Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj has said that the construction of the new National Theatre will start early next year.
In an interview with Daniel McLaughlin from Irish Times, he said: “I love debates. But I also understand there is a time to make a decision and move on … I think we will most likely start building the new theatre early next year.”
He also took a swipe at the Democratic Party, adding: “This is one last landmark for them to fight for. When they lose it, they’ll enter history as the guys who did nothing when they had the city and tried to stop everything when others were in charge.”
In fact, the destruction of the Theater and the creation of several skyscrapers in the center of Tirana is opposed by international and local activists from across the political spectrum. Civil society activists and artists have been protesting the destruction plans for the last 18 months. Former Minister of Education Mirela Karabina is cited declaring:
This is the first protest of its kind in Albania. We are here to build our democracy and show Albanian citizens that if something is wrong, we have to act.
Veliaj dismissed the debates around the project as “fun,” calling his controversial overdevelopment of Tirana as “experimentation.”
The “Special Law” that was pushed through parliament in order to facilitate Veliaj’s plans is currently pending at the Constitutional Court. The company expected to win the tender, whose outcome is still unknown, recently paid for luxurious trips of public officials of the Municipality of Tirana. The author notes the EU’s concerns over crime and corruption in the country, yet Veliaj insists that it is “clean.”
When asked about whether the administration plans to erase its communist past, he claims “we neither embrace it nor erase it, but we definitely co-opt it.” This is a direct contradiction of Prime Minister Edi Rama calling communist architecture an “embarrassment” and something to be ashamed of in his masterplan for bulldozing and redeveloping the centre of the city.