Country Report on Terrorism 2019 - Chapter 1 - Albania

Overview: Albania continued its strong support of international CT efforts in 2019 and contributed to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. The terrorism threat in Albania consists of FTFs returning from Iraq and Syria, Albanian youth being radicalized to terrorism, and Iran’s plotting against the resettled Iranian opposition group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK).

2019 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Albania in 2019.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Albania has criminalized terrorist acts, the financing of terrorism, conducting transactions with persons on UN sanctions lists, recruiting and training people to commit terrorist acts, the incitement of terrorist acts, and establishing, leading, and participating in terrorist organizations or armed conflicts outside the country. Albania sustains a port security oversight system to comply with requirements under the International Maritime Organization’s International Ship and Port Facility Security Code.

Albanian law enforcement increased efforts to counter potential terrorist threats. The Albanian State Police Counterterrorism Unit (CTU) worked closely with U.S. agencies to align Albanian government requirements with U.S. expertise and resources, ensuring the Albanian government develops focused CT capabilities. The CTU also participated in several successful interdictions of known or suspected terrorists. In 2019, the CTU created a small sub-unit focused on countering terrorism financing. The Albanian government has developed, in conjunction with international partners, contingency plans and capabilities to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks against soft targets. On October 23, the Albanian State Police announced it had foiled attacks planned in 2018 by Iranian agents against MEK members living in Albania.

Corruption and barriers to information sharing among government agencies, insufficient intra-agency coordination, and a poorly functioning judicial system continued to hinder Albania’s law enforcement efforts at all levels. Implementation of deep reforms in the judicial sector continues, beginning with the vetting of Albania’s 800 judges and prosecutors for corruption, incompetence, and ties to organized crime. Once Albania establishes the Special Anti-Corruption and Organized Crime Structure (SPAK), jurisdiction over terrorism cases involving an organized group will fall under the SPAK’s purview. District prosecution offices will prosecute all other CT cases.

Albania continues to take steps to enhance its border security, to detect and deny entry to terrorists, and comply with UNSCR 2396 standards such as the use of API/PNR to improve screening of air passengers. Law enforcement services cooperate extensively with INTERPOL and other international law enforcement bodies.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Albania is a member of the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures (MONEYVAL), a FATF-style regional body. Its FIU, the General Directorate for the Prevention of Money Laundering, is a member of the Egmont Group.

In 2019, Albania continued to work with FATF and MONEYVAL to address identified weaknesses in its AML/CFT regime. A July 2018 MONEYVAL evaluation reported that Albania had “low effectiveness” in three immediate outcome areas: confiscation, terrorist finance investigation and prosecution, and proliferation finance sanctions. In June 2019, Albania enacted legislation to address these concerns, but actual implementation hinges on further regulations and action by the government.

Also in 2019, the OSCE and UNODC jointly held a train-the-trainer course on countering terrorist financing for participants from Albania. The course was part of a multi-annual OSCE-UNODC capacity-building program to support national efforts to counter terrorist financing in South-Eastern Europe, in accordance with UN Security Resolution 2462, FATF standards, and OSCE commitments.

Countering Violent Extremism: The Government of Albania’s National CVE Center remains active in coordinating CVE programming among international donors and seeks to ensure all ministries cooperate effectively and avoid duplication of effort. The Albanian cities of Cerrik, Elbasan, Librazhd, and Tirana are members of the Strong Cities Network (SCN). The Albanian State Police have incorporated countering terrorist radicalization and recruitment into the portfolios of 26 community police units around the country. The chiefs of these units received training from the U.S. government and implemented projects with local government counterparts to detect and counter terrorist radicalization efforts.

International and Regional Cooperation: Albania is a member of the Adriatic Charter, the Council of Europe (CoE), NATO, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the OSCE, the Regional Cooperation Council for Southeast Europe, and the UN. Albanian criminal-justice officials participated regularly in various regional associations, conferences, and other CT information-sharing exchanges.