President Ilir Meta has called on Prime Minister Edi Rama to be calm and not create “artificial tension” in the country, following the government’s warning that the army would soon take over the only international airport in the country.
In a press conference from Vlora on Wednesday evening, Meta said the “artificial tension” created by Rama was “foolishness”, and that the disagreement with air traffic controllers can be solved by sitting in talks.
“Only a madman can do this, this is a dangerous joke,” Meta said referring to Rama’s talk on an alleged attempted coup, and his subsequent order to send in the police and army to take over the airport.
The President invited the government, foreign ambassadors, and the union of air traffic controllers to discuss their grievances in a joint meeting, while calling on the latter not to disrupt their work.
Meta recalled that he had asked the government one week ago to listen to their demands and talk to them. He stressed the importance of their work for the country’s security, and claimed their concerns have been disregarded for more than 10 months.
Instead of a solution, he added, the government has responded by starting procedures to fire air traffic controllers after meeting with the President.
Meta argued that government attempts to escalate a simple situation were related to their electoral campaign and fear of election results.
He publicly asked Minister of Infrastructure Belinda Balluku how come she couldn’t find time to meet with them in the last 10 months, but was able to prepare in one day all the papers needed for the transfer of airport’s management to an Albanian company, whose contract the government extended without an open bid.
The President said he had suggested to air traffic controllers to keep their demands regarding salaries realistic, and had repeatedly called on them not to refrain from their duty.
Air traffic controllers in Albania’s only international airport suspended their work today. They demanded the return to work of some of their colleagues allegedly fired or suspended today, repeal of some board decisions, payment of full salary according to a collective contract, full transparency for Albcontrol operations in 2020, and for one union member to be part of the board.
Air Traffic was suspended for 24 hours until tomorrow morning.
One of their main grievances is the cutting of their salaries by the board of Albcontrol last year, where members are mainly appointed by the political party in power.
Prime Minister Edi Rama considered their action today a coup d’etat spearheaded by President Ilir Meta and opposition MP Sali Berisha, which also aimed at keeping vaccine supplies away from Albania.
The government said they will send in the police and army to take control over the airport. Army vehicles surrounded the airport this evening, according to a video posted by the minister of defense.
Following the President’s statement this evening, Rama threatened air traffic controllers: “Whoever does not go back to work tomorrow, they will never find a place at Albcontrol again.”