From: Exit News
Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj Determined to Demolish National Theatre

Yesterday evening Tirana mayor Erion Veliaj reasserted that the city’s National Theatre will be demolished soon, the years-long resistance of actors and activists determined to protect it, notwithstanding.

During a television appearance in Sokol Balla’s Real Story, Veliaj said the National Theatre would be demolished, seeing as the municipality has already issued the legal permit for the construction of a new theatre.

A few weeks before, Veliaj declared that construction for the new National Theatre project would begin in early 2020. Such a claim, however, failed to materialize. The municipality has released no information regarding the tender. The bidders, their offers, and the winning bid remain unknown.

Meanwhile, citizens and activists from the Alliance for the National Theatre are determined to protect the building physically, if needed.

For two years now, the Alliance for the National Theatre has been protesting the demolition of the theatre with the purpose of granting public land to private companies. They have promised that any attempt on the part of the municipality to bring down the building will be met with their resistance.

The Democratic Party has also joined their cause to protect the theatre, signing a public agreement with the Alliance, with the protection of the building being the principal promise.

Meanwhile, the public procurement process of the tender for the National Theatre has been taking place opaquely, shielded from the scrutiny of the public eye

In 2018, the government passed a special law regarding the development of the area that, as Exit has explained before, is in violation of the Constitution, as well as a number of organic laws, such as the decentralization principle and the autonomy of local government.

In late July 2019, the Tirana municipality opened bidding for the National Theatre construction project. Bidding was to close in September 2019. Yet, six months later, no clear information has been released to the public regarding the bidders, the criteria, or the winning bid.

Alliance for the National Theatre activists have filed numerous requests asking the Tirana municipality for official information regarding the National Theatre project. They have yet to receive an answer.

As explained before by Exit, the procedure concocted by the government for the procurement of the National Theatre is unprecedented and not foreseen by any law or public standard. It stands outside existing public procurement legislation, consists of entirely unclear procedures, and foresees the construction of both private and public objects within the same project. Additionally, published tender criteria are complicated, unclear, and entirely confusing for competitors.

Lack of transparency lends further credence to allegations that the tender is merely nominal. Doubts that its winner has been predetermined find their basis on the fact that the criteria used to determine the winning bid reduce the potential winners to only two companies: Alb Star shpk and Fusha shpk. The latter was the company for whom the initial draft of the special law was tailored.