From: Exit Staff
Work on New National Theatre to Start This Summer, Funded by “Abu Dhabi Fund”

Work on the ex-National Theatre site is set to start this summer, according to information given by the Municipality of Tirana to German media Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The answers, which were shared with Exit News, state that the Municipality and the Bjarke Ingels Group are currently detailing the concept project, and work will begin this summer. No specific date was given.

On 17 May 2020, the National Theatre was demolished in the early hours of the morning as activists who had been protesting its demolition were removed by heavily armed police officers. It sparked several days of protests, and other protests one year after the event took place. Civil society opposed the plan due to concerns over the erasure of cultural heritage, and alleged corruption and illegality in relation to what will happen to the land and what will be built in its place.

The media asked the Municipality whether a public-private partnership with Fusha Shpk would be proceeding with the construction of a new National Theatre and six commercial towers. The Municipality replied that “there is no PPP project, this will be a public only project. The PPP project was turned down by the evaluation committee of the City of Tirana.”

They then stated that the Abu Dhabi fund will be financing the project, not the government, or the European Bank of Investments as first stated by the Municipality.

“We found a better deal with another finance institution. The Abu Dhabi Fund have [sic] already been approved.”

SZ asked the Abu Dabi Fund if they were financing the project and they didn’t confirm.

Süddeutsche Zeitung also asked about the Sarajet House, a large historic home in Tirana situated on land that is earmarked for mass development. Exit has previously seen plans to demolish the house but so far, the owners have not come to an agreement to hand it over to the Municipality. Instead, Mayor Erion Veliaj said on Opinion TV show in September 2020, that they were “putting aside money to expropriate the big house of the Libohovites.”

The Municipality told the journalist that the house would be turned into a museum. They failed to provide any plans to the journalist, despite being asked about them.

When asked about the existence of plans to demolish it, as investigated and published by Exit, the Municipality spokesperson Renato Kalmedi launched an attack on Exit.

“Exit outlet, run by our political opponent affiliates, has a reputation of publishing sensational false stories, and never retracting them even when proven false. This also falls into that category. Sarajet will remain Sarajet.”

Exit is in fact one of the few independent media in the country and has completed an audit with UNESCO, Ethical Journalism Network, Reporters Without Borders, and the EU, and is now conducting another with Deloitte. We also publish all information on owners, income, revenue, and structure online.

Furthermore, the Municipality has not once asked us to retract, edit, or change any article we have written, nor have they contested that any of them are false. Exit provides a button on every page which makes reporting issues to an external body as easy as one click. Furthermore, the Municipality has routinely and consistently refused to comment, answer questions, or provide any information to Exit or any Exit journalists over the last six years. In fact, the response rate is around 10%.

On one occasion, Veliaj responded to a journalist’s questions by calling her a troll and a fascist.