From: Desada Metaj
Protesters Clash With Police to Stop Demolition of Houses Without Compensation

Albanian police used tear gas on citizens protesting against their forced eviction and the impending demolition of their homes in Tirana.

The government attempted to start the demolition of 38 houses yesterday but residents blocked the bulldozers in an attempt to protect their homes. Then, in the early hours of this morning (around 6am), a large number of police, special forces officers and bulldozers appeared on site to take residents by surprise and to start the demolition process. When the inhabitants resisted, police fired tear gas at citizens and then arrested a number of them. Three citizens were also hospitalized due to the injuries they sustained.

The demolition is taking place in the Bregu i Lumit area of Tirana and will make way for the extension of the New Boulevard.

76-years-old Uzur Mandri was seen bleeding heavily before being taken to the hospital. Mandri allegedly clashed with police but the exact circumstances bringing to his injury are not clear. Two more people, Xhavir Boleci and Flora Mandri were also injured and taken to the hospital.

Journalists reported that police blocked them from entering the area and didn’t allow cameras to shoot.

Whilst the 38 houses were mainly built illegal several decades ago, citizens have been undergoing a government procedure of legalization, which through payment of fees and submission of documents allows for their homes and rights to be recognized. When the plans for the New Boulevard were announced, the government cancelled the legalization processes and refused to give the citizens any compensation for their property.

Residents of several areas in Tirana (see here, here, here, here, here) have been resisting against what they consider to be government’s illegal demolition of their houses in order to implement corruptive projects.

Last year, following decisions and pending decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) amounting to hundreds of millions of Euros in compensations for expropriations, the Albanian government sought to blackmail the Albanian judge at the ECHR over the pending cases.

Below, brings the guidebook on how Prime Minister Rama has illegally avoided compensations. The article can be separately found here.

Tried and tested: PM Rama’s guidebook on how to illegally avoid compensations

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 buildings excluded from the legalization process that are awaiting demolition without compensation. As it has been argued before regarding the Outer Ring Road and Lana River project in Shkoza, 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.

A large percentage of 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. Several told Exit how they had spent thousands of Euros on the process, only to have it cancelled without reason or notice, at the last moment.

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.