Albania grapples with cannabis, a hurdle to EU accession

Morocco may be the leading source of cannabis resin, but mountainous Albania is the main supplier of herbal cannabis trafficked to the European Union, says the bloc's law enforcement agency, Europol.

Albania grapples with cannabis, a hurdle to EU accession

World Bulletin / News Desk

As Albania gears up for elections, one huge challenge facing the Balkan country has been low on the campaign agendas: the scourge of its cannabis fields, which threatens to hinder EU accession.

Despite Albania's attempts to crack down on the illicit but lucrative trade, recent international reports said the scourge is yet to be brought under control -- and that the criminal gangs behind it are escaping justice.

Until a month ago, Albania's main opposition Democratic Party was threatening to boycott Sunday's election. It accused Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama of colluding with cannabis traffickers and using their profits to manipulate the vote.

But the two sides struck a deal in mid-May, in which the Democrats were granted key ministerial positions in the run-up the polls. Since then, the cannabis question has been quietly dropped by both sides.

"They agreed a ceasefire, but the most uncertain are the poor people who do not know how they are going to ensure their survival," said Petrit, a small-scale farmer in northern Albania, echoing the desperation of many who cultivate the crop.

On a visit to see family in the capital Tirana, 35-year-old Petrit -- who did not want to give his full name -- said it was smaller producers who were being punished by the crackdown.

"No big boss is behind bars," he told AFP, adding that he was preparing to emigrate to Greece to find other work to feed his six children.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 21 Haziran 2017, 10:13