From: the Editors
Air Albania Deal Also Violated Stabilization and Association Agreement with EU

Recently, the European Commission sent a letter to the Albanian government requesting an explanation regarding the “special law” for the expropriation of the public lands pertaining to and surrounding the National Theater for a construction project of private company Fusha shpk.

The questions of the European Commission explicitly mentioned art. 74 of the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) which requires the “award of public contracts on the basis of non-discrimination and reciprocity.” The SAA formed the basis for the candidate membership of Albania to the EU and therefore all future negotiations. The explicit mentioning of Fusha shpk in the legislation, which bypasses any form of public procurement and fair competition, would be a violation of the non-discrimination principle.

This is, however, only one of the several times in which the Rama government has violated this principle.

On May 16, the government decided on the creation of the company Air Albania shpk, a project Prime Minister Rama had launched under the “care” of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

According to the Decision of the Council of Ministers (VKM) 309 of May 16, 2018, Air Albania will be a public–private partnership project, with its partners consisting of a Turkish government-owned company, an Albanian government-owned company, and a private company. A curiosity is the fact that all VKMs of May 16 where signed by Deputy Prime Minister Senida Mesi, but only VKM 309 by Prime Minister Edi Rama, suggesting that he only attended the meeting for this specific VKM.

The Turkish partner is Turkish Airlines, a major international airline, is primarily owned by the Turkish government, who holds 49.12% of its shares, whereas 50.88% are publicly traded.

Albcontrol sha is a owned by the Albanian government via the Ministry of Finance and Economy, and manages Albania’s airspace in compliance with international air navigation standards. In order to give Albcontrol sha the capital to contribute to the PPP, the government passed Albcontrol the ownership of the land on which Tirana International Airport is built through VKM 274, approved on the same day, May 16.

MDN Investment shpk is a private company that was created on May 7, 2018, merely 9 days before the government decree that made it a shareholder of Air Albania. The seed money for the company is about €100,000 and it is fully owned by Sinan Idrizi. According to its registration, MDN Investment is involved in: airport construction, airlines, money exchange, taxi services, tourist agencies, technical and economic consultancy, funeral services, etc., even though the company has never operated in Albania before.

According to VKM 309, Albcontrol and MDN Investment should own at least 51% of the shares in the company Air Albania, but it is not determined whether Albcontrol of MDN will have a majority in this majority share. Therefore, it may will be that Idrizi has de facto control over the Albanian shares, even though its founding capital is a mere €100,000.

Now just as in the case of the Special Theater law, MDN Investment has at no point competed in a public procurement procedure to win this potentially lucrative contract with the government. Different from other public–private partnerships, MDN Investment at no point made an “unrequested proposal,” given bonus points, and then won a public procurement procedure. The company, created a little over a week before it was announced as “winner” did not even exist long enough to build a track record in the airline industry.

What the Special Law of the National Theater tries to accomplish for Fusha shpk, VKM 309 does for MDN Investment. Without any proposal, any procurement procedure according to any of the options provided by the Albanian legal code, the government – by means of a fiat – gives a private company the possible control over an entire airline company, hedged by public property such as the Mother Theresa Airport lands.

In April, Prime Minister Rama shared an ad on his Facebook profile asking Albanians to apply for a job at the company, which has not even been registered as a business yet. Idrizi recently promised that the airline would start operating European flights this summer, and start intercontinental flights from December.