Albania set to increase benefits as TAP launches pipeline construction

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 3, 2016 14:08

Albania set to increase benefits as TAP launches pipeline construction

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  • “The offer to farmers is less than 1 euro per square metre, almost nothing even for poor residents in the internal part of the country, who mostly eke out a living from subsistence agriculture,” says economist Zef Preçi

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TIRANA, Oct. 3 – The Albanian government says it is about to conclude negotiations with Trans Adriatic Pipeline representatives over increasing benefits as one of the country’s largest investment bringing Caspian gas to Europe has entered its pipeline construction stage.

“We are determined to maximize the benefits of this strategic project and we don’t want to simply remain a transit point for Caspian gas to Europe. We inherited a deal that had a huge void on the direct and symmetrical benefits with our countries on the pipeline itinerary in relation to the communities,” said Prime Minister Edi Rama last weekend at a ceremony marking the start of the pipeline construction in Fier, southwestern Albania.

Energy Minister Damian Gjiknuri assured the new deal would bring Albania’s benefits on par with neighboring Greece.

“It has now been accepted that Albania had some unfavorable conditions compared to Greece. The company and the energy ministry have been engaged in an intensive negotiation process which we are concluding to bring to full balance Albania’s benefits the same as Greece got them,” said Gjiknuri.

“This would be good for both parties but above all for the project’s sustainability which also involves justice and how all countries which equally benefited feel,” he added.

Albania is seeking more benefits regarding employment, investments, community projects and the participation of Albanian companies in the pipeline construction.

One year after its launch of construction with the access roads and bridges, more than 1,700 people have been directly employed in the project which has rehabilitated 100 km of roads in southern areas of Korça, Çorovoda and Fier.

However, low compensation rates for land owners have sparked concern among local residents and NGOs.

A report by Counter Balance, a Brussels-based European coalition of development and environmental NGOs, claims TAP is on course to benefit only a few while placing the burden of potential risks on the shoulders of the disadvantaged Albanian population.

Several of the residents are unhappy with the offers made for the rent or purchase of their land, notes the report.

“The offer to farmers is less than 1 euro per square metre, almost nothing even for poor residents in the internal part of the country, who mostly eke out a living from subsistence agriculture,” the report cites Albanian economist Zef Preçi.

The Albanian government has set a total compensation package of Euro 2.3 million for house and land displacements as well as rents for some 25,000 beneficiaries that will be paid by the TAP consortium.

The pipeline in Albania will be approximately 211 km long, starting at Bilisht Qendër in the Korça region, southeastern Albania on the border with Greece. TAP’s landfall in Albania will be located 17 km north-west of Fier, up to 400 metres inland from the shoreline. The offshore section in Albanian territorial waters will be about 37 km.

TAP’s route across the Adriatic Sea will take the pipeline approximately 105 km along the seabed from the Albanian to the Italian coast.

Last August, a well-preserved archaeological artefact believed to date 6th century was discovered in southeastern Albania during construction works for the Trans Adriatic Pipeline bringing Caspian gas to Europe through Albania.

“The find is a 40 cm limestone column capital, decorated with engraved floral motifs, and is believed to have been part of a significant religious monument in the region,” said TAP representatives.

Albanian experts have described TAP as an opportunity that would benefit Albania both economically and politically, making the country an important hub of the international gas pipeline for the Western Balkans.

TAP would be another opportunity to diversify generation especially in the newly-built Vlora thermal power plant, help the country’s gasification by offering gas, already massively used as a cheaper alternative to electricity for cooking and heating, although the country’s buildings lack gas infrastructure.

With first gas sales to Georgia and Turkey targeted for late 2018, first deliveries to Europe will follow approximately in early 2020.

After the withdrawal of Norway’s Statoil, TAP’s shareholding is now comprised of UK’s BP (20 percent), Azerbaijan’s SOCAR (20 percent), Italy’s Snam (20 percent), Belgium’s Fluxys (19 percent), Spain’s Enagás (16 percent) and Switzerland’s Axpo (5 percent).

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 3, 2016 14:08