Tirana residents protest Great Ring project, as opposition warns of corrupt affair

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 12, 2018 15:46

Tirana residents protest Great Ring project, as opposition warns of corrupt affair

Story Highlights

  • Residents have time and time again blocked the traffic in both axes at the Astir road, continuously calling for a complete compensation of all the people living in the buildings to be demolished, as opposed to those who already have property ownership titles, as the government plans on doing.

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TIRANA, Nov. 12 – Over the last two weeks, residents living in the Astir area – soon to be part of a construction project that foresees demolishing a number of houses and buildings – have been protesting and calling on the government to guarantee them compensation for their properties.

On Monday, after protesting for about two hours in front of Tirana’s Municipality building and asking for a meeting with Mayor Erion Veliaj or any municipality representative authorized to give information, the protesters said Tuesday, Nov. 13, is the deadline to have a meeting or else they warned to block Unaza e Madhe (Great Ring road) for good.

“We will not free the road until we are given a solution to our problem,” protesters said, as they blocked one of the main roads in Tirana’s centre, creating heavy traffic.

One of the protesters who gave a declaration for local media during the protest, said his son’s wife had ended up in prison for protesting the road expansion project foreseeing the demolition of their houses.

“They took my son’s wife to give birth in prison. There are men in that house, not just women. They cannot step over all these people,” the Astir resident told local media.

In front of the municipality, protesters also started chanting anti-government statements, such as warnings that their houses will be demolished over their dead bodies.

The protests, which began right after the Head of Road Authority Afrim Qendro and other officials announced on Nov. 5 that “317 objects will be touched by the Great Ring road expansion project,” have been ongoing over the last two weeks at the Astir area and have even turned violent at times.

Residents have time and time again blocked the traffic in both axes at the Astir road, continuously calling for a complete compensation of all the people living in the buildings to be demolished, as opposed to those who already have property ownership titles, as the government plans on doing.

Another reason behind the aggravated protests is the residents’ claims the government did not warn them enough time in advance of the plan to demolish the houses and only give compensation to those who have already received their property ownership titles.

The protests have turned violent as drivers passing at Astir have physically confronted and tried to remove residents, while on Saturday the cameraman of a private media who was doing field reporting was punched by an angry driver.

 

The government’s plan

Last Monday, Nov. 5, Head of Road Authority Afrim Qendro, Head Inspector of the National Inspectorate of Territory Defense Dallendyshe Bici and Tirana Deputy Mayor Arbri Mazniku, among others, gave a press conference regarding the Great Ring road project.

Qendro said that during the project’s tracking phase around 317 projects will be demolished, 163 out of which are under legalization and will be disqualified and 123 hold property ownership titles and will receive compensation.

He added there is no other kind of information for the remaining objects in the area.

“We are in the first phase of object tracking. As soon as we have the approving status from the Real Estate Registration Office, we will begin demolishing the objects. But we will wait for the institutions. The project has a 100-year-old importance and will be accompanied by all urban elements. We conducted our field work and made all preliminary assessments,” Qendro said.

Further on, Qendro clarified the owners of the objects to be disqualified will be included in the homeless people’s list and be given a lease bonus.

“All households that are under legalization will need to be disqualified. The Tirana Municipality will arrange them available housing support programs. They will be treated with a special lease payment procedure in order to move to a quick procedure and be approved as soon as possible at the municipal council and have the opportunity to benefit the lease bonus for a period of at least one year, but which is also renewable until they have the opportunity to be restructured and managed in the new houses,” Qendro said.

The Big Tirana project, from the capital’s Maternity Hospital to the roundabout known as ‘the Eagle’ – due to the double-headed eagle statue at its middle – at the Tirana-Durres highway entrance, has cost 26.5 billion ALL for a length of 27 km.

Soon, the segment from the Eagle to Shkoza is also expected to be launched.

 

The political dimension

On Monday, the opposition’s Democratic Party made public, through its spokeswoman Ina Zhupa, documents allegedly proving the benefactors of the Great Ring project were predetermined.

“The corrupt scheme is clear. The winners have been predetermined because in three different tender procedures, there was only one valid offer, while the second participator was been included to legitimize the tender but has not actually made any offers,” Zhupa said.

Only a day earlier, DP leader Lulzim Basha spoke of an “offshore company” related to the Great Ring project and promised to reveal the “government’s corrupt affairs” the rest of the week,

On Monday, Zhupa made the names of alleged offshore companies clear.

“DH Albania was established this year’s July, one month and a half before the tender opening, under the name of the parent company Dunvel Haberman ltd. Its parent company is an offshore company, with unknown owners, registered in the United States of America, which is known as a fiscal paradise. The other company, Biba X, has no road construction experience and only added this activity shortly before the winner of the 18 million euro tender was announced. The company Biba X  was seized even during the period when it participated in the project’s tender,” Zhupa said.

DP  representatives and lawmakers have attended the protest on different days throughout the week, expressing solidarity with the protesters’ cause.

DP lawmaker Flamur Noka, in a media statement, denounced the municipality’s silence on the Greater Ring road residents’ “legitimate protest.”

“On this seventh day of protest, everything has gone to dead ears. The government and the municipality act as if these residents don’t exist, only because they notified they will demolish all their houses. No one has come to talk to them,” Noka said.

He added the municipality’s behavior with over 2,000 residents is “barbarous” and “non-humane,” as it has taken their money and votes to legalize their houses, which has now decided to demolish without granting compensation.

He promised the residents’ the DP’s support in their legitimate right to be compensated. 

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 12, 2018 15:46