By Ioannis Michaletos and Stavros Markos*
The government in Tirana has, over the past few months, imposed new domestic security policies in order to curb an increase in criminal networks and their activities. More importantly, the international community, namely the EU and NATO- At the same time, international bodies, namely the EU and NATO – entities which
The Albanian Parliament has thus enacted a series of remedial bills, which some analysts predict will lead to an infringement of democratic processes in the country. However, international aid to the security sphere in
Of specific concern is the law for surveillance and electronic correspondence. This law was passed in 2005, due to pressure that
The attorney general of
Here it is interesting to note that one of the major telecom operators in the country is AMC, an affiliate of the Greek state-controlled mobile provider, Cosmote. A possible scenario involving the Greek company and Albanian surveillance would of course be accusations made by Albanian politicians against
On a related front, in summer 2006 the Albanian Parliament voted for an extreme resolution that called for the banning of speedboats operating from all Albanian Adriatic ports, a bill known as “the Berisha moratorium” after its most eager supporter, Prime Minister Sali Berisha.
This sweeping law prohibits the use of speedboats by any Albanian citizen, as such vessels had been used for almost two decades very extensively in contraband activities between
The real reason for the ban, however, was the visa/illegal immigration into Europe issue and the relations between
Another notable development relating to state security is the creation of a port security and anti-terrorist force for the port of Durres. It has been initiated after an American report revealed that this particular Albanian city has one of the least safe ports in the world. The Albanian government promptly created a strong 78-man force to remedy this deficiency. It is likely that since amongst their duties is the protection of oil deposits and installations, the whole move is related to the proposed AMBO pipeline stretching from Burgas to Vlore and the prospect of Albania becoming a country of energy importance to Western Europe. Hence there is a clear need foe enhanced anti-terrorism forces and a modern security apparatus in the country.
Perhaps the real reason that
Another key factor was state and criminal involvement in the arming of Kosovo’s ‘liberation’ army, the UCK; the various –and often illegal- international interests that coalesced throughout the Balkans in the 1990’s ensured the dramatic expansion of organized crime.
Lastly, the presence of extremist Islamic elements from the early 1990’s on alerted the West to other potential perils. Bin Laden himself reportedly had visited Albania during the mid-1990’s, and Islamic groups directed by state security chief Bashkim Gazidede, during the first Berisha regime, operated under the pretext of charity funds and international relief organizations. Foremost among these was the al Qaeda-linked Egyptian Islamic Jihad, reportedly rolled up in CIA-directed actions in 1998. However, the arrest of other extremists and asset freezes of entities in Tirana owned by Saudi mogul Yassin al-Qadi, whose assets in the
The larger Albanian public is more concerned, however, by the potential for state excess in terms of surveillance. The Albanian secret service has reportedly requested that the government enact a law by which all mobile phone subscribers would have a unique code, so as to be recognized instantly in case the state deems it necessary. Also, all telephone calls would be stored in a database for a period of three years, minimum.
Interestingly, there are some 1,000 people working under direction of the Albanian attorney general in this sensitive “Surveillance department,” an extraordinarily large number for one of the smallest and poorest countries in
Recent historical experience has proved that the aforementioned confirm a clear and present danger. In 1993, similar equipment – from the
Today, the small Greek community in
The demands of the Greek minority members in
A relatively recent strain in relations between both states occurred on November 1, 2005, when Greek President Karolos Papoulias left in haste from an official visit to Albania, when an event staged by Cham Albanians took place in the area where the Greek and Albanian President were about to meet. The Cham protests for repatriation of their former properties in Greece has never been accepted by the Greek government, since the former left Greece in 1944-45 because of reprisals from Greeks, due to the Albanians’ collaboration with the Axis forces under Hitler. Nevertheless this is an issue that is simmering and a prediction is that as long as Albanian nationalism is energizing the country, there could be major setbacks in the relations between the two states specifically because of that issue. Maps of “Greater Albania” and similar aims, surely add up to a diplomatic climate that is uncertain and needs to get the exact opposite signals, so that both countries can fully cooperate and enjoy better relations.
Furthermore, Attorney General Theodhori Sollaku stated during an institutional meeting that he had been obliged to deny numerous requests by the secret service and the police for mass surveillance. He also added that the total number of surveillance demands can be compared to that of the USA, which has a population 100 times greater than
This issue could be linked with the conflict between the government of Berisha and Mr. Sollaku, in which both parties have become locked in a series of accusations and counter-accusations of corruption over the past year. In fact, the government tried unsuccessfully to dismiss the attorney general on corruption charges, with no effect however, due to serious opposition from other political figures, including the president of the
Such developments indicate that
*Prolific Balkanalysis.com contributor Ioannis Michaletos is an analyst covering economics, politics and security issues in Greece and the Balkan region with the Research Institute for European and American Studies (RIEAS) in Athens.Markos Stavros, born in 1965 in Vlore, Albania, is an award-winning investigative journalist in Tirana. He has worked with BBC Radio, Albanian Television TVS, France Television TF1, TF2, TV5, Italian Television RAI and more, specializing in Balkan organized crime.