Albanian government issues permit for new national theater ahead of court ruling on demolition – Released
The National Council of the Territory (KKT) approved a permit for the construction of the new National Theater, as designed by Bjarke Ingels.
The KKT, which is chaired by Prime Minister Edi Rama, made the decision as the Constitutional Court reflects on the legality of the process that led to the demolition of the former National Theater.
The news was announced by the mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj via a Facebook post. He posted several design images as well as information on how many seats he will have. In total, between different rooms and auditoriums, the new building will accommodate 1,635 people and will include two floors of parking. Veliaj added that there would be “no towers in the area”.
The Ingels project was originally commissioned by the private company Fusha shpk and included several towers that would be located near the theater.
In 2018, the government said it could not afford the 30 million euros needed to build the new theater. They then created a “special law” that would see public land turned over to the construction company Fusha shpk for construction.
The land includes some of the most sought after and valuable spaces in the country.
President Ilir Meta vetoed the law. The EU also criticized it as a violation of free competition, a principle of the Stabilization and Association Agreement between the EU and Albania.
The government then attempted to create a competitive bidding and tendering process to select the construction company. The call for tenders was organized in September 2019, but the Municipality has not announced a winner for months.
Suddenly, at the end of February 2020, Mayor Veliaj declared that after two months of negotiations with the winning company, the municipality had decided to stop the negotiations without giving a name. On this occasion, he declared that the Municipality would now build the theater on credit.
In May 2020, in an interview with Euronews, Veliaj said that “the value of the new National Theater is estimated at around 30 million euros, which will be provided through loans”.
He said the loan would be taken from a commercial bank, adding that “17 banks have submitted offers and one will be selected. Repayments will begin in 2025.
Then, in November 2020, Veliaj asked the Assembly to build the theater with money from the state budget, requesting some 36 million euros from the government for this purpose.
But in May 2021, in a comment given to the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, the municipality indicated that the works for the construction of the National Theater will begin this summer and will be financed by the Abu Dhabi Fund.
Then earlier this week, the Albanian government has approved a loan of 7.3 million euros to the municipality for “the construction of the new building of the national theater”.
This transfer was part of the changes to the 2021 budget, which the government approved by a normative act on June 22.
It is not known what part of the construction phase this money will cover, as no information about the project has been made public. The situation becomes even more confused due to the frequent change of statements by the mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj.
This the loan contributes to some 1 billion euros of public debt for this year alone. It will be paid by taxpayers at a time when public debt already reaches 86% of GDP.
the Democratic Party criticized Veliaj’s announcement and the KKT’s decision. Representative Albana Vokshi said this was an example of pressure being put on the Constitutional Court while it is in the decision-making process. She added that KKT is not expected to make a decision while the case is still in court.