Gov’t sways under EU advice to launch open call for new National Theatre building

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 14, 2018 07:56

Gov’t sways under EU advice to launch open call for new National Theatre building

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  • In this context, Head of the EU Enlargement Directorate for Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina Michela Matuella requested that the Albanian government change the proposed special law and remove the predetermined private company Fusha Shpk from the legal proposal.

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TIRANA, Sept. 13 – The Albanian government confirmed it aims to change the new National Theatre bill by launching an open call for the area’s urban construction and development, after a letter by the European Commission suggested so on Tuesday.

“One point where we are thinking of interfering and improving is to not have a predetermined subject, but to launch an open call for any subject interested in competing for the project,” MP and Head of the Production Activities Commission Eduard Shalsi said.

The letter was sent to the authorities after it assessed the government’s proposed special law, which encountered strong opposition by the public opinion and later failed to be decreed by President Ilir Meta.

The NT bill, approved by the majority’s ballot papers power at the start of July, foresees the construction of a new, modern National Theatre building with the funds of private company Fusha Shpk., which in turn will be given thousands of square meters of public property in the city centre to build a high-rise concrete complex.

More than debating the necessity of a new NT building, the controversy following the issue focused on the special procedure that was used to exclude other companies from competing for the building’s construction.

In this context, Head of the EU Enlargement Directorate for Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina Michela Matuella requested that the Albanian government change the proposed special law and remove the predetermined private company Fusha Shpk from the legal proposal.

“The Commission services welcome the commitment of the Albanian authorities to amend the Special Law with a view of introducing an open call for the implementation of the National Theatre development project, whereby any private party could submit a proposal for the project. At the same time, the Commission services would like to emphasise the importance of defining clear, transparent and non-discriminatory criteria for the selection of the successful bidder in implementing the Special Law,” the letter read.

Although the letter clarifies no violations of the Stabilization and Association Agreement can be noticed, the commission does encourage the government to follow the EU’s public procurement principles and ensure non-discriminatory access to free-market competition.

The Albanian opposition, which has strongly opposed the project, calling it a corrupt affair, called the letter a victory.

“Brussels’ answer is clear: the government has violated the law. The European Commission’s response clearly supports the opposition’s main concerns. We were right to say the law violates the principle of fair competition. We were also right when we accused the government of having a predetermined and preferential customer, like Fusha Shpk,” Democratic Party MP Jorida Tabaku said.

However, the opposition still opposes any bill aiming to destroy the current National Theatre, calling it a “monument of cultural heritage.”

“The Democratic Party is against any law that affect public property by alienating it and offering it to the private sector for clientelistic criminal affairs. The DP is against any law that is subjected to alienating public property depending on the local government, as it violates constitutional principles,” DP MP Albana Vokshi said.

On the other hand, Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj, who has been a frontrunner in protecting this project, described the European Commission letter as “excellent news.”

“While the law doesn’t violate the SAA, we have the opportunity to improve it,” Veliaj wrote in social media.

In fact, Veliaj’s position is different from that of a few weeks before, when he reacted harshly to the President Meta not decreeing the law, stating that within 40 days it would be approved without alterations.

“I believe that through a draft agreed with the European Commission, we will soon have the necessary legal basis, the necessary legal and open process for everyone and finally a new theatre for Tirana,” Veliaj stated.

It currently remains to be seen which procedure will be followed. If the majority will decide to change the law, it would have to approve Meta’s decree for the return to parliament of the present text and then present the new law, that would foresee an open and fair competition for everyone.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 14, 2018 07:56