Court orders suspension of works at controversial ‘Veliera’ Durres project
- Mirela Jorgo, a lawyer who represented civil society activists at the Durres Court, says the Durres municipality led by mayor Vangjush Dako “has committed a criminal offence by building concrete structures in ancient ruins and falsified a 2011 map by narrowing the "Zone A" area where every kind of construction work is banned.”
TIRANA, Feb. 17 – A court has ordered the suspension of construction works at a controversial project to build a luxury veil-like square in front of the country’s biggest port of Durres that risks burying ancient ruins in concrete next to the landmark Durres castle and Venetian tower. The decision by the Durres Administrative Court came following protests by civil society activists and a lawsuit against Durres Mayor Vangjush Dako over the continuation of works after an Ottoman era building, a cannon and some catapult stones were discovered during digging works.
The court decision halts construction works on the much rumored “Veliera” project in the area where the finds have been discovered until a final say by the National Archaeology Council which is already conducting site research.
The Forum for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, an organization bringing together public figures, described the court decision as only half-victory, warning that protests will not stop.
Mirela Jorgo, a lawyer who represented civil society activists at the Durres Court, says the Durres municipality led by mayor Vangjush Dako “has committed a criminal offence by building concrete structures in ancient ruins and falsified a 2011 map by narrowing the “Zone A” area where every kind of construction work is banned.”
Ruling Socialist Party Durres Mayor Vangjush Dako has insisted digging works have only been made in the allowed Zone B and that the project will serve Durres and further promote tourism in the country’s second largest city only 30 km from Tirana.
A BIRN news agency report earlier unveiled the municipality of Durres signed a contract with the Archaeology Institute and the Archaeological Rescue Agency only two months after digging works kicked off at a time when the majority of underground works had already been completed.
The 6-million euro government-funded “Veliera” project will be a 12,000 m2 square with a giant 2,000 m2 veil on it.
The project which is being implemented ahead of next June’s general elections has been criticized for its high cost at a time when Durres suffers prolonged tap water cuts, lacks a waste treatment plant and faces frequent flash flooding due to lack of proper sewer systems, hampering its key tourism industry.
Socialist Party Mayor Vangjush Dako, now in his third consecutive term as Durres Mayor, has often been publicly accused of increasing concrete areas in Durres due to alleged interests in a concrete company where he was a shareholder before taking office as Durres Mayor in 2007.
The project comes after Durres reconstructed its central square and archaeology museum in the past few years, making it more attractive to tourists.
Founded in the 7th century BC under the name Epidamnos, Durres has been continuously inhabited for 27 centuries and is one of the oldest cities in Albania. The city boasts a Roman amphitheater of the 2nd century A.D, one of the largest in the Balkan.