Albanian National Theatre demolished in early morning hours

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times May 17, 2020 12:49

Albanian National Theatre demolished in early morning hours

TIRANA, May 17 - In the early morning hours of Sunday, Albanian authorities demolished the building of the National Theater after over 2 years of resistance by civil society activists.

Police forces surrounded the building around 4:30 a.m. where several citizens, artists and opposition party members were spending the night as a form of protest and dispersed them in order to begin with the demolition procedures. 

Dozens of citizens were detained and arrested for resistance, including opposition party 'LSI' leader Monika Kryemadhi and Albanian journalist Alfred Lela. The area surrounding the building was then cordoned and citizens were kept from entering through.

Tensions grew when more protesters gathered around the area guarded by police forces, chanting '"Down with Dictatorship" and calling the government's actions fascist.

"Sad day"

Europa Nostra, which considered the National Theater as one of Europe's seven most endangered heritage sites, called it a sad day for cultural heritage as well as democracy and rule of law in Albania and Europe. The organization also condemned the detention of civil society activists protesting against the demolition of the Theatre.

EU Ambassador to Albania Luigi Soreca stated on Twitter that the demolition of the National Theater came at a time when dialogue between the government and civil society members was necessary. "We regret that this call has not been followed up by the relevant national and local institutions," he wrote.

The U.K. Embassy in Albania also expressed concern over the demolition of the Theater and emphasized the lack of dialogue as well as the evident violence among citizens and police.

"We support the democratic right to protest and call upon all involved to ensure they are peaceful. Violence undermines basic principles of democracy."

The opposition

Democrat leader Lulzim Basha spoke of barbaric violence and lawlessness and announced an opposition meeting to decide on the decision to be taken after these developments: "The opposition will convene today, and take political action. What Every Albanian understands today from this event is that with Edi Rama, lawlessness, violence and infidelity will continue. Violence, lawlessness and injustice will not end without this government ending and without this man leaving. There is no other way, " declared Basha.

After being released by authorities, Kryemadhi criticized the demollition and urged the Albanian people to reject the state of Edi Rama. 

President Ilir Meta, who has publicly opposed the project to demolish the National Theater, reacted harshly following the demolition. "The mafia ordered the destruction, not only of one of the most endangered cultural heritage monuments in Europe, but also of any illusion of the existence of the rule of law in Albania," Meta wrote.

Over 2 years of resistance

The Theater debate has started since the beginning of 2018, when the government announced the project for its demolition and the construction of a new building after which there is a predetermined project for a high-rise multi-storey building complex that will be built by private company "Fusha." 

The government has constantly insisted that the project has been an unsolicited bid of the Fusha company, claiming it has a share of land ownership, though not more than three percent. But the facts have proven that it has been a previously co-ordinated bid with the government, which initially introduced a special law that was criticized by the European Commission because of the prospect of avoiding an open race. The Socialists then made changes to the law, setting the opening of a race, but it all seemed to have been done on paper alone since no other competitor meets at least the requirement to get the approval of all landowners, as they also need to seek permission by Fusha Sh.P.k. 

On Thursday, the Municipal Council decided to demolish the National Theater during a closed online meeting, after approving a proposal by the Construction Institute in March 2018 and a report on May 13 this year. The National Theater returned to the spotlight this week, as the government decided to transfer its land from the Ministry of Culture to the municipality of Tirana, which the latter quickly decided to demolish.

The Alliance for the Protection of the Theater then filed a lawsuit against the Municipal Council regarding their recent decision to demolish the National Theater.

The Alliance accused the engineers of the Institute of Construction of abusing their power, claiming that the proposal to demolish the Theater building was made without them having visited or inspected the facility. According to the Alliance, the proposal was based only on documents dating back to 2018, which lack essential elements for the control process; No laboratory analysis and no calculations on the central construction of the facility were included.

However, the lawsuit was not taken into account by the Municipality as procedures to demolish the Theatre were finalized today.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times May 17, 2020 12:49