EMCDDA Director Alexis Goosdeel is participating this week in the EU-Western Balkans Ministerial Forum on Justice and Home Affairs, taking place from 4–5 October in Tirana. Organised under the auspices of the Austrian presidency of the EU, the meeting will be attended by European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos and by Austrian Federal Minister of the Interior Herbert Kickl. During the visit, Mr Goosdeel will discuss the next steps for EMCDDA–Albania cooperation with the country’s Deputy Minister of the Interior Besfort Lamallari and Deputy Minister of Health and Social Protection Mira Rakacolli.
The EMCDDA began its cooperation with Albania in 2007 (1) in the framework of EU-funded technical assistance projects designed to prepare Western Balkan countries for accession to the EU (and for participation in the work of the EMCDDA and its Reitox network). The EMCDDA and Albania are currently working together to consolidate Albania’s capacity to monitor the drug phenomenon through the use of evidence-based tools and knowledge built and promoted within the EU.
While no formal national drug observatory has yet been established in Albania (along the lines of a Reitox national focal point), the EMCDDA has developed close working relations with the Ministry of the Interior and with the Institute of Public Health of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection. This cooperation led to the financing of the first national general population survey on drugs in Albania in 2014 as well as the production of a new national drug report in 2017 following EMCDDA guidelines. The EMCDDA and Albania also exchange expertise and data on new psychoactive substances as well as on the establishment of a national early-warning system.
In October 2017, the Albanian Minister of the Interior submitted a request to the EMCDDA Director for a formal Working Arrangement (WA) with the agency. While the EMCDDA has signed similar agreements with third countries, this was the first request of this kind from the Western Balkans.
The EMCDDA Management Board welcomed the initiative in June 2018, mandating the Director to launch negotiations on the WA with the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Health and Social Protection. While in Tirana, Mr Goosdeel and Deputy Ministers Lamallari and Rakacolli will conclude the negotiations on the final draft agreement.
The European Commission is expected to deliver its formal opinion on the draft text in the coming months. Following this opinion, the EMCDDA Management Board will be in a position to give its seal of approval on the WA. Among others, the new agreement will provide for the exchange of expertise and will contribute to developing drug data-collection and reporting capacity in the country.
Albania is one of six candidate and potential candidate countries to the EU currently receiving assistance under the EMCDDA-IPA6 project, which kicked off in July 2017 and will run until June 2019.