Albanian students learn on countering violent extremism at AIIS summer school

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 11, 2018 16:00

Albanian students learn on countering violent extremism at AIIS summer school

Story Highlights

  • Addressing the opening of the AIIS summer school, Mimi Kodheli, a former Albanian defense minister who currently chairs the foreign affairs parliamentary committee, told students that Albania and other regional countries can counter violent extremism only by staying together and sharing information and that education, opening up and putting an end to xenophobia can help fight radicalism

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Students attend the AIIS summer school on the "New security environment in the Western Balkans: Challanges and Implications." Photos: AIIS

Students attend the AIIS summer school on the “New security environment in the Western Balkans: Challenges and Implications.” Photos: AIIS

TIRANA, July 11 – Albanian public and private university students were acquainted with the new security environment in Albania and other Western Balkan countries as well as challenges and implications at a time when violent extremism has emerged as one of the top global threats and no country is considered immune to that.

The five-day training is being held in Tirana by the Albanian Institute for International Studies, AIIS, one of the country’s leading think tanks, as part of its summer school project on security issues, supported by the NATO Public Diplomacy Division, providing students with insight on countering violent extremism, the Alliance’s role in the Western Balkans where Albania and Montenegro are already members and Macedonia is soon hoping to join after settling a decades-long name dispute with Greece.

Other topics discussed in daily seminars with experts included the role of religion and third-party actors in public security issues in the region and the preparedness of the Western Balkan countries to counter radicalization.

The forum came at a time when leaders of the 29 NATO allies and partner nations are meeting at a two-day summit in Brussels this week to take decisions on strengthening the Alliance’s deterrence and defense, stepping up in the fight against terrorism and achieving fairer burden-sharing.

Addressing the opening of summer school, Mimi Kodheli, a former Albanian defense minister who currently chairs the foreign affairs parliamentary committee, told students that Albania and other regional countries can counter violent extremism only by staying together and sharing information and that education, opening up and putting an end to xenophobia can help fight radicalism.

Agron Sojati, Albania’s national coordinator for countering violent extremism, also informed students on how terror can paralyze social and economic life.

Speakers at the first three days of the seminars included David Muniz, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. embassy in Tirana, the head of the Albanian Institute for International Studies Albert Rakipi and local security expert Arjan Dyrmishi.

Sara Malosmani, a second year Master’s student in political science, says she finds the experts’ classes really helpful.

“As a student, it was really important to have had a chance on learning more regarding security in the Western Balkans and the challenges it faces from different experts. This week, I felt really privileged to discuss my ideas with security experts,” she told Tirana Times.

The five-day summer school concludes on Friday with seminars on the refugee crisis and the Western Balkan route and the potential influence of new political developments in Turkey on regional security affairs.

While no incidents have taken place so far, Albania is not considered immune to terrorism.

In late 2016, a coordinated regional counter terrorism operation led to the arrests of four Albanians, disrupting a potential attack targeting a World Cup qualifier between Albania and Israel, later held peacefully under tight security measures.

A country with a majority Muslim population, but where religious co-existence is hailed as an example to be followed, Albania has had no new reported cases of citizens travelling to Syria or Iraq as of 2015 after more than a hundred Albanians were conformed to have joined ISIS by mid-2014.

A late 2015 AIIS study unveiled most of Albanian fighters in Syria came from poor undeveloped areas where they lived in isolation and were lured to join ISIS because of socio-economic conditions.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 11, 2018 16:00