Rruga e Kombit Highway Toll: Municipal Council Silent, Kukës Citizens Protest

Yesterday, the Socialist members of the Kukës municipal council decided not to discuss or oppose the issue of the Rruga e Kombit highway tolls. Although a few months before, Kukës municipal council of all political parties called citizens in a protest against the tolls, yesterday, the Socialist head of the municipal council, Gjelbërim Shehu, declared that the council approved of the toll’s reduction to 100 lekë per route for Kukës citizens:

As the head of the Kukës municipal council, I am announcing that the meeting planned for today did not take place because of a lack of a quorum. The last point of discussion having to do with the analysis of the Rruga e Kombit highway toll is considered resolved. After a reflection by the government and the concessionary, the 100 lekë toll is acceptable and affordable by all. We came to this solution following negotiations with the government, the concessionary, and interest groups.,

Tolls (100 lekë per route for Kukës citizens and the initial tolls for the rest of the country) will start being implemented on September 17. On that same day, citizens of Kukës have announced that they will hold a massive protest on the highway, although, this time, without the support of the municipal council.

Neither the Kukës municipal council, nor the concession holder, nor the government, have provided any demographic and socio-economic analysis or data they based their decision to set the toll at 100 lekë per route for Kukës citizens on.

The citizens of this region, the poorest in the country, say that this toll is an added financial burden for them, and does not take into account how great of a necessity transportation is for the region’s rural areas.

According to INSTAT, 46.7% of Kukës families live on welfare.

Kukës’ median monthly income is lower than that of any other county, at 23,000 lekë a month per family, or 766 a day. Now, part of this income will go towards paying the Rruga e Kombit highway toll.

Below, we bring to attention two villages that are completely dependent on Kukës city for their daily needs, and will have to travel to Kukës via the Rruga e Kombit highway every day.

The village of Fushë-Arrë, in Surrojë, does not have a middle school, and the children of this village go to school in the city of Kukës. Everyday, thay have to pass through the Rruga e Kombit highway at least once. The families of these students must spend 200 lekë everyday on the tolls, leaving them to cover all other expenses with only 566 lekë.

Similarly, the population of the Trullë-Surrojë village, as a result of infrastructure, must travel to Kukës city for any services they may need. It is, then, a vital need of these citizens to pass through the Rruga e Kombit highway, no less than twice a day. Once again, even if we assume a median income (23,000 lekë a month), though many of these families live on welfare meaning their income is even lower, then 200 lekë per day are spent on tolls, without accounting for other transportation expenses.

Furthermore, according to a new announcement released by Kastrati shpk, Kukës citizens may only pass through the highway 44 times a month (that is, 22 round trips) at a 100 lekë toll. If they exceed that amount, they, too, will be forced to pay €5 per route, or 99% of their median daily income.