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1998 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report

Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
United States Department of State
February 26, 1999


ALBANIA

I. Summary

Organized crime is making increased use of Albania as a transit point for drugs being smuggled to Western Europe, due to the strategic location of the country and the continued weakness of its police and judicial systems. Authorities also believe that the domestic production of cannabis is increasing, even though the scale of the problem remains comparatively small. Likewise, drug abuse is a problem that continues to grow, but which is still small compared to the situation in Western Europe. The Government's efforts to deal with these problems have long been complicated by the poor level of professional training of the police and other officials, by a general lack of resources and by widespread corruption. Albania is not a party to any of the UN Narcotics Conventions, including the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

II. Status of Country

Despite many obstacles, the Albanian government is continuing efforts to interdict drug smugglers, reduce cannabis production and provide some form of social safety net for drug abusers.

The military and police are working closely with Italian police, navy, and coastal patrol organizations to stop the activities of the small boats that make the smuggling runs to Italy. The Albanian Government permits Italian personnel to be based in Albania, and to operate in Albanian territorial waters. These efforts are aimed at the full range of contraband that is passing through Albania--drugs, illegal immigrants, arms and other goods.

The response to the new but growing drug abuse problem has been very slow, and virtually no special treatment programs for drug abusers exist. Some very small programs at particular hospitals have received coverage in the press, along with government announcements on plans to expand rehabilitation efforts; however, the reality remains grim for Albanian addicts and abusers. There is a small anti-drug media campaign aimed at young people.

The current Albanian Government of Prime Minister Pandeli Majko has been in office only since October, and has not yet launched any new initiatives aimed specifically at the problems of drug trafficking or abuse. The new government does, however, appear to be making serious efforts on a broad front to rebuild and reform the structures of law and order, which would make further anti-drug efforts possible.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1998

Albania is not a party to the 1988 UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, or any of the other UN Narcotics Conventions. Nevertheless, Albania has made efforts to achieve or maintain compliance with the goals and objectives of the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

Illicit Cultivation. Press reports periodically note the destruction of small fields of cannabis plants by the police, but while still comparatively small, the press reports that cannabis cultivation is an increasingly serious problem.

Production. Albania is not known as a location for the production of significant quantities of illegal chemical substances.

Distribution. The police consistently arrest of individuals caught distributing drugs. In general, however, there is a high level of lawlessness in the country and some regions are essentially not under government control. Given these circumstances, efforts to combat drug distribution are limited and difficult.

Sale, Transport and Financing. As already noted, Albania is a significant transit point for the smuggling of illicit drugs to western Europe. The Albanian press reports that international organized crime is involved in many of these smuggling operations, and is in control of the sales and financial arrangements. The Albanian Government is making genuine efforts to combat the smuggling operations, and is doing so in cooperation with international law enforcement agencies. The best example of this is the arrangement the Government has made with Italian authorities to interdict smugglers at sea.

Asset Seizure. Asset seizure was legalized as an anti-smuggling weapon in 1998 when legislation was passed that allows for the seizure and sale of boats used for smuggling. The measure was controversial because many Albanians are deeply suspicious of any law that allows the government to take property without compensation--a legacy of long years of communist rule.

Extradition. The U.S. has an extradition treaty with Albania that entered into force on November 13, 1935. For 1998, there are no known cases of other countries requesting that a drug suspect be extradited, or of Albania requesting another country to extradite a drug suspect.

Mutual Legal Assistance. No cases are known.

Law Enforcement and Transit Cooperation. Albanian authorities cooperated fully with U.S. authorities in 1998 on law enforcement and transit issues. Few of these cases involved drug issues, but the pattern of cooperation was clear and positive.

Precursor Chemical Control. Albania is not known as a producer of significant quantities of precursor chemicals.

Demand Reduction. Drug abuse is a comparatively new problem in Albania, and the Government and Albanian society have been slow to take actions to combat it. National medical resources are too limited to allow for extensive special programs for drug abusers. Some small-scale government- funded clinics offer special treatment options for heroin addicts, but most abusers receive, at most only basic medical assistance. State-operated radio and television run occasional anti-drug messages.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral and Multilateral Cooperation. The Government has welcomed USG and Western European programs to help train the police, and has cooperated fully in the implementation of the programs. The U.S. Department of Justice is proceeding with training programs for mid-level police supervisors and for new special police units. The USG is also funding assistance to Albanian Customs and other border control agencies through a grant to the European Union. Albania has also been active in multilateral border control efforts through the Southeast Europe Cooperative Initiative (SECI). These efforts pull Albania into closer cooperation with its neighbors, notably the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Italy.

The Road Ahead. The USG will continue to work with Albanian authorities to provide law enforcement assistance, cognizant of the limitations imposed by the local situation, and support for legal reform. Regional assistance through cooperative efforts, such as SECI, may be a way for the USG to further assist Albania, despite the difficulties imposed by the current security situation.

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Saturday, 27 February 1999