The small Balkan nation of Albania was rocked on Saturday when the Interior Minister resigned without giving any reason. Xhafaj resigned following a major operation that saw the arrest of over 20 suspects for organised crime. The arrests include a former legislator in the Socialist Party. These arrests have occurred as Albania fights against corruption and drug trafficking.
The former Interior Minister issued a statement on his Ministry’s Facebook page stating that during his tenure he had seen “very important successes in strengthening the rule of law in the country.”
The Democratic Party in opposition acclaimed the resignation of the Interior Minister as “an important step in our fight to clean politics of crime.” The opposition had accused the former Interior Minister of being associated with his brother’s drug crimes.
The new Interior Minister, Sander Lleshi, says he will bring a “new positive energy” to the post. The President and Parliament of Albania have to approve the appointment under the country’s constitution.
The biggest issues facing the security and police forces in Albania are organised crime, drug trafficking and corruption. As the country moves to launch full membership of the European Union it remains a centre for drug smuggling and as a result the laundering of money associated with it. The previous Interior Minister before Xhafaj, Saimir Tahiri, is being investigated for alleged involvement in a drug trafficking ring.
The European Union will be launching full membership negotiations with Albania next year. Without some serious improvements surrounding corruption in public office the talks may well raise eyebrows given the EU’s wider difficulties. It can ill afford another eastern state at odds with its European ‘values’ and standards.