Albania to probe police force to crack down on corruption

Albanian lawmakers have passed a law to screen police officers in a bid to clamp down on corruption and links to organised crime, an important part of EU-required judiciary reform.


The law was approved late Monday as European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was touring the Balkan countries that aspire to join the European Union.

A candidate nation since 2014, Albania hopes to begin accession talks this year, but the EU has made the fight against corruption and organised crime a requirement for all the countries in the region.

The new law calls for the 13,000 police officers in the country of 3.2 million people to be screened for their competences and integrity.

With the law Albanian Interior Minister Fatmir Xhafaj said he hopes to “clean police ranks of incompetent (officers) or persons suspected to have been involved in crime or corruption”.

The screening process, set to last for two years, will be supervised by representatives of the international community.

Last year 128 police officers received either administrative sanctions or fines, notably over their involvement in the smuggling of cannabis, a plague in the poor Balkan country.

A former interior minister, Saimir Tahiri, politically allied with Prime Minister Edi Rama, is currently under investigation for his alleged links with cannabis smugglers.

Prison guards are to undergo a similar review. According to the justice ministry, 130 out of 3,600 of them have already been condemned in the past.

Judicial officials are equally concerned. Files of 800 judges and prosecutors are being examined for possible corruption.

According to Rama, “17 top judges and prosecutors retired from their posts” in order to avoid this investigation of their past and their property.

Local media has reported that more than half of the judges at the first instance — 154 out of 268 — cannot justify the property they declared.

Juncker on Sunday encouraged Albania “to continue important reforms” to pave the way to accession talks.

By 2020 the EU pre-accession funds to Albania will amount to 1.24 billion euros ($1.5 billion) since 2007, according to Brussels.

28 February 2018


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