One of Albania’s main historical and cultural gems, the ancient city of Butrint will now be managed by a private entity for the first time in its history.
The area was previously managed by the Ministry of Culture but according to a recently adopted law, it will now be under the control of the Ministry and a “strategic partner.”
The change is a part of the “Integrated Management Plan for Butrint National Park”, a three hundred page document approved by the government. The document was drafted by a British law firm called Price and Pearce who were contracted and financially supported by the Albanian American Development Foundation (AADF).
This is the first time that a non-public entity, that is so far publicly unnamed, would be directly involved in managing Butrint.
When asked about the nature of the new partnership by VOA, the Ministry said a “foundation” will be established via a cooperation agreement that will be subject to legislation on non-profit organisations. The agreement must be approved by parliament.
The AADF has been involved in projects in Butrint for around 10 years. When asked by VOA if they wanted to be a strategic partner in the project, they said they may be interested.
“Considering the importance of Butrint as a World Heritage Site and the fact that indirect administration of cultural heritage is a novelty in the Albanian context, it would not be prudent for the government to not include a credible and willing donor at the beginning of the process. For this AADF has so far committed over $7 million for the Butrint project.
If AADF does end up being the strategic partner, that would mean that they funded the drafting of a law that would allow them to be involved in the foundation.
A spokesperson from the AADF added:
“Dedicated funds and all other revenues generated will be used only for cultural property and Butrint National Park. The founders are not allowed any financial and material benefit from the income and profits of the foundation or return on their investment.
The news has caused concern from well-known members of the Albanian cultural heritage community. They are worried that the management of the site will be under the control of a non-state foundation.
Agron Alibali a researcher, said that the management of Butrint, a UNESCO asset through this sort of foundation, is a violation of the Paris Convention. The convention states clearly that the state should be solely responsible for the administration of cultural and natural assets.
Neritan Ceka, an archeologist said that there were no archaeologists involved in the plan.
The Ministry said they have engaged in lengthy consultation with UNESCO and various other entities and is in full compliance with local laws.
Furthermore, it’s been questioned why a foundation is necessary. Currently, Butrint raises $1 million a year and the park spends less than 30% of this amount. Critics say these financial indicators mean there is no need for a private partnership.
Butrint will also no longer be a part of the National Park that surrounds it.