Participants and speakers pose for a group picture during the opening day of a two-day seminar on Combatting Transnational Organized Crime in Tirana, Albania, Sept. 7-8. The seminar was designed to help Albanian leaders and others in the region understand the seriousness of the threat within their borders and to help them identify cooperative approaches to address them. (Marshall Center Photo by DEU SMSGT Mark Winkler/RELEASED)
By James E. Brooks,
George C. Marshall European Center Public Affairs Director
George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies hosted a two-day seminar on Combatting Transnational Organized Crime in Tirana, Albania, Sept. 7-8, to help Albanian leaders and others in the region to understand the seriousness of the threat within their borders and to help them identify cooperative approaches to address them.
Albanian officials were greeted by U.S. Ambassador to Albania Donald Lu; German Ambassador to Albania Susanna Schütz and Marshall Center Associate Director for International Liaison, Ambassador Douglas Griffiths.
This two-day seminar was important to both the German and American country teams. Last year, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Hoyt Yee testified before Congress. He said Albania was making great progress in becoming a stronger democratic nation as evidence by their acceptance as a European Union candidate by the European Council. However, organized crime and corruption could derail the nation’s efforts.
“The influence of crime and corruption on politics is a continuing concern. The United States is urging the Albanian government and opposition to work together to fight crime and corruption, and not be distracted by confrontational and corrupt domestic politics,” testified Yee.
According to Marshall Center Program Director on Central and Southeast Europe Matt Rhodes who was responsible for organizing this non-resident event, the seminar is a continuation of other Marshall Center efforts in the region.
“The event served as an opportunity to follow-up on a pair of related conferences in similar regional format that took place in November 2014. We wanted the seminar to enhance the common understanding and support for effective cooperative approaches against transnational criminal threats with the regional officials invited to attend,” said Rhodes.
For Germany, who is an important partner at the Marshall Center, the threat of organized crime to Albania is also a concern. In her opening remarks, German Ambassador to Albania Susanna Schuetz emphasized the importance of this seminar.
“The European Union as well as the US are committed to supporting Albania and the countries of the region in their efforts to successfully fight transnational crime. At the same time, it is crucial that governments in the Western Balkans intensify their cross-border cooperation to counter these threats. To this end, I am convinced that this seminar will be an important contribution towards better understanding how transnational organized crime operates and how it can be fought successfully,” said Ambassador Schuetz.
Contributing to the discussions were Marshall Center faculty Black Sea and Eurasia Program Director Valbona Zeneli; Professor of National Security Studies John Fencsak; Professor Sebastian von Münchow; and Director Non Resident Programs, German Air Force Col. Jörg Prescher. Other presenters were United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Riikka Puttonen; Albania Ministry of Internal Affairs, General Director for Anti-trafficking and Asylum Anila Trimi; U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Specialist Candace P. Sharkey; U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Attache Anastas Ndrenika; U.S. European Command Executive Director Joint Interagency Counter-Trafficking Center Carl R. Siebentritt; Jamestown Foundation researcher Ebi Spahiu; and USAID Justice for All Project Anne M. Trice.
For the U.S. country team in Albania, seminars like this help support the work they are doing to help Albania strengthen their democratic goals and ideals.
“It is in the interest of the United States that Albania deal successfully with its organized crime problem. It is also in the interest of the European Union. Above all, it is in the interest of the people of Albania. We are committed to supporting this country in its fight against organized crime and we know that Albania will be successful with the help of its partners,” said US Ambassador to Albania Donald Lu in his opening remarks.
The George C. Marshall Center for European Security Studies organizes more than 120 non-resident outreach events like this one in Tirana each year. The Center also offers a two-week Program on Countering Transnational Organized Crime (CTOC) twice annually. More information on this program can be found online at: www.marshallcenter.org/?CTOC.