Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj has said that the demolition of Tirana’s National Theater will still go ahead and that the “demolition will not be in secret” and will be carried out “on a sunny day”.
The Theater which has been the topic of controversy and protests that have taken place every day for over 18 months, is due to be destroyed and the public land it sits on, awarded to a private company. This company will then build a number of towers in the area, housing luxury apartments, commercial units, offices, and a theater. The theater is one of the few remaining historic buildings in the city.
The Socialist Party passed a ‘Special law’ to legalize the transfer of public land to a private company. In the original plans, the project would be built by Fusha shpk who have received hundreds of millions of euro’s worth of government tenders and also paid for luxury hotel stays for Municipality employees. Following complaints from the European Commission, the government opened the project to bids, still setting discriminating criteria, but have decided to keep the winning bidders names secret.
The ‘special law’ has been sent to the Constitutional Court by the President although the court is currently defunct.
At a City Council meeting to discuss the 2020 budget, yesterday Veliaj spoke about the matter of the Theater project which has faced immense opposition from civil society, artists, academics, intellectuals, the EU, MEPs, the President Ilir Meta, and other political parties. He insisted that the project is a positive one for Tirana.
“Have no illusions, the new theater will be done. We will give the City Hall parking lot – which is a rubbish dump and a dirty area that most of the people have never even seen and which is totally worthless, as we saw in the inspection we made, – in exchange for a theater worth at least €30 million. If anyone is more capable, the only one capable of doing such a job is the Prime Minister who awarded [to a private company] a worthless Qemal Stafa Stadium that is being given back to Tirana as a real gem today. There is no reason why we should not replicate it.”
Addressing those who have been protesting against the project and the demolition of the historic building, he told them to “save their energy”.
“When the construction of the new theater begins, it will happen on a sunny day, a day to start good work for Tirana which turns 100 next year and does not need to spend its second century living in its theater of the first century. There has to be a new theater,” he said.