A Turkish consortium comprised of Cengiz Construction, Kalyon Construction, and Kolin Construction, has withdrawn from the concession for the development of Vlora Airport. Today the Ministry for Infrastructure and Energy announced that instead an international competition will be held:
“In relation with the airport of Vlora: the deadline of the law for the concession of ‘Vlora International Airport’ from September 2018 has passed. We officially confirm that there will be international competition for ‘Vlora International Airport’ because of great interest by investors. And this process will fulfill all legal conditions and elements of transparency.”
On January 17, 2018, Prime Minister Edi Rama announced that he had received an “official request” to construct an airport near Vlora from the Turkish consortium. The request came even before a feasibility study regarding the airport had been published, and followed an earlier trip of Prime Minister Rama to Turkey, in which he announced that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would “help” with the creation of national Albanian airlines company. Prime Minister Edi Rama claimed that work would start in June 2018.
The government subsequently drafted a special concession law that would allow a negotiation between the government and the Turkish consortium without any form of public procurement procedure. The same questionable legal construction was later used for concession of the construction of the National Theater to Fusha shpk, a project for which the government admitted to have “no money.”
Both the special laws of the Vlora Airport and the National Theater concessions drew criticism from the European Commission. The National Theater law was rewritten after criticism of the Commission, and recently the negotiation deadline passed without any result. Architect Bjarke Ingels has allegedly dropped the project, but refuses to comment. Also the Vlora Airport project attracted the scrutiny of the European Commission, which would have been assessed within the coming months.
It might be the case that the withdrawal of the Turkish consortium is linked to this increased scrutiny of the European Commission. However, the recent defeat of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a close associate of Prime Minister Edi Rama, in the local elections may have had an influence as well.
The three companies in the consortium, Cengiz Construction, Kalyon Construction, and Kolin Construction, have all close ties to the Erdoğan regime. The previously won several multibillion euro projects in Turkey in the energy and construction sector and are currently involved in the third Istanbul airport. The Municipality of Istanbul has been thought to have been the “money machine” funding most of Erdoğan’s prestige projects inside and outside Turkey, but now that an opposition mayor has been elected, these funds have dried up. As Albania itself cannot afford the Vlora Airport, the entire project depended on the liquidity of the Erdoğan-related companies. With his electoral loss, this was no longer a feasible option.