The government has transferred a loan of some 900 million lek (EUR 7.3 million) to the Municipality of Tirana for “the construction of the new National Theatre Building.”
This transfer was one of the changes in the 2021 budget, which the government approved via a normative act on 22 June.
It’s unclear which part of the construction phase this money will cover, as no information on the project has been made public. The situation becomes even more confusing due to the frequent change of statements made by the Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj.
In May 2020, in an interview with Euronews, Veliaj said that “the value of the new National Theater is estimated to reach about EUR 30 million, which will be provided through loans.”
He said that the loan would be taken from a commercial bank, adding that “17 banks have put forth offers and one will be selected. The repayments will start in 2025.”
Then, in November 2020, Veliaj asked the Assembly to build the theater with money from the state budget, asking some EUR 36 million from the government for this purpose.
But in May 2021, in a comment given to the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, the Municipality stated that the work for the construction of the National Theatre will start this summer and will be financed by the Abu Dhabi Fund.
This whole series of contradictory attitudes came after the Municipality attempted to build the theater through a private concession.
In 2018, the government said they could not afford the EUR 30 million needed to build the new theatre. They then created a “special law” that would see public land handed over to construction company Fusha shpk for the construction.
The land includes some of the most sought after and valuable space in the country.
President Ilir Meta vetoed the law. The EU also criticized it as a violation of free competition, a principle of the Stabilization and Association Agreement between the EU and Albania.
The government then attempted to create a tender and bidding process to select the construction company. The tender was organized in September 2019, but the Municipality didn’t announce a winner for months.
Suddenly, at the end of February 2020, Mayor Veliaj declared that after two months of negotiations with the winning company, the Municipality had decided to stop the negotiations without giving a name as to who it was. On this occasion, he stated that the Municipality would now build the theater on credit.