President Ilir Meta has vetoed the extension of the Mother Theresa Airport concession by 13 years, for the benefit of the Kastrati company.
In a press statement on Wednesday, Meta said the extension done through a law in parliament amounted to “legislative corruption”, as it violated all legal and procedural requirements, and was tailored to the beneficiary.
In December, the sale of the concession from a Chinese company to Albanian Kastrati was completed. Shortly after, Minister of Infrastructure Belina Balluku said that the first she heard of it was in the media.
A couple of weeks later, the government proposed extending the concession for 13 years, from its initial 22 years. This was done in return for Kastrati pledging to invest around EUR 100 million in the airport including a new runway and terminal and reduced passenger fares.
The law passed in parliament earlier this month.
The President argued that the Government approved the draft law on January 27, and on the same day submitted it to the Parliament, where a meeting of parliamentary groups leaders was called and convened to include it for a vote in the next session. All in one day.
The agreement between the government and Kastrati included in the draft law was signed one day before. Meta argued that reviewing the agreement and submitting it to the parliament in one day is against procedures.
He further stated that extending the contract six years before it ends and without an open and competitive bid is illegal, as it violates the right to free and fair competition for other companies.
Given the short time between the purchase of the concession by Kastrati and the extension of the contracts, the President raised questions whether the two had agreed for the extension before the purchase.
Meta claimed that the government has not replied to his request for a complete history of the process of writing the draft law.
He added that the law prohibits the government from awarding concession contracts four months before elections.
Finally, the President claimed that one of the items in agreement between the government and Kastrati, which has not been published, authorizes the company to use its stocks as collateral for loans. This, Meta argued, poses a risk for the operation of the country’s only international airport in case of insolvency.
The law will return to Parliament, which may decide to pass it in a second and final vote.