According to the article published by the Financial Times, Prime Minister Edi Rama said that the fight against crime and drugs in Albania requires some time and contribution from all EU countries.
I know that several people, if you talk about Albania, think about crime and drugs. I am also aware of the fact that it will take time and, above all, action to erase that image - profoundly unfair to a country of law-abiding people who are largely peaceful. Last week we learned that our action is bearing fruit.
We are indebted to the Italian financial police, the Guardia di Finanza and the sophisticated aerial surveillance provided to identify cannabis plantations for the Albanian police forces. The statistics are unequivocal.
A year ago, their flights identified 2.086 plantations throughout the territory of Albania. This year, even with extended flights and enhanced surveillance, there were only 88. Now everyone has been destroyed by our police.
This is real progress. For years labeled the cannabis capital of Europe, Albania has had enough and we have fought.
For a quarter of a century cannabis has ruined Albanian life, corrupted local officials and poisoned national politics, while enriching the gangsters.
Like this period, a year ago the international media were full of titles on record quantities of Albanian surface sown with cannabis. Perhaps because journalists are attracted to the half-empty rather than full half, the true story has never been printed. The real story was that the record amounts of cannabis were finally identified and destroyed.
This is certainly not the end of the story. People who have become rich through drug production have to pay for their crimes. We have launched a phase two of a special operation against them and their assets. We are cleaning up the judicial system, adequately supervising the judges who were ruled by criminals and their money for too long.
But these criminals do not operate only in Albania. They are connected and interconnected with organized crime in cannabis-consuming nations. And the governments of these countries must also take responsibility for bringing them to justice.
We in Albania have done everything possible to eradicate a considerable source of a problem at European level. But consumer countries must vigorously investigate the perpetrators and freeze the proceeds of their crimes. We will share what we know about them and the evidence we have against them with the police and financial regulators throughout Europe in the weeks and months ahead.
These are dangerous people. My government considers them a threat to national security. Even yours should. Many, perhaps most, live elsewhere in Europe, pretending to be legitimate businessmen. But don't make mistakes. They are criminals whose international activities enslave people and create havoc everywhere.
They will be determined to use their wealth to gain influence. They will assume law firms, accountants and apparently respected lobbying agencies. Through these intermediaries, they will find a way to overturn the accusations and to portray themselves as innocent victims under attack from commercial rivals or, worse, from political adversaries, that is my government and me. We have already had this experience.
The reform of our judicial system and the examination of judges and prosecutors for corruption and incompetence - the main demands of the European Union before undertaking official accession negotiations - were almost derailed at the beginning of this year. Interests opposed to the reform brought turbulence to our streets and at times seemed determined to endanger our young democracy.
It should be remembered that for 20 years the drug barons were able to own the area around the Albanian village of Lazarat as a safe haven for cannabis production and processing, an area forbidden for the police and other authorities government.
Such was the weight of the drug trade that one of my predecessors as a prime minister acknowledged that non-intervention in the area was his "firm political decision". My government reversed this policy in the 2014 and a major police operation stopped Lazarat. The police destroyed the "product" which represents almost a quarter of all cannabis seized and destroyed in Albania that year.
That was the beginning of our fight against the gangsters. Now we need to take another important step.
Last Friday I sent a letter to the leaders of all the 28 members of the European Union asking for their support in our battle with the drug lords. "We know that some also reside and prosper in your country, profiting from illegal drugs, prostitution, human trafficking and other illegal activities", states my letter. "We want your help and offer ours in return, to capture these people and bring them to justice".
I hope that the citizens of all the EU nations will invite their governments to align themselves with us. This is a battle for all of us and one that must be won.
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