One of the first decisions of PM Rama’s government when it first came to power was to exclude informal constructions from compensation. The amended Law on Legalization was first implemented in the New Boulevard project.
The New Boulevard project was initiated in 2012. Before the work started, the then-mayor Basha and PM Berisha stated that owners of buildings affected by the project would all be compensated, be their property legal or illegal.
PM Berisha’s Decision No.752, on 5 September 2013, determined the buildings to be demolished, procedures and amounts for compensation for each.
Compensations were planned to be allocated in several phases, as the construction work was also divided in several lots. The government then approved 14 million Euros as compensation for buildings to be demolished in the first phase.
The important aspect in this case is that the government and municipality decided to compensate all inhabitants, despite the legality of their buildings, by also including those already in the process of legalization at the relevant agency (ALUIZNI) – in compliance with the European Convention of Human Rights, the Albanian Constitution, and other laws.
Art.4 of the Decision stated that:
Compensations by the Municipality of Tirana for informal buildings will be accomplished when the owner of the building submits the signed form, attached to this Decision, to the Municipality of Tirana.
Once in power, in 2014 PM Rama decided to stop the construction of the New Boulevard, arguing that the allocated compensation was below the market value at that time. In other words, PM Rama blocked the expropriation and compensation process in order to “protect” inhabitants’ interests, thus implying they would be compensated at a higher value than what the former Prime Minister Sali Berisha had allocated for them.
When Veliaj became a mayor in 2015, PM Rama immediately unblocked the work in the New Boulevard, and decided to implement the 2013 decision of PM Berisha, without any changes in the compensation fund.
However, there was a major difference there: while PM Berisha had allocated the fund only for the first of the three phases for expropriations, PM Rama decided to keep the same fund for all phases. Even though he had implied the compensation amount would increase, not only did it not, but PM Rama used the fund allocated for one phase of the project to cover all phases.
Furthermore, PM Rama also excluded some of the buildings from compensation. Contrary to the 2013 government decision, which assigned funds for compensations for illegal buildings, in 2015 Rama amended the Law on Legalization in order to exclude from legalization buildings that interfere with public works (Art.39).
In the meantime, most of the families affected by the extension of the boulevard had already submitted applications to legalize their buildings, but the amended law stripped owners of the compensation opportunity the Berisha government had given them.
The amendment of the law resulted in 44 building excluded from the legalization process that are awaiting demolition without compensation. As it has been argued before regarding the Outer Ring Road project, this approach violates international conventions, the Constitute and the Law on Social Housing.
PM Edi Rama has used this tactic not only at the New Boulevard, but also in Shkoza one year ago, and now at the Outer Ring Road.
Some of the inhabitants affected by the Outer Ring Road have also already entered the legalization process and paid the required fees, only to see PM Rama abruptly terminate the process.
The reason if quite simple: the government would rather violate citizens’ rights rather than cover costs of expropriations. Apart from the violation of several laws and rights, this approach is a clear deviation from the precedent established by the previous government.