Prime Minister Edi Rama has stated that the European Commission has reviewed and cleared the special law prescribing the demolition of the National Theater and tender for the construction of a new theater along six residential and commercial towers.
In an Euronews report in by Jack Parrock, Rama states:
“This has all been reviewed by the European Commission, and has been cleared, with the condition to have a competition. So, the competition is launched. The rest is, you know…”
The report also includes the following remark:
“Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama told Euronews the protesting is merely hysteria and that the whole process has been done properly via agreements with the EU.”
In stark contrast with his usual statements in foreign languages with foreign media, only a few days ago Rama wrote in Albanian that the new theater would be build according to the project of Danish architect Bjarke Ingels.
The said project was commissioned by Fusha shpk, to which Rama tried to grant the theater public land through an anti-constitutional special law. His statement in Albanian reconfirmed that the tender launched is just a facade to bypass the European Commission and other critical voices against the potentially corrupt project of Fusha shpk.
In fact, the European Commission has cleared neither the demolition of the National Theater, nor the Fusha shpk special law, nor the recently launched tender with a predetermined winning bidder.
Among other things, the European Commission has questioned the Rama government decision to award public land to a private company without competition, through a special law. The EC specifically asked:
“How does the legal solution of direct award comply with the basic principles of public procurement, i.e. equal treatment, non-discrimination, and competition?”
As Rama himself confirmed by announcing the implementation of the same Ingels’ project, the launched tender fails to comply with these principles, as it is tailored to government’s usual contractors.
The EU Ambassador in Albania Luigi Soreca, has shown to be a supporter of the government project to demolish the theater. In a meeting last year with the Alliance for the Protection of the National Theater, he stated that the EU could not intervene in the case, despite clear evidence that the special law violated the Constitution. Once the pressure amounted, the European Commission actually intervened, and Rama backtracked for a moment.
The Socialist Party then ‘updated‘ the law, making sure that it would still be awarded to government favorites, and launched a tender in an attempt to fully cover its illegal actions.
Ambassador Soreca once again supported Rama, by stating that the issue had been “politicized”. He had nothing more to say on the actual suspicious tender launched but to remind everyone that for the EU it was important that “free and fair competition are ensured”.
The Jack Parrock report for Euronews also shows the journalist making a comment that could easily be misleading for an audience that is not well-informed about the case.
“The people occupying here say it’s not only about protecting the physical building of the National Theater but also about protecting its history. This was the first place that the communist trials took place after Albania was liberated from the Nazi regime in 1945.”
While its true that communist trials are part of the history of this building, this is surely not the main aspect defining the building’s history. Moreover, this is surely not what artists defending the theater primarily mean by “defending its history”.
The National Theater was build in 1939, six year before the communists came to power, and since then it has a long history of artistic endeavors and activities that makes protesting artists proud of it.
The journalist’s comment could potentially mislead the audience into believing that protesters are defending the history of communism.
The Euronews report also shows the police trying to remove protesters forcefully, as well as regular shows the Alliance has organized inside the theater and interviews with artists.
As Exit has argued before, the government plan to demolish the National Theater, and replace it with 6 residential and commercial towers plus a new theater building, is an illegal project. Prime Minister Rama is simply trying to find ways to circumvent the Albanian laws and international transparency and non-discrimination principles, in order to award public land to private companies close to his government.
Rama’s statement that this project was “cleared by the European Commission” is in line with his propaganda approach – particularly inside the country, – to blame failures on anyone else but his government. He recently stated that the failing justice reform was “responsibility of internationals”. Few days ago, he blamed the European Union for not opening accession negotiations with Albania for a fourth time since he became Prime Minister in 2013.