The Alliance for the Protection of the National Theatre has sent an open letter to key members of the international community, asking the to “hold the Albanian government accountable” for their plan to push ahead with the demolition of the historical site.
We have just sent out a letter to the international community describing recent events and our commitment to protect the National Theater, come what may. pic.twitter.com/mASTIg2HiO
— AlbanianAllianceForTheatre (@ALLforTheatre) July 29, 2019
Sent to all EU Member State Embassies in Albania, EU Commission representatives, various international institutions, and European officials, the letter called on them to speak up, stating:
“We plead with you today to pressure the government to halt its plan of demolishing the National Theatre and to allow a full-functional judicial system to have a say.”
“You have dedicated your money, your energy, and your resources to building a functional democracy, rule of law, separation of powers, and checks and balances in Albania. It’s time you hold the Albanian government accountable to those standards,” they added.
In the letter they detail how the government decided to demolish the historic building in order to build a “luxurious residential and commercial development in the city’s most valuable area”. The project, they state will be funded and constructed by a private developer on public land- something that is “not foreseen in the legal or administrative framework” and that “violates the Albanian Constitution, the independence of local government and several other statutes.”
The letter explains that in order to justify the violations, the socialist majority passed a “special law” which would ‘legalise’ their actions.
This new law violates the country’s competition laws, the Albanian Stabilisation and Association agreement, and the Constitution, according to The Alliance. The fact that there is no functioning constitutional court means that it is impossible to challenge the “special law”- something the Socialist Party were clearly banking on.
Since February 2018 “hundreds of artists, intellectuals, and citizens” have held daily demonstrations on the site of the theatre. The protests had been completely peaceful, up until 24 July when in the early hours of the morning, police and private security surrounded the theatre.
The police and security did not have any permit or paperwork to explain their presence and they exerted violence against a number of protestors. One protestor was hospitalised after falling backwards into an empty swimming pool, award winning director Robert Budina was punched, professor Taulanda Jupi, and actor Neritan Licaj were also assaulted. Exit saw a police officer raise his fist to punch a protestor only to be held back by a colleague.
Laying out their plan to continue fighting against any police presence or attempt to demolish the theatre, the Alliance call the governments plans “the result of a continuous erosion of democracy and the rule of law.” They add that the theatre is now open with shows being held for members of the public.
The Alliance maintain that the entire theatre project is nothing more than “a disguised attempt to expropriate thousands of square meters of the most lucrative real estate property land in the country”.