While other ambassadors from EU countries live in more modest accommodations, European Commission spokesperson Maja Kocijančič has responded yesterday to allegations published in several newspapers regarding the acquisition of EU Ambassador Romana Vlahutin’s €1.6 million villa in Rolling Hills.
The decision to choose the residency of the head of the EU delegation in Albania came as a conclusion of a full analysis, including a market survey, evaluation of an independent expert, and the advice of the Regional Security Officer of the EEAS in relation to security aspects.
This is the best option as regards the general price/quality relation and the fulfillment of the needs of the building as residency of the Head of the EU delegation, such as security, convenience, and proximity to the EU delegation. The decision was approved by the EU Budget Authority in January 2015.
It is of a very great importance for the institutions of the EU that the budget is spent in a correct, transparent way, in the best relation of price/quality.
In her declaration Kocijančič failed to answer to several of the points raised regarding Ambassador Vlahutin’s residence, especially with regards to the price/quality ratio; the villa is more than twice as expensive as those surrounding it, even though most are owned by the Albanian business, media, juridical, and political elite. Moreover, the argument of proximity is slightly ridiculous. Rolling Hills is located outside the city, behind the TEG commercial center, and hardly “close” to the EU delegation offices in the center of Tirana.
The evasive response of EU spokesperson Kocijančič is surprising, considering that on other occasions she has firmly endorsed the EU’s responsibility toward the free press:
Media criticism […] is essential to ensure the proper accountability of elected governments; governments should in turn be ready to act on such criticism in a constructive and transparent fashion, rather than trying to stifle it.
The EU delegation in Tirana also appears to have a history of corruption. In 2007, two Italians, one a European Commission official and another a European Parliament assistant, were arrested for corruption, suspected of “bribes from real estate and security companies in return for rewarding them with contracts to rent, equip and secure the commission buildings in New Dehli and Tirana.”