President Meta calls for int'l investigation into demolition of Theatre

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times May 19, 2020 17:18

President Meta calls for int'l investigation into demolition of Theatre

TIRANA, May 19 - President Ilir Meta has called for an international investigation into what he called "the unconstitutional, illegal and the most anti-European way of destroying the National Theater." He announced prior to Monday's protest that he is ready to cooperate with the Alliance for the Protection of Theater, as well as any European and international institution for Culture.

"Europe and the democratic world are even clearer about what is happening here," he wrote.

Moreover, Meta urged protesters not to practice violence but believe instead that democracy can prevail "over 'Talibanism' and oligarchy.'"

Civil society members, artists and citizens gathered yesterday to protest against the demolition of the National Theatre in Albania. Adriatik Lapaj, one of the many activists who spoke during the rally, emphasized that the battle is no longer just about the Theater, but it is about democracy, as there are no more courts where the people can turn to.

"Yesterday, the arrogance of the government did not wait for the decision of the Constitutional Court, of SPAK, or that of the prosecution, to be investigated," he said, adding that justice for the people is nowhere to be found.

Prior to the demolition of the Theatre, President Meta filed a lawsuit in the Constitutional Court against the government's decision to transfer ownership of the land upon which the Theatre stood, to the Municipality of Tirana. According to Meta, the action was unconstitutional and therefore should have been repealed. Shortly after his denunciation, the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office (SPAK) launched an investigation into Tirana mayor Erion Veliaj and deputy mayor Arbjan Mazniku concerning the Tirana municipal council's decision to demolish the National Theatre. However, the government went on with the decision which saw the demolishing of the Theatre on Sunday morning.

Distrust towards state institutions

Meta's call for an international investigation served as yet another reflections of his continuous distrust towards the existing state institutions. Last year, the President raised concern over the ongoing justice reform as regards the Constitutional Court. "Had the reform been such a success, Albania would have spent no day without a Constitutional Court," Meta emphasized.

His address also included the approach of the reform, criticizing bluntly the meme like expressions of the need "to catch big fish" . He urged all sides to responsibility and focus on building resilient institutions rather than focusing on single individual names.

Meta later addressed the Venice Commission with a lengthy request, in response to a move made by the majority to seek from this body of international experts an interpretation of the situation created on November of 2018 with appointments to the Constitutional Court.   

"In the absence of a Constitutional Court for more than two years , in the absence of the High Court, in a crisis of representation sui generis where the Government, Parliament, all municipalities and municipal councils are in the hands of a single political force as well as the vast majority of the two independent bodies appointed by this political force, bringing about a complete imbalance of checks and balances, the country is at risk of total state capture," he wrote at the time.

The clash between the parties began after Meta decided not to appoint one of the candidates for the vacancy to be filled by the Head of State, arguing that he had already filled a vacancy and it was up to Parliament to proceed with electing a candidate from the lists. 

Furthermore, in April this year, President Meta asked the HJC to end Dvoran's term of office, who, being the incumbent President of the Supreme Court, refused to announce the end of his term. The HJC, on the other hand, claimed that it has no power to do so, while at the same time confirming that none of the recently appointed Supreme Court judges have replaced Dvorani.

Currently, tensions continue as the justice reform is still in motion for a period of four years now, while international pressure for its acceleration remains.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times May 19, 2020 17:18