From: Exit Staff
Exit Explains: The Consortium Behind the Vlora Airport Concession

The winner of the concession to build Vlora Airport was announced this week by Minister of Infrastructure Belina Balluku.

Mabetext Group, owned by Behchet Pacolli has 50% of the shares in the winning consortium. Other companies in the consortium include YDA Group (48%) and 2A Group (2%). The value of the investment is EUR 103.9 million.

Balluku said that a British company called Alte Corporation Limited had also competed for the concession but they were unable to meet the financial and technical conditions.

The tender for the airport was reopened on 23 November for the third time. The government had initially announced the tender in December 2019 with the deadline set for 12 March 2020. It was then reopened in October 2020 but by November, Balluku said it had failed due to COVID-19.

History of the construction of Vlora airport

On October 10, 2017, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy announced the winner of the tender for conducting a feasibility study for Vlora Airport. The tender was won by Seed Consulting, with a bid of 98.6% of the maximum available budget.

Seed Consulting is owned by the owners of Atelier 4, an architectural studio that has been closely involved with Rama’s urban renaissance projects since he was Mayor of Tirana.

On January 17, 2018, Prime Minister Edi Rama announced that he had received an “official request” for the construction of an airport near Vlora from a Turkish consortium. The three companies in the consortium, Cengiz Construction, Kalyon Construction and Kolin Construction, have close ties to the regime of Turkish President Erdogan.

On September 15, 2019, Rama officially announced that the Turkish consortium would no longer be involved in the project and the Prime Minister’s favorite studio, Archea ha completed the new project.

On September 16, 2019, the Prime Minister presented the project in Vlora and said that he had not yet decided whether to build it with an international firm or with the money of the state budget.

“We are studying two options in parallel, either at the construction stage with a serious international company or we will build it ourselves, with the infrastructure budget, and then we will select the international operator. Because we have no more time to lose and by spring we want to open the construction site,” he said.

Rama added that the runway of Vlora airport will be bigger than that of Tirana, and will be turned into an economic center:

“Vlora will have a 3.2 km runway, bigger than Tirana’s. It will also enable the transport of goods… There will be a third function, for the maintenance and repair of aircraft. These make Vlora Airport an economic center, as the contribution to the economy will be very significant.”

The Prime Minister announced that the government will also build a new airport in Saranda.

“We have started the construction of Kukës airport. At the same time we are working for Saranda airport.”

Who are the companies in the consortium?

Mabetex Group

Mabetex, registered in Switzerland, is known for its international construction projects and is run by businessman and politician Pacolli.

In 2017 the company proposed the idea to take ownership of land areas in Divjaka and Karavasta parks in order to build dozens of villas, hotels, and apartments. The project was estimated to generate some $1 billion, figures which initially tempted local residents to support the project. 

The project benefited from the fiscal and legal provisions created by the strategic investment law approved by the Rama government in 2015. Among the provisions was the ability to hand over public land if the investment was beneficial for tourism.

But the involvement of environmentalists in public discussions to show the negative effects had an impact and residents joined the opposition.

The issue was internationalized due to the fact that the Divjaka-Karavasta area is home to 10 rare bird species and is also a protected area with international Ramsar, IBA, and KBA statuses. As a result, the government abandoned the project.

Yda Group

The Turkish construction company, founded in 1954 in Ankara is known for building. hospitals and roads with Public-Private Partnership, mainly in Turkey. The company is known for its close ties to Turkish President Erdogan.

YDA Group will also build the Fier hospital. During the inauguration of the start of works, the owner of the company Hüseyin Arslan said that :

“We as a group, received orders from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, last week during the visit of the Honorable Prime Minister to Turkey, who instructed us to finalize. We have to hand over the hospital within three months, there is a big bet on this, we know it is a big challenge, and thank you for the support they gave us from day one.”

The construction of the hospital was promised by Erdogan to Rama during the latter’s visit to Turkey.

Company 2A Group shpk

The company 2A Group, registered in Prishtina is owned by Kosovo businessman Valon Ademi.