From: Alice Taylor
Albanian Minister of Culture Reacts After Torching of National Monument Sarajet

Following the arson attack on the Sarajet building in Tirana, the Minister of Culture, Elva Margiriti, has given a statement.

Via Facebook, she wrote that the incident had been reported to the police. She added she supports the initiative of Mayor Erion Veliaj, who claims to want to turn it into a museum. The property owners are not in agreement, and the Municipality plans to expropriate or force them to hand over ownership.

Sarajet is a Category I National Monument and, by law, cannot be demolished. The law also states that National Monuments cannot be expropriated from the owners. The Ministry of Culture is supposedly responsible for ensuring this doesn’t happen.

This has not happened in previous cases, such as with the National Theater. The Ministry approved the transfer of land from them to the Municipality. The Constitutional Court then found this was unconstitutional and ordered it be returned. Just weeks after the ruling, the Ministry said they didn’t have money to rebuild the Theater and transferred it back to the Municipality. 

Veliaj has repeatedly stated he will turn Sarajet into a museum, despite not having consensus from the owners. He tweeted this morning that it will be expropriated in an expedited way, and the museum plan will go ahead.

As per plans seen by Exit, some designs place a 45-story tower on the site of the historic building. Following today’s fire, there are several scenarios. The first is that the property is declared unsafe and demolished. The second is that the site is developed by a private company with the first floor, including a museum, owned by the Municipality.

President Meta said the arson attack was deliberate and would pave the way for the construction of towers on and around the land where it’s located. He called on the Special Prosecution against Corruption (SPAK) to investigate.

“The rampant greed of concrete in Tirana has destroyed many historical, traditional, cultural monuments and objects of special importance, while even the few remaining are in danger of disappearing forever,” writes Meta.

In July, Margariti told the media that UNESCO hadn’t and wouldn’t order the suspension of the Gjirokaster Bypass project. She called the media, who reported it (Exit News) abusive. Even though the resolution from the World Heritage Committee meeting, which expressly called for the suspension of the work, was published on their website. Exit also confirmed via an official spokesperson that the suspension had been called for.

You can read more about Sarajet and the history of its struggle here.