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Written by Rigels Seliman 11 Dhjetor 2023
The British seem determined to crush organized crime and corruption in our country. Great Britain is one of the partner countries and strategic allies of Albania, which has always supported our country in various fields. But in order to show that the friendship between Britain and Albania is strong, even iron, the ambassador of the United Kingdom in Albania, Alastair King-Smith, spoke this weekend, while he issued strong messages to the corrupt in Tirana. While he was invited to an interview in "Euronews Albania", first the diplomat King-Smith gave support to SPAK to continue with the investigations against all the corrupt, challenging former Prime Minister Sali Berisha who accuses the prosecution that the investigations against him are political. Also, although he refused to reveal details regarding Berisha's "non-grata" declaration from Great Britain, diplomat King-Smith warned of another "blacklist" of "non-gratas", as he pointed out, London is committed to breaking the ties between crime, corruption and politics in the Western Balkans, or anywhere in the world. Further, the British diplomat revealed a series of projects in which the embassy is involved in order to economically help the northern areas of Albania, where the phenomenon of young people leaving, especially towards the United Kingdom, is more pronounced. Also, the ambassador commented on the figures of illegal immigration from Albania to the United Kingdom. Compared to 2022, their level this year has dropped by 90%. Meanwhile, in the interview that we are publishing in full, Ambassador Alastair King-Smith shared some details from the important documents that the Minister of the Interior, Taulant Balla, signed a few days ago in London, after the meeting with his British counterpart, James Cleverly.
-Dear Ambassador Alastair King-Smith, I have seen an initiative of the British government called the association of women in uniform, and as this project supports women in law enforcement institutions, can you tell us more about it?
We have an extensive program between our governments dealing with issues related to home affairs, justice, education and culture. Albania is our best operational partner and my embassy has many colleagues from law enforcement services, police, customs, prosecution, etc. Also, we have a very good defense relationship, our armies cooperate on a bilateral level, but also in NATO. Albania is a very good member at the moment, we have many different colleagues who work with the uniform services. We thought that our colleagues could share their experiences with those in Albania and hear what they have to say, that's why we created this association.
-What were the problems they faced?
Some of these problems were obvious. For some of the services the uniforms were not designed specifically for women, in one of the services women were expected to wear heels even during operations and this did not give them the opportunity to do the job properly. So it was some small practical things like these that required some changes. Another issue was physical training for self-defense, where some were told they couldn't do certain jobs that were somewhat physical. We have now trained about 84 women from the uniformed services to do the self-defense training. One of the things I am pleased about is that we have received high levels of support from all services. We held a conference that was attended not only by women in uniform in Albania, but also those from the Western Balkans region. The British government is supporting at the international level the support for women and girls in the world.
-What about encouraging women to join the Armed Forces, because if they say they want to join the FA, maybe they don't get support from the family?
I talked with the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces about how we can do more recruitment, especially in the north of the country, as part of our support for economic development there.
-Another project is the project for new perspectives in Kukës, tell us more about this project?
In fact, we are aware that not much has been invested in the north of the country. We also have many Albanians living in Britain, mostly from the north of Albania, from Kukësi and Dibra, and we want to support the north of the country more. One of the ways is by exploiting the extraordinary assets that the north has. There are rivers, nature, mountains and we also learned about the existence of some bunkers and in talks with the municipality we agreed to put some of our observers to study this network of underground tunnels. On the economic level, there are opportunities for tourism development, it is something unique.
- What other initiatives will there be?
Ka disa gjëra që ne po i bëjmë drejtpërdrejt përmes mbështetjes me programeve për komunitetet në veri. Qëllimi është të ndihmojmë në sigurimin e aftësive, mundësive të punësimit dhe të rrisim mjedisin e biznesit atje. Ne kemi krijuar disa qendra të sipërmarrjes për të rinjtë. Një të tillë e hapëm në Kukës dhe do të ketë të tjera edhe në Dibër. Do të iniciojmë programe me shkollat. Ne gjithashtu ofrojmë grante për bizneset e vogla në mënyrë që individët të mund të fillojnë biznese dhe të punësojnë njerëz. Po vëmë re që shumë të rinj edhe po kthehen nga Britania në vendin e tyre. Që kur kemi firmosur komunikatën e përbashkët janë kthyer më shumë se 4600 persona para një viti. Por, apeli im për çdo të ri që mendon të largohet ilegalisht është të mos e bëjë këtë. Ka mënyra ligjore për të shkuar në Mbretërinë e Bashkuar. Ne kemi hapur një qendër aplikimi për viza në veri për të lehtësuar migrimin dhe për të treguar se jemi të hapur për biznes.Pra mesazhi jonëështë ky, nëse doni të ikni bëjeni në mënyrë legale, nëse gjeni mundësi këtu në vendin tuaj atëherë shfrytëzojini.
-Zoti ambasador, ju folët për numrin e lartë të shqiptarëve që shkojnë në Britani ilegalisht, por situata tani është përmirësuar. A kanë ndikuar vetëm masat që ka marr qeveria britanike, apo edhe qeveria shqiptare ka pasur të bëjë edhe qeveria shqiptare në uljen e numrave?
Partneriteti me qeverinë shqiptare është thelbësor dhe emigrimi i njerëzve jashtë kufijve të vendit të tyre mund të zgjidhet vetëm me bashkëpunim. Ka pasur një rënie të me 90 për qind të emigrimit të paligjshëm të shqiptarëve drejt Britanisë krahasuar me vjet. Kemi një task-forcë të përbashkët emigracioni që funksionin në bashkëpunim me policinë dhe agjencitë tona. Ne jemi duke punuar ngushtësisht bashkë që ky fenomen të parandalohet. Nëse të rinjtë duan që të largohen ta bëjnë atë në mënyrë legale. Sepse të rinjtë mbase duan mundësi më të mira punësimi ose të studiojnë jashtë. Por, nëse gjejnë mundësi këtu mund ti shfrytëzojnë ato. Në fakt, ka shumë industri të cilat janë duke vuajtur nga mungesa e punëtorëve të kualifikuar.
-Si e patë ju retorikën në mediat britanike ndaj shqiptarëve që ishte shumë e ashpër?
Ishte një kohë e vështirë në fakt. Ne përmes përpjekjeve të përbashkëta mes dy qeverive dhe të komunitetit kemi mundur që të përmirësojmë situatën. Komuniteti shqiptar në Britani në fakt një pjesë e tyre janë aty n ë mënyrë legale dhe kontribuojnë në shoqërinë britanike, flas për mësuesit, biznesmenët dhe profesionistë të tjerë. Por, gjuha e ashpër dhe diskriminuese që u përdor në media ndaj shqiptarëve është diçka që në fakt ne nuk duam që ta shohim në asnjë komunitet. Ne duam që shqiptarët ashtu sikurse edhe komunitete të tjera të trajtohen të barabartë dhe me drejtësi.
-Dua që të flasim pak edhe për marrëveshjen e firmosur në Londër nga ministri i Brendshëm shqiptar, Taulant Balla, mund të na jepni më shumë detaje lidhur me këtë marrëveshje?
It is a very important part of our agreement within the Joint Communiqué that our two Prime Ministers signed last year. The statement of cooperation means that there will be exchanges, police operations, we will intensify what we do through the immigration task force, we will see how we can support the transformation within the police. We already see the State Police as a good partner for cooperation.
-During this year in the summer season, we saw many tourists who visited Albania where there were also many British people who came on vacation to Albania?
Albania is a wonderful country and a beautiful and undiscovered country. I actually encouraged many journalists to write about Albania. As an embassy, ??it is not up to us to promote Albania as a tourist destination, but we will support the Albanian government and the Albanian embassy in London to do so.
- Why did Great Britain decide to declare former Prime Minister Sali Berisha "non-women", will similar measures be taken in the future?
We fully support Albania's judicial system, especially institutions such as the Special Anti-Corruption Structure (SPAK). The best thing is that justice is done throughout the country. We also welcome and support the work of investigative journalists. We do not comment on individual cases, but what I can say is that we are committed to breaking the ties between crime, corruption and politics. We have a number of preventive measures that we will continue to implement. They can be used by ministers as we did last year against a number of individuals. We will use all the tools we have to fight corruption actors, whether in the Western Balkans or anywhere in the world. Ask me if similar measures will be taken in the future, I can say that we will take measures when we consider it appropriate and when they meet the conditions of our legal framework. We do not comment on the announcement of 'non-women' or future sanctions, as this would reduce their impact. I cannot say more than what has already been made public.