Overview: Albania continued its strong support of international counterterrorism efforts in 2020 and contributed to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. The terrorism threat in Albania includes FTFs returning from Iraq and Syria and ISIS sympathizers’ attempts to radicalize Albanian youth to violence, as well as Iran’s state-sponsored activity directed primarily against the Iranian resettled opposition group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, members of whom resettled in Albania.
2020 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Albania in 2020.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Albania criminalizes terrorist acts, to include 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.
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 counterterrorism capabilities. Through participation in the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, the CTU received training on counterterrorism investigations, surveillance operations, identification and seizure of digital evidence, and associated equipment grants. Despite capacity challenges, 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.
On October 27, Albania successfully repatriated an Albanian woman and four children from Syria. Efforts continue to repatriate more citizens from the Syrian camps. Following a national action plan, stakeholder ministries organized both their reception and accommodation and are working on deradicalization from violence and reintegration efforts. On December 14, one suspect was indicted by the Durres Prosecution Office for “incitement to terrorism against the Jewish people.” In a separate case in June, the Tirana Basic Court issued a guilty verdict sentencing a defendant to three years for the same criminal offenses. On July 23 a suspected agent sponsored by Iranian authorities was declared “unwanted” by the Government of Albania and subsequently expelled from the country.
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, competence, and ties to organized crime. The Special Anti-Corruption and Organized Crime Structure (or SPAK) has jurisdiction over terrorism cases involving organized groups. District prosecution offices prosecute all other counterterrorism cases.
Albania has committed to enhancing its border security and screening efforts to interdict terrorist travel, in line with international standards, and with support from U.S. experts and programs. Albanian law enforcement services cooperate extensively with INTERPOL and other international law enforcement bodies. Albania continues work to implement UNSCR 2396 regarding Advanced Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Records (PNR) data, which enhances screening of air passengers entering the country. A national API/PNR law was adopted in March, and the United States and Albania solidified commitment to deepen cooperation in support of implementing this law.
In 2020, Albania started implementing a stricter prison regime for dangerous convicts, called Article 41-bis of the Prison Administration Act, including for a convict jailed for terrorist recruitment.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Albania is a member of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Albania’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), the General Directorate for the Prevention of Money Laundering, is a member of the Egmont Group. Albania’s FIU works to prevent and combat money laundering and financing of terrorism. The country continued to work with FATF and MONEYVAL to address identified weaknesses in its Anti-Money Laundering/Countering Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regime. Of the 40 FATF Recommendations, Albania is “compliant” on 5, “largely compliant” on 28, remains “partially compliant” on 5 others, and “noncompliant” on 1. In 2019, MONEYVAL decided that Albania would remain in “enhanced follow-up” status and should continue to report back to MONEYVAL on further progress to strengthen its required implementation of AML/CFT measures.
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 efforts. The cities of Bulqize, Cerrik, Elbasan, Librazhd, and Tirana are members of the Strong Cities Network. The Albanian State Police has incorporated CVE into the portfolio of 26 community police units around the country. The chiefs of these units received training from the U.S. government and implement projects with local government counterparts aimed at detecting and countering terrorist radicalization efforts. The Department of State supports CVE efforts with a wide range of assistance programs and diplomatic engagement, including to local community groups that identify and mitigate factors underlying violent extremism. Embassy Tirana oversees the implementation of the fourth iteration of a CVE grant to the Albanian Muslim Community, which includes engagement by Islamic clergy with at-risk youths and their parents to steer youth away from paths to radicalization to violence, and informing youth about democratic principles, human rights, civic duties, and tolerance. 2020 was the final year of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s CVE programming in Albania.
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 United Nations. Albanian criminal-justice officials participated regularly in various regional associations, conferences, and other counterterrorism information-sharing exchanges.