Albanian artists hold daily protests to protect National Theatre from demolition

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 20, 2018 12:09

Albanian artists hold daily protests to protect National Theatre from demolition

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  • Albanian artists have been protesting for months against plans to demolish the National Theater building, which authorities have described as outdated and unsafe, demanding the restoration of the 75-year-old facility.

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TIRANA, June 19 – In Tirana, artists and citizens are holding daily protests next to the National Theater building to protect it from demolition based on a governmental project that foresees building a new National Theatre as part of a high-rise commercial complex in the capital’s centre.

Albanian artists have been protesting for months against plans to demolish the National Theater building, which authorities have described as outdated and unsafe, demanding the restoration of the 75-year-old facility.

The Ministry of Culture and the Municipality of Tirana held an open meeting with the protesting artists last week, inviting them to be part of the negotiations with Fusha Sh.p.k., the contracting firm that is to build the high-rise complex where the new theatre will be located.

Artists, however, said this invitation placed them in front of a set deal and unacceptable condition.

Tirana’s Mayor Erion Veliaj said the building is unsafe, and that it does not meet the minimal conditions necessary for actors to work, while adding the new building will cost approximately 30 million euros and will meet all required working art conditions.

“The theatre costs, for around 9,500 square meters, would be around 30 million euros considering an investment of 3,000 euros per square meter, in order for it to have all proper parameters. How can we combine parts of the new building with parts of nostalgia in this new project is entirely open to discussion and there is no limit in what we can include,” Veliaj said.

Nonetheless, artists remain decided to protect the building and the territory surrounding and called on the government to withdraw its draft law as a condition to continue normal negotiations.

The draft-law for the negotiations’ specific conditions foresees directly selling the land to the Fusha Sh.p.k. private company, thus ignoring the law on managing private property and laws on public-private partnerships.

In this context, some of the country’s lawyers have also spoken against the contract behind the project-law, saying it is irregular to hire a pre-selected contracting party to build the complex without public contest or prior notice of interest groups.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of younger and older artists are joining the protest after the Friday deadline they gave to the government to withdraw its draft-law last week passed.

“I’m here to support you because here is where our life is, I’ve worked here for around 40 years. Demolishing it would consist of a big sin for me,” renowned Albanian artist Roza Anagnosti said in a speech in front of a crowd protesting in the rain in front of the National Theatre on Saturday.

 

Gvrt – opposition clashes on National Theatre project risk turning violent   

 

The meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Education and the Means of Public Information, which was meant to again discuss the controversial issue of the National Theatre building on Tuesday, was accompanied with tension and clashes.

Opposition lawmakers rejected the presence of Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj in the room and insisted that he leaves, saying that only the Minister of Culture Mirela Kumbaro was invited, while majority lawmakers said Veliaj was there invited by them.

Committee Chair Albana Vokshi asked the parliament’s security staff to remove Veliaj several times, who in turn insisted he was invited there and did not need to leave.

The verbal tension carried on for several minutes, before being further aggravated when Democrat lawmaker Flamur approached Veliaj to forcefully remove him from his seat.

Other Democrat lawmakers joined Noka and, while exchanging verbal commentary with Veliaj in front of the media present in the room, removed his microphone.

This lead Veliaj to exit the room after openly challenging the opposition MPs on his way out, repeatedly shouting several times before leaving that “Tirana will win.”

Outside the parliament, Veliaj told journalists that “they do not wish for someone to speak the truth. The fact that in a Committee made up of six members they call 40 lawmakers means they don’t want to hear the truth. I believe the Theatre will have the same luck as other major projects in the city.”

For Vokshi, however, Veliaj’s presence “was illegal and an attempt to usurp and destroy the committee’s meeting only to take away the power the regulation and Constitution has given the opposition to make this public property theft done for unimaginable personal gains more transparent.”

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 20, 2018 12:09