A new European Commission report has called on Western Balkan countries, including Albania, to expand efforts in managing migration inflows, asylum seekers, corruption and organised crime.
Presented by Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson, the ‘Fourth Report Under the Visa Suspension Mechanism’ investigated countries currently benefiting from a visa-free agreement with the European Union, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and North Macedonia.
In a press release published earlier this week, Johansson described visa-free travel between the EU and the Western Balkans as a “significant achievement,” but said that the latter must “step up” efforts to tackle crime and migratory flows.
The report found that Albania has so far taken action in the areas of border, migration and asylum management. Over the past year, the country has adopted a new integrated border management strategy and a new law on asylum, aligning legislation more closely with the EU acquis and international standards. Albania has also opened a new “temporary reception centre” for at-risk and vulnerable persons.
The report also praised Albania for maintaining good cooperation with Member States in terms of migration, border management and readmission, as well as “the most advanced level of collaboration” with Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.
Even so, the document also called on Albania to step up its involvement in the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats. This includes participation in campaigns regarding relevant migrant profiles, overstays, unfounded asylum claims, and vulnerable groups.
Another priority identified in the report is the need to strengthen the fight against organised crime, illicit trafficking, terrorist activities, money laundering and corruption. Albania must now establish a “solid track record” of seizure, confiscation, and recovery of criminal assets tied to corruption-related offences, in addition to increasing its participation in domestic and cross-border investigations and prosecutions.
“Albania has taken action to address the Commission recommendations,” the report reads, “However, further action is needed in order to address the issue of unfounded asylum applications lodged by Albanian nationals in Member States as well as in the areas of anti-money laundering, counter-terrorism and in the fight against corruption and organised crime.”
The Commission report also warned Albania against “adopting an investor citizenship scheme” based on the new Law on Citizenship. In 2019, it was revealed that Albania planned to sell off national citizenship, using the country’s EU candidacy as a major selling point.
News of the scheme first broke after President Edi Rama appeared at a citizenship event organised by Henley & Partners in London. Footage of the event showed Rama joking about how the EU would be angry at his decision to sell Albanian citizenship; following a major pushback, the plan appears to have been scrapped.