On 18 November, a P2P regional exchange event titled: “Using Confiscated Assets for Good Causes” was held online with 40 participants representing CSOs, public institutions and international and local organisations. The participants were mainly those who are responsible, are working, and are interested in establishing a model of sustainable re-use of confiscated assets from organised crime by civil society organisations in Albania and beyond in the Western Balkans.
The event was opened by Valerie Covic, Programme Manager for Civil Society in the Delegation of European Union to Albania, who mentioned the support given by the Delegation in the past years to the model of social re-use of confiscated assets. She informed that in Albania, the first social enterprises set up in premises confiscated as assets from organised crime were established in the frame of the project “C.A.U.S.E – Confiscated Assets Used for Social Experimentation” implemented by Partners Albania in collaboration with the Agency for the Administration of the Sequestered and Confiscated Assets as part of the Civil Society Facility (CSF) support provided by EU.
Tanja Hafner Ademi, Team Leader of the EU TACSO 3 project, presented the event’s aim to discuss and share some successful practices of cooperation between civil society and state institutions at the national level in the context of re-use of confiscated assets for purposes of social causes.
During the first session, ‘General overview of the legal mechanisms, policies and state institutions for the administration and reuse of the confiscated assets in the Balkans’ Mr Faton Asani, Director of the Agency for the Administration of Confiscated Assets from North Macedonia, presented the scope of work and mandate of the Agency, emphasising that it became an active institution with several achievements and strong cooperation with other public institutions, especially with the social centres in North Macedonia. The second presentation was done by Mr Qirjako Theodhosi, Director of the Agency for the Administration of Seized and Confiscated Assets in Albania. He said that the Agency has as its primary goal the administration of seized and confiscated assets by a court decision, the administration of blocked assets, and the administration of other assets, which are the product of criminal offences. He stressed the good cooperation of the Agency with CSOs and the role of CSOs in capacity building of the Agency in terms of re-use of assets in good causes. Mr Theodhosi highlighted during his presentation some points for attention that could improve the performance of the Agency such as: (1) the need for increasing the cooperation of the Agency with the other public institutions that play a role in the fight against organised crime, (2) further improvement of the legal framework on the functioning of the agency, (3) increasing the capacities of the administrators of the Agency through training programmes, and (4) increasing the transparency of the Agency towards the citizens through the provision of information regularly, on the work of the Agency and its role in the fight against organised crime.
The third presentation was done by the organisation Libera Italy. The experience of the social re-use of confiscated assets started in Italy by Libera, a network of associations, social cooperatives, movements and informal groups, and other stakeholders committed to social justice. Established in 1995, Libera started its activity by collecting signatures to support a bill to introduce the principle of social reuse of confiscated assets. During these years, the association Libera has extended its activities and contribution at the European level, but also in Albania, being a partner in several initiatives at the county level. In April 2019, Libera and its European network of associations, CSOs and social movements signed a new political agenda to strengthen the fight against organised crime and corruption across Europe. They chose the name “Chance” to start to create the new Political Agenda, which was presented to the European institutions before the European elections in May 2019. Libera presented the report on good practices of public and social reuse of confiscated assets in Europe, where Albania is included among other EU member countries.
In the event’s second session, some case studies were presented on the re-use of confiscated assets in Albania, referring to the Albanian experience. Three assets confiscated from organised crime turned into social enterprises by CSOs, respectively: KeBuono!, a social pastry established by “Engim” and “Qendra Sociale Murialdo” organisations, in Fier; Kinfolk Coffee Library – established in Durrës, by the Albanian Education Foundation and the Civil Society Development Center in Durres, and Social Crafting Garage in Saranda. These social enterprises were the first-ever established in Albania and the Western Balkan region. As shown by these examples, setting social enterprises in confiscated assets has several benefits for the community. It has a direct impact on improving the lives of victims of organised crime and groups at risk. It improves the economic opportunities of the local communities, increases the active participation of citizens in socio-cultural activities and strengthens their trust in institutions and the rule of law.
In the last session, participants had the opportunity to share their experiences or comment on what was shared and discussed during the event. Also, they gave ideas about what can be done to develop further and promote these models that can expand the social impact of the re-use of confiscated assets.
Main conclusions of the event:
- There are different examples of social reuse of confiscated assets in the region. In North Macedonia the reuse is done in cooperation with public institutions, and the Agency for the administration of seized and confiscated assets in North Macedonia offers these assets only to state institutions (cars, money, food, raw materials, etc.) as more trustful entities according to the director of the agency. In Albania there is cooperation with CSOs, which is increasing due to the open approach of the agency to collaborate with CSOs in the social reuse of confiscated assets. Two are the supporting schemes provided by the Agency: The special fund for public goods, through which the agency has supported some projects of CSOs, and the social reuse of assets for social enterprises. In BiH, the raising awareness on social reuse of confiscated assets has started.
- Due the non-qualitative court decisions there are several difficulties with the confiscation process. For example only part of a building is confiscated, or the land is confiscated but not the building on it, etc. this puts the Agencies in difficulties in decision making on the reuse of these assets.
- Social reuse is a better chose compared to the sales of confiscated assets. In the last case there is the risk that the ex-owners (involved in criminal activity) or their familiars, buy the asset and the asset returns to the persons or groups involved with criminal activity. Social reuse ensures the return of these assets to the community to which they are stolen.
- Social reuse is not an easy process. In some cases it is associated with threats and problems caused by the ex-owners, but the networking among all relevant stakeholders, including the local community, is a good guarantee for the success of these experiences. The Agencies, as the administrators of these assets, which are state properties, provide their support, during the whole process.
- Establishment of the of the Asset Recovery Office, part of the new strategy of the country in the fight against organised crime would improve the confiscation process.
- An important element mentioned in the presentation of LIBERA was the Civic Monitoring of confiscated assets, through which the community is involved in monitoring and assessing the impact of the social reuse of confiscated assets. This is a very good tool that could be implemented in WB countries too, to strengthen the model.