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Albania's PM quizzed on crime, corruption, Kosovo and Russia

 Albania's PM quizzed on crime, corruption, Kosovo and Russia
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Sali Berisha is Albania’s prime minister and former president who came to power by defeating the Communists. He was elected on a promise to take Albania into NATO and the EU, but Brussels is worried about the lack of progress in the fight against crime and corruption. That is one reason why Albanians have not been granted visa facilitation and liberalisation rights, the first issue put to Sali Berisha by Sergio Cantone, EuroNews’ Brussels Correspondent: “Prime Minister Berisha, welcome to EuroNews. Do you think that Albania is being discriminated against, from a visa facilitation point of view, compared with other western Balkan countries?

Sali Berisha, Albanian Prime Minister: “Thinking that Serbia is safer for visa liberalisation than Albania is truly, truly unrealistic. That’s why we expect to speed up the process of visa liberalisation.”

EuroNews: “So, do you think that Serbia, from this point of view, is more dangerous than Albania?”

Sali Berisha: “Things are to be compared, but my country has never had (those) atrocious war criminals, who waged the most atrocious crimes in all the region.”

EuroNews: “Don’t you think that it is impossible to compare war crimes and organised crime?”

Sali Berisha: “No one could have any illusion that those who commit horrible war crimes — and they are so numerous, so numerous — become angels. No, they are definitely pillars of organised crime wherever they are. Organised crime almost everywhere in the Balkans was in symbiosis and collusion with those in power, for reasons of politics and profit .

EuroNews: “So you are saying that organised crime was generated by the conflict of the nineties in the Balkan?”

Sali Berisha: “It was very, very much potentiated, it was a crime based on an extraordinary and enormous trafficking of weapons and other kind of trafficking, no doubt.”

EuroNews: “Again, the European Union seems more worried by the risks generated by organised crime, like people trafficking, drug smuggling and other problems…”

Sali Berisha: “Definitely, there are no more war crimes, but trafficking, criminal trafficking is really a phenomenon of great concern, but what has my country done? Ask the Italian government. Are they getting more illegal immigrants? No, almost none, because as you know we banned the speed boats in our waters.” (that were being used for people trafficking)

EuroNews: “But don’t you think that one of the most important obstacles in the fight against organised crime is corruption?”

Sali Berisha: “Two and a half years ago corruption was systemic in my country. But we did some very, very strong things to fight it. First, we addressed the conflict of interest situation for the entire administration. No one would stay in my administration if she or he was found to have a conflict of interests. Second we introduced some criteria in our offices, that no one could use public money for private or personal purposes. Third, we have put a law in place on whistle-blowers on corruption, they are rewarded with 6% of the worth that their denunciations bring and are being protected the same as witnesses of serious crimes.”

EuroNews: “Aren’t you afraid that Kosovo’s organised crime could contaminate Albania again?”

Sali Berisha: “There is organised crime in Kosovo, but now with a Kosovar government, as a government of an independent country, we will manage to successfully fight — in Albania, in Kosovo, wherever it is — Albanian organised crime. But independence will be a fundamental factor helpful to fighting organised crime wherever it is.”

EuroNews: “Even if Kosovo is not still a viable country from an economic point of view?”

Sali Berisha: “Kosovo is very rich in minerals, among the richest regions in Europe.”

EuroNews: “Do you think that one of the reasons why the international community wanted the separation of Kosovo from Serbia was because of those mineral resources and geopolitical resources too?”

Sali Berisha: “No, no, no, not at all.”

EuroNews: “It was too rich to stay with Serbia…”

Sali Berisha: “No, not at all, the international community never took an intended stand for Serbia’s penalisation. Everything was imposed by Serbia to the international community.”

EuroNews: “Do you think that NATO is moving faster than the European Union when it comes to enlargement policies, vis-à-vis a new country like Albania?”

Sali Berisha: “In my view there is nothing more fundamental for our civilisation than the transatlantic alliance. There is no greater, no greater…”

EuroNews: “More than the European Union?”

Sali Berisha: “No, but civilisation is (western) civilisation, it is more than just the EU civilisation.”

EuroNews: “What is Russia’s role in the Western Balkans? Has Russia a role to play?”

Sali Berisha: “It is not playing the role that a great country should play for stability there. I expect it to be more realistic. The old way of doing things should left behind. Russia would definitely have a greater and better role if it would adapt to the new situation. By taking this stand, is Russia helping Belgrade? It has made the decisions in Belgrade much more difficult by opposing Kosovo’s independence.”