Yesterday, the Alliance for the Protection of the Theater requested to be part of the civil organizations group invited in a meeting with the Members of the European Parliament (MEP) visiting Albania. The MEPs delegation turned down their request.
The Alliance has stood up against the demolition of the National Theatre for more than one year. Artists and concerned citizens have protested every single day against what they consider to be “an unconstitutional and corruptive attempt” by the government to replace the theater with skyscrapers. The Alliance has managed to stage the longest and most cohesive protest by civil society in Albania. Yet, the visiting MEPs chose not to have them present in their meeting with the Albanian civil society organizations.
Below, Exit reproduces the Alliance’s press release in full.
Dear Members of the European Parliament,
We were disappointed that you turned down our request to be included in a meeting held with “civil society” organizations. The Alliance for the Protection of the Theater, a group of concerned artists and citizens, has been able to resist the unconstitutional attempt to demolish the National Theater building for over a year, thanks to a continued daily protest that is still ongoing. Our outreach activities also included the European Commission and EU Parliament members, who intervened with a list of questions directed to the Albanian government and a request to act in accordance with the SAA [Stabilisation and Association Agreement] standards during this issue.
As such, this has been the only civil society cause stemming from Albania that has reached this level of interest from EU and other international bodies. More importantly, this has been achieved while not asking for, or receiving, any funding for any of our activities.
The strengthening and promotion of “civil society”, to act as a bulwark against abusive government decisions, has been a long-held goal of the EU. Vast amounts of European taxpayer money have been used to advance this agenda in almost all of Eastern Europe. The organization of citizen groups that hold governments accountable, speak out regarding the rule of law, and uphold democratic standards, has been the ambition of this enterprise. As you might very well be aware, the results have not always been successful. Despite all of the efforts and the funding, tangible results are still limited, citizen involvement in decision-making remains limited and isolated, while overall democratic progress across the region has been in stagnation, or even regress. Fortunately, the Alliance has been able to do exactly what the forefathers of the EU expansion had dreamed. It has stood for values, legal rights, democratic principles and thus strengthened the belief of Albanian citizens to organize and speak out.
That is why your decision to hold a meeting with “civil society” organizations without the presence of the Alliance is incredibly puzzling and difficult to understand at this moment. While we sincerely hope that your meetings yesterday and today have been able to provide you with a full and unbiased view of current events in Albania, we continue to consider it a regrettable decision that important voices and viewpoints were shut out of this event.
The Alliance for the Protection of the National Theater