drug users, according to the Institute of Health and Security Contributions.
- In 2017, Albania had the highest annual prevalence of the use of cocaine in the world based on the annual report on drugs.
- During 2017, Albania was the number 1 supplier of cannabis in Europe, according to Europol report.
- According to Italian media, drug traffickers have named cannabis the Albanian corn.
- In 2016, 21 tons of cannabis had entered Albania according to SHISH report.
- The amount of cannabis trafficked from Albania to Italy has trebled during 2017.
These figures and data appearing in these 6 reports are enough to stress how important 2018 is and in particular, the month of January which is expected strike some important blows.
In the past 27 years, we’ve only had three judges who have appeared before justice and who have only been given fines. Meanwhile, the only high profile politician who was convicted of corruption was Spiro Ksera. He was handed 1.8 years in prison. Thus, the implementation of the reform is the only way out.
Who fears these arrests?
We would speculate if we mentioned every name, but we would grasp a great deal of information if we refer again to the US ambassador in Tirana, Donald Lu, who declared on 7 November 2017:
“This is not a problem which regards only one single party, but a problem which regards the entire Albanian political class since the fall of communism. The United States of America will be engaged in the fight against organized crime, regardless of the ties with powerful people, prosecutors, judges or powerful businessmen. Nobody is above the law. The big fish eats the small fish, but this time, the big fish will be eaten”.
But who is the big fish? Is the big fish part of politics and which political party is it part of? Does it belong to the left or the right? Everyone is scared now. The majority seems calmer, but the fear is bigger there. Corruption cannot be fought if people within the government are not arrested. Therefore, PM Rama is aware of this. Ministers, MPs, former ministers and former MPs are in the list of those who are not only scared, but fear is a normal part of them now. The way the majority and PM Rama will react about the arrests will show whether he and the political force that he represents, is serious about the implementation of the judicial reform. If Rama and this majority defend those who are arrested, this would mark the political end of the Socialist Party.
The opposition is also scared. The arrests of two of its demonstrators were enough for this opposition to react and threaten. We cannot have an opposition that reacts if its formers ministers are arrested. If this happens, the opposition will do lots of damage to the country and Albania will go back to the period 1997-1998, when the opposition of that time always blamed PM Fatos Nano for every arrest of armed politicians.
There’s also fear among members of the administration. Big and small directors, who up until yesterday, used to boast that they had ties with the big party leader, are shaking in their boots now. Saimir Tahiri’s case showed what management of power means. The most successful and most long-lived interior minister in these 28 years, suddenly turns into a symbol of a person whose career is suddenly destroyed if power is not handled properly.
Will there be a battle between those who are arrested and the justice people? Of course. And this is expected to be one of the biggest battles ever happened in Albania. But, in the United States, people worship God and not the government and given that the Albanian justice system has the blessing of the US, the way it will function will follow an American concept.
The consequences of the arrests
According to a forecast made by the Economist for 2018, Romania will lead the EU member countries with the biggest economic growth of 6%. Romania, which gave a powerful blow to corruption by making a revolution in the justice system, arrested tens of high profile officials. For Albania, this is the best example as to how the justice system generates growth. Therefore, January will show how this justice system will be and the arrest if these “big fishes” is of a vital importance.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy