Outer Ring Road Protest – Facts and Events

Hundreds of inhabitants at the Outer Ring Road have been protesting for 28 days in a row, asking a fair compensation for their houses. The government justifies the demolishing of houses with the project for redeveloping the Outer Ring Road.

Exit.al brings updated facts about the protest and related events.

1 November 2018 — Officers of the Albanian Road Authority (ARrSh) and Municipal Police drew cross marks on several buildings on the side of the Outer Ring Road. Questioned by their owners, officers said they should leave their buildings within 15 days, so as to open the way for the new ring road project. According to officers, owners had two choices: demolish their houses on their own, or let the government do it and pay for the service a fine about €5,000.

4 November 2018 — Inhabitants got alarmed and started a spontaneous protest.

7 November 2018 — Exit.al discovered limited information on the announcement of the winning bidders for the project’s three lots. Several more issues come to light with this information. The cost of the project amounts to about €38 million for a 2.2 km-long road, which is an unusually high cost, and details of cost break-down are not available.

Five government institutions involved in the process announced that the project necessitates the demolition of 317 private properties, 123 of which are legalized, 22 disqualified, and 163 still in the process of legalization.

Ten citizens were taken in custody; old people and a pregnant woman were among them. Police accused the inhabitant for organizing a protest without a permit.

13 November 2018 — Inhabitants protested in front of the Municipality of Tirana building. Police took in custody four inhabitants of the Astir area on charges of “illegal rally.” They were released only after midnight on the same day.

Following citizens’ protest in front of the Municipality, Mayor Veliaj called protesters “cavemen” and “primitive species”, while expressing his firmness in implementing a project the government has never disclosed.

On the same day, Mayor Veliaj promised compensation to owners of fully legal buildings, and three years of rent coverage for others. The process of legalization for other buildings stopped. No official documents to support any of Veliaj’s promises have been issued so far.

Mayor Veliaj also promised “bonuses” to families whose houses are set to be demolished.

15 November 2018 — Inhabitants of the area protested again in front of the municipality building. They called on Mayor Veliaj to abandon his decision to demolish their houses.

17 November 2018 – The government cut the power to buildings awaiting demolition.

22 November 2018 – Following their daily protests, the inhabitants of the Astir area gathered in front of Parliament in a bigger protest. Clashes with regular police forces in front lines led to several protesters and police officers injured, as well as tens of protesters arrested indiscriminately.

In his speech in the Parliament during the protest outside, Prime Minister Edi Rama told protesters that their illegal houses would be demolished without any compensation and that only 40 legalized buildings will receive compensation.

PM Rama threatened that the government will file lawsuits against those who have legalized these buildings. PM Rama repeated the 3-year “bonus” rent for families in need that have illegal houses.

23 November 2018 — The Albanian Road Authority and the Albanian Telegraphic Agency publish a 10-line-table supposedly with more detailed cost information. In fact, the table only offers a partial breaking down of the costs of the project but is far from minimum requirements for transparency. In the evening, inhabitants blocked the road for more than one hour, while police cut the road lighting.

25 November 2018 – On the 22nd day, inhabitants protested at the Serious Crimes Court, where a session against protesters arrested in front of the Parliament was being held. The court ruled on the release of 11 inhabitants arrested, and kept in custody the man who wounded a policewoman when he threw a fuse igniter toward the building.

26 November 2018 — Inhabitants didn’t allow officers of ARrSh to check their property ownership documentation.  Meanwhile, Mayor Veliaj reiterated at the Assembly of Tirana Socialist Women Forum that the project wouldn’t stop.

The Albanian Institute of Science (AIS), the main organization in Albania focusing on open data, officially requested from the ARRSH to reveal all the available information regarding the project and relevant procedures it has followed.

27 November 2018 – Inhabitants clashed with municipal police after the latter started to carry out works in the area. Inhabitants sent a letter to Temporary General Prosecutor Arta Marku asking her to start investigations into at least two criminal charges: corruption and power abuse. Police took in custody five inhabitants.

28 November 2018 – Inhabitants pushed over all concrete blocks brought in by companies winning the road construction bids. PD MP Albana Vokshi revealed that people attending a meeting with Mayor Veliaj were actually municipal police officers, and not inhabitants of the Astir area. Police arrested two protesters, and opened proceedings on 20 others. In the evening, the Municipality shared a video showing Ukë Çelkolaj, an Astir area inhabitant, demolishing his house following his promise to Mayor Veliaj. However, the two buildings he demolished were two shacks used for business purposes.

30 November 2018 – Inhabitants blocked the road in both directions. Opinion.al published an official document showing that 317 buildings are planned to be demolished in the New Ring Road.

1 December 2018 – Inhabitants continued their protest. Right after it had ended, police arrested and took in custody several protesters.

2 December 2018 – Police arrested several more protesters, unexpectedly and violently, right after the protest had ended.