From: Alice Taylor
No Progress on National Theatre Project Which Now Sits in Government Designated Casino Zone

On 24 May 2020 Major of Tirana Erion Veliaj announced that the project for the construction of the National Theatre would be completed by the end of the summer and that in September, the work on its construction would start.

A week from the end of September, there is still no project and the construction has not started.

The National Theatre was demolished on the last night of COVID-19 lockdown on 17 May against the wishes of civil society and amid calls for dialogue from the EU, embassies, and cultural organizations. A day later, Veliaj presented a video animation of the project to the Municipal Council.

Then on 3 July, the Municipality of Tirana announced a tender for the project worth 63 million ALL with a deadline for bids set at 14 July. Two months later, a complaint was made by Gjeokonsult & Co and Archispace to the Public Procurement Commission regarding the tender. The complaint which was rejected by the Commission said there was no transparency in the process.

Despite the end of the tender being more than two months ago, the winner has still not been announced. Furthermore, no other information about the project has been made public.

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On 10 September, Prime Minister Edi Rama approved two decisions that will see the centre of Tirana, including the area where the National Theatre once stood, turned into a casino zone. Companies will be able to operate casinos on land in this area, encompassing Skanderbeg Square, the Youth Park, the area around Toptani and the National Theatre land.

In January 2019, Rama made all forms of gambling illegal in Albania. He said on several occasions that gambling was largely financed by organised crime and was utilised by money launderers and criminal gangs.