Albania cannot afford to buy and maintain aircraft specifically for fighting wildfires, according to Minister of Defence, Niko Peleshi who reported to the security committee on Monday (27 June).
He was questioned regarding the recent fire on Sazan Island which laid bare the lack of preparedness of Albanian authorities in terms of fire fighting from the air.
As attempts to put out the blaze from the ground failed, Albania called on Greece to intervene. This is despite the fact the government spent millions of euros on helicopters with fire fighting capacities in 2018 but it came to light that none of them are in service.
Peleshi said Abania does not have the capacity to purchase special aircraft for firefighting, or pay for their maintenance.
“We are a small country, it is not worth investing to have a plane that costs 50 million euros. If we have them we are not at that stage to invest 50 million euros to use it a month, then adding the maintenance costs which are very high,” he said.
“To invest hundreds of millions of euros to have a fleet of aircraft is economically impossible,” Peleshi added.
He said that the good news is Albania has cooperation with other countries that can help out with such matters.
Opposition MP Ervin Salianji then asked the minister how the cost of a private plane for the prime minister could be justified when the country cannot afford to keep helicopters for extinguishing fires.
“You said it is not worth having helicopters because they have a high cost…Is it worth it to have a personal prime minister charter which dose not bring any benefit to the citizens? Charters cost millions of euros a year. If you say that the helicopter has a cost, the minister also has a cost, why do we need it?” he asked.
Peleshi responded that, “Charters have to do with the dignity of a state. Helicopters are something else.”
Albania experienced severe wildfires last summer with much of the Karabarun Peninsula ablaze for more than a week. With temperatures to soar to over 40 degrees this week, concerns are that this year could be worse and the government is not prepared.