Overview: Albania continued its strong support of international counterterrorism efforts in 2018 and its participation in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. The terrorism threat in Albania consists of FTFs returning from Iraq and Syria and attempts to radicalize Albanian youth to violence. In December, Albania expelled two Iranian officials, including the Iranian Ambassador to Albania, in response to an Iran-sponsored plot to carry out a terrorist attack in Albania.
2018 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Albania in 2018.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Albania criminalizes terrorist acts, financing of terrorism, conducting transactions with persons on UN sanctions lists, recruiting and training people to commit terrorist acts, incitement of terrorist acts, and establishing, leading, and participating in terrorist organizations. Albania is sustaining a port security oversight system to more fully 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 match Albanian government requirements for equipment and training with U.S. expertise and resources. Through participation in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, the CTU received further training on investigations ranging from the dark web to managing complex terrorism cases. Despite a scarcity of resources, the CTU also participated in several successful interdictions of known or suspected terrorists. The Albanian government has developed, in conjunction with international partners, contingency plans and capabilities to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks against soft targets.
U.S.-funded efforts continued to provide mentorship, assistance, and training to prosecutors, law enforcement officials, financial investigators, intelligence analysts, and judges from Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Serbia. These officials work on FTFs and terrorism-related cases through the Balkan Regional Counterterrorism program based in Tirana.
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. Constitutional and legal reforms to the judiciary are underway, beginning with the vetting of Albania’s 800 judges and prosecutors for corruption, proficiency, and ties to organized crime. As of December 2018, the vetting commission and the international monitoring operation had dismissed 30 judges, confirmed 31 new judges, and noted 16 judicial resignations that preempted the vetting process. Additionally, in December, Albania established the High Prosecutorial Council (HPC) and the High Judicial Council: bodies that will serve as pillars of an independent, quality judicial system. The HPC enables the creation of the Special Anti-Corruption and Organized Crime Structure, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the election of a Prosecutor General.
Albania is in the process of implementing PISCES, which will enhance Albanian border management and traveler screening, and complement Albania’s broader Total Information Management System to better secure its borders from terrorist entry. Law enforcement services cooperate extensively with INTERPOL and other international law enforcement bodies. Albania is seeking to implement UNSCR 2396 regarding API and PNR data, a process that is ongoing and will improve screening of air passengers entering the country.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Albania is a member of the Council of Europe’s MONEYVAL, a FATF-style regional body. Albania’s FIU, the General Directorate for the Prevention of Money Laundering, is a member of the Egmont Group. Albania’s FIU works proactively to prevent and combat money laundering and financing of terrorism. 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. Albania’s FIU drafted an action plan to address the deficiencies.
For additional information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Government of Albania established its National CVE Center in January 2018, which is 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.
International and Regional Cooperation: Albania is a member of the Adriatic Council, the Council of Europe, NATO, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the OSCE, the Regional Cooperation Council for Southeast Europe, and the UN. Albanian criminal justice actors participated regularly in various regional associations, conferences, and other counterterrorism information-sharing exchanges.