Albanian parliament has approved the draft law on the management of Butrint via a foundation created through a partnership between the Ministry of Culture and the Albanian-American Development Fund.
In 2020, the law changed to allow Butrint to be controlled by the Ministry of Culture and a “strategic partner” as a part of the Integrated Management Plan for Butrint National Park.”
The plan was drafted by a British law firm commissioned by the AADF.
Now, it is confirmed that AADF will be part of the Butrint Management Foundation, which will see the site partially controlled by a private entity for the first time in its history. They will be involved in managing it for a period of ten years in return for a grant of $5 million.
On Monday, the plan was approved by a majority vote of 75 for, 18 against, and one abstention.
There has been widespread outrage regarding the plan, which Minister of Culture Elva Margariti called “theatrical” during the debate in parliament.
“It is not related to any secret plot, but only for good management,” she said, adding that the draft law complies with the Constitution and UNESCO recommendations.
Both Margariti and other Socialist Party politicians defended the deal and called those opposing it “anti-American”.
Opposition MP Ina Zhupa claimed that there are no similar management models to this, noting that “no responsible state transfers cultural wealth, cultural heritage to a private person.”
MP Edmond Spaho raised the conflict of interest of the AADF as they funded the legal expertise to change the law on cultural heritage, which paved the way for them to co-manage it.
Cafo Boga, a previous long-standing member of the AADF board, wrote how he was dismissed for raising concerns over the project and the functioning of the entity.
He also said the board was not presented with all the facts and documents relating to the project and said if they had been, the decision may have been different.
“Lack of transparency and misconception played a role in it,” he said.
He also questioned the apparent close relationship between the AADF and the ruling party, including “close ties to certain political leaders”.
The AADF is also involved in a project to preserve and rehabilitate the Roman amphitheatre in Durres. The design project was awarded to Stefano Boeri, an Italian architect with a long history of working with Rama’s government.
A project manager for the AADF contacted Exit regarding previous reporting, stating there were some “misunderstandings”. When asked what these misunderstandings were and dialogue to clarify any outstanding matters was suggested, they said, “we do not discuss our work publicly.”