Twenty Albanian nature organisations have condemned the start of works on a new airport in Vlora, in the south of the country, saying it is illegal and environmental assessments were unprofessional, reports Exit.al.
Prime Minister Edi Rama inaugurated the Vlora Airport construction on Saturday (27 November). But environmentalists say that as it will be built partially in the Vjosa-Narta Protected Area and in a region. frequented by migratory and rare birds, it is illegal.
The project will be built through a 35-year concession worth €103 million and will take three years to complete. The concessions’ consortium includes Maxtex Group, owned by Behgjet Pacolli, Kosovo’s richest businessman and former minister of foreign affairs, and Turkish owned YDA group.
The project’s economic feasibility has been questioned as it is just 100 km from Tirana international airport, in a country with just 2.8 million people and a €13 billion economy.
Even more controversially, the investor is guaranteed a return as the contract provides a revenue guarantee of up to €128 million from the public purse over ten years if the operation is not profitable.
Calls to cease the project come amid claims the Environmental Impact Assessment Study was not professional, got the names of birds wrong, used incorrect terminology and did not account for the unique features of the area where the airport will be based.
Furthermore, the construction permit was granted, and staff and machines were on site before the Assessment was approved, sparking further concerns over illegality.
In the European Commission’s 2020 progress report on Albania, the document states that the project is “in conflict with national laws and international conventions for the protection of biological diversity which Albania has ratified.”
(Alice Taylor | Exit.al/en)