Europol opens first Western Balkans liaison office

Europol has opened its first liaison office in the Western Balkans, in the Albanian capital Tirana, highlighting the importance of both Albania and the Western Balkans as partners for Europol and the EU.

The Tirana office is the first of three planned Europol liaison offices in the Western Balkans; the two others will be in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. The Europol liaison officer will be complementary to the Albanian police liaison officer stationed at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague and will support member states and third-party partners in their investigations.

“This is an important step in establishing a strong partnership and trust between the member states and the Western Balkans,” said Catherine De Bolle, executive director of Europol. “We need to align efforts to jointly tackle common challenges and cross-border threats. Europol is ready to support the Albanian authorities and connect the dots between criminal networks in Europe.”

The Albanian authorities have in recent years been making a conscious effort to tackle serious organised crime. Exchange of information has been increased and the aim of Europol’s increased presence in Tirana is to enhance even further cooperation against drug trafficking, migrant smuggling, trafficking in human beings, arms trafficking and terrorism.

Ardi Veliu, general director of the Albanian State Police, added: “The participation of the state police at the focal point of Europol is a key priority of the Europol National Office in Tirana, as this is of particular importance in meeting the state police’s strategic obligations in the framework of European Union integration. In this context, Europol’s assistance in improving the analysis of criminal information in general, as well as the involvement of the state police in joint investigations and operations, is an objective that we are pursuing with determination and perseverance to make enabling the fight against organized crime, international terrorism, narcotics traffic and illegal migration.”