Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The EU's Borders And Stability Are At Risk

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama (L) speaks with European Union Council president on September 17, 2013 before their meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels. AFP PHOTO /THIERRY CHARLIER (Photo credit should read THIERRY CHARLIER/AFP/Getty Images)

Capital Flows ,   CONTRIBUTOR
Guest commentary curated by Forbes Opinion. Avik Roy, Opinion Editor.

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.


Adam Ereli
Adam Ereli is a former U.S. ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain and State Department deputy spokesman.

A recent investigation started by the prosecutor’s office in the city of Durres, Albania indicated that the EU’s borders may not be as safe as we think. According to Italian news reports, over the past year thousands of waste containers were exported from the Gioa-Tauro port of Italy with the destination of Macedonia. Of the 2600 containers that departed, only 1132 have arrived in Macedonia.  While transiting Albania, 1468 containers were buried in 5 cities: Durrësi, Fieri, Vlora, Shkodra and  Dibra.

Last month, CNN Greece cited sources that claimed, “1,300 containers with hazardous waste coming from Italy, entered Albanian territory and since then their whereabouts are unknown.”

As if this weren’t enough, thousands of Albanians have taken to the streets to protest against years of autocracy, corruption and broken promises by the government of Prime Minister Edi Rama.

Mr. Rama campaigned on making his country be environmentally friendly and said that Albania would never become a landfill of European waste. Yet in September 2016, his government voted to approve a law in Parliament for importing and recycling waste from Western countries. Under his leadership, the Council of Ministers in 2016 allowed the transiting of hazardous waste through Albania.

Beyond the environmental damage that he has created, Prime Minister Rama now presides over a criminal enterprise that has transformed Albania into a center for European drug trafficking and organized crime. According to Italy’s chief anti-Mafia prosecutor, Judge Franko Roberti, Albania has vastly expanded its marijuana production, and the level of cooperation between Albanian organized crime and the Italian mafia is growing. “Politicians, courts and police are getting corrupted by drug money in Italy and Albania,” Roberti claimed. Ambassador Brendt Borchardt, of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Tirana, recently warned that 2 billion Euros in drug money are being laundered through the Albanian economy and that drug dealer kingpins are pushing to get “their” politicians elected.

The explosion of drug production and corruption would not be possible without the involvement of the current Albanian government. Organized crime bosses have been released from jail on Prime Minister Rama’s watch. The opposition claims that Prime Minister Rama supports known criminals in mayoral elections and is cutting deals with corrupt judges. The parliament of Albania had to pass a decriminalization law tailored specifically to remove the notorious criminals that SP had putted in parliament and as mayors. Added to this cocktail of corruption and crime is an influx of refugees that threatens to destabilize not only Albania, but the Balkans and beyond.

Exploiting this toxic mix is an aggressive and opportunistic Russia, which is using its political, economic and intelligence resources to undermine open, democratic market economies and to drive a wedge between and among Western-oriented allies. Fox example, Prime Minister Rama has had talks with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić for a common economic market between these neighboring countries.

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