From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
‘Ring Road Women for Dignity’ Protest at OSCE Mediterranean Conference

The newly formed civil society group “Ring Road Women For Dignity” (Grate e Unazes per Dinjitet – GUD) have protested today outside the annual OSCE Mediterranean Conference which is being held in Tirana.

Gathering outside of the event, they held placards and demanded the removal of OSCE Ambassador to Albania, Bernd Borchardt. Signs written in English included statements such as “OSCE is much better than Borchardt’s middle finger” and “Please Secretary Germiner: take Borchardt with you, don’t let [him] come back here”.

The group of women formed as a civil society group last week after Borchardt was caught on film sticking his middle finger up at them as they protested outside the police directorate in central Tirana. The women were demanding the release of members of their community after they were arrested for blocking the road during a demonstration in the Astir part of the city.

Residents of Astir have been taking to the streets for over a year to protest against the demolition of their homes. Many of the homes were built illegally over 20 years ago but owners have since spent thousands of Euro’s legalising them in a government-mandated legal framework. 

Then the Socialist Party government announced the widening of the road in a project that was set to cost an unprecedented EUR 20 million per kilometre. This meant that some 200 homes and businesses would have to be demolished and thousands would be made homeless. The government halted all legalisation procedures and said they would not compensate residents.

The company that won the tender to complete part of the project was then found to have been created using fraudulent documents and signatures. 

Despite this, the rest project still appears to be going ahead, after the government cancelled the tender it had awarded to the false company. 

Borchardt’s gesture to the women protestors caused widespread outrage but the OSCE declined to comment on what action they would take against him, if any. Borchard tweeted an apology to anyone he “may” have offended and it appears he will not resign and has not been suspended.

Coordinator of the GUD, Enxhi Turtulli told Exit that they will demonstrate everywhere he is.

“We want Mr Borchardt to go out of Albania. His gesture is shameful and we want justice in order to restore our dignity,” she added.