Europa Nostra, the Pan-European Federation for Cultural Heritage, has taken its strong condemnation of Albania’s National Theatre’s demolition to the EU Council of Ministers, taking the opportunity to urge EU Ministers to stress the importance of cultural preservation within the process of EU enlargement.
In a letter addressed to the Chair of the EU Council of Ministers Nina Obuljen-Korzinek, the day before EU Ministers of Culture would meet to adopt conclusions on cultural heritage at risk, the federation aimed to bring the attention and scrutiny of Member States to “this brutal act.” Copies of the letter were also sent to EU Commissioner for Culture Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi, and Vice-President of the European Commission Josep Borrell.
Europa Nostra asked the Ministers to insist on the fact that the preservation of cultural heritage is a fundamental European value, and asked for solidarity on behalf of the Albanian people “who are dedicated to the safeguard of the cultural identity of their country.”
Europa Nostra condemned the government’s refusal to heed Commissioner Gabriel’s calls for constructive dialogue with civil society activists. Additionally, “instead of taking the time to examine the legality of their decision,” the letter accuses, “the authorities decided to make use of the last day of the special health emergency measures taken in response to the COVID19 pandemic to demolish the theater.”
May 17 was deemed a sad day for cultural heritage, but also a bleak moment for democracy, rule of law, and human rights in Albania and Europe as a whole.
On May 18, Europa Nostra Secretary General Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović tweeted her gratitude towards President of the European People’s Party (EPP) Donald Tusk for condemning the demolition of the National Theatre. She urged other EU leaders to follow his example.