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“Toxic Political Climate” Could Lead to Political Violence and Extremism in Albania

The EU and Albania should consider targeting other forms of extremism other than Islamic extremism such as political violence, right-wing extremism, and ethnic extremism, according to recommendations from a policy paper by the Institute for Democracy and Mediation and PREVEX

Authored by Leonie Vrugtman, the paper examines the phenomenon of violent extremism in Albania and suggests policy improvements that could help to combat it.

Researchers warned that “considering the toxic political climate and many of the drivers to violent extremism still in place, there is a heightened chance for non-religious violence in Albania.”

Issues such as high unemployment, impunity, widespread corruption, unfair treatment by the government and courts, and other matters, could create a “breeding ground” for populist, anti-establishment and political extremist groups or narratives to succeed. This, the report said, could be exacerbated by the fall out of the COvid-p19 pandemic and continued undemocratic governance.

In addition to this, Albania is facing the return of Albanian nationals what were previously associated with the Islamic State. As of the end of 2020, some 76 Albanians remained in Syria including men, women and at least 26 children. The men remain in detention centres while the women and children live in poor conditions in camps like al Hawl and al Roj.

So far, some women and children have been repatriated but it’s not known how and when others will be returned. The IDM state that the proper reintegration of these individuals and their families will require a “whole-of-society-approach” including central and local institutions local communities, the returnees, and first-line respondents.

It notes that currently there are not sufficient state capacities to properly reintegrate these individuals and there is a need to increase these and improve cooperation.

“In order to adequately support RFTFs and their families, the capacities for front-line workers (such as psychologists, sociologists, social workers, teachers, prison and probation staff, and staff in local government offices) needs to be increased128. Together, these front liners and local government stakeholders can, with the support of CSOs, enhance their expertise to foster social engagement, enhance social cohesion, and empower RFTFs and their families to rehabilitate and reintegrate.”

In terms of what drives Albanians to leave and join Isis, the policy paper identified several points and found that it was often a combination of factors and perceptions.

They are as follows:

Socio-economic factors: social exclusion, marginalisation, unmet socio-economic needs, relative deprivation, enabling social networks, and group dynamics.
Political or structural factors: poor governance, endemic corruption, impunity for elites, ineffective institutions, poorly governed areas, denial of political rights and liberties.
Cultural and Albania-specific drivers: lack of religious education by beievers and clerics, disputed religious authorities, disengagement and lack of civic values, proactive religious agendas, religious disinformation, broader cultural threats, and online radicalisation.
Recommendations from PREVEX include fostering diversification and professionalism in civil society organisations, enhancing local ownership in related projects, follow up on the effective implementation of policies and actions adopted by the government, and the EU developing a tool to monitor the overall impact of their initiatives.

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