From: Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
EU Ambassador Soreca Backtracks, But Still Supports Tender

Yesterday there was swift backlash against EU Ambassador Luigi Soreca’s comments concerning the National Theater, in which he appeared to fully support the government in its faux tender procedure that masks the illegal privatization of a massive piece of public land in the center of Tirana and the destruction of a beloved cultural landmark, the National Theater.

In response, Ambassador Soreca claimed that the issue had become “politicized,” which led to further scorn. Analyst and former political prisoner Fatos Lubonja responded: “Of course it’s politics, but what are you there for if not that?” In fact, it is remarkable that the EU Ambassador only now realizes that an issue involving public land, corrupt oligarchs, and a government captured by organized crime has become “politicized”!

EU Ambassador Luigi Soreca later in the eveving backtracked on social media, claiming his statement was “presented out of context.”

I note with concern that my answer today to a question on the issue of the National Theatre has been presented out of context. It is therefore useful to stress that today I reiterated the position already stated last September by the European Commission, when the competent Albanian authorities were invited to pursue the compliance with EU public procurement principles and to ensure non-discriminatory market access. I also stated today that transparency of procedures is essential to ensure fair and free competition.

This is basically a repetition of Ambassador Soreca’s support for the tender expressed yesterday, as long as the procedures are “transparent” and ensure “fair and free competition.” The point the Alliance for the Protection of the Theater has been making for more than a year is that the tender itself is abusive, because the Special Law implicitly favors a single private actor, construction company Fusha shpk, and circumvents the Municipal Council of Tirana in the decision making process regarding the privatization of public land.

Furthermore, the Special Law has been appealed by President Ilir Meta at the Constitutional Court, and therefore all further tender procedures ought to be halted until the highest court expresses itself on its merits, as stressed previously by Secretary General of the OSCE, Thomas Greminger. This now seems to be confirmed half-heartedly by Ambassador Soreca, without, however, explicitly referring to President Meta’s appeal to the Constitutional Court:

I added that it is necessary that time is given for the institutional procedures to reach a decision on any legal dispute existing on this matter, in full respect of the rule of law. 

It remains to be seen what this “full respect of the rule of law” entails. As we have pointed out many times before, it is precisely the rule of law that the EU Delegation in Tirana seems to have very little concern for, otherwise it would prudently refrain from openly supporting a government that violates it at every turn.