The heatwave that has taken over Europe hasn’t spared Albania either and life seems to have paused as everyone is take refuge to the beach and refusing to think of the country’s problems, which have still not magically disappeared.
Actually, now that everyone has their guard down and their mind towards holidays, now that the opposition-free parliament will also go on break and our TV-screens won’t be taken over by politicians, protesting Albanians or the slow progress reports towards the EU – now is the time to grow a second pair of eyes towards the political developments.
With very little noise, two major developments took place right under our noses this past week.
The first was the approval of the two controversial road concession projects, under the Public-Private-Partnership framework the entire international community is advising Albania to watch out for regarding financial risks.
The Socialist government has reached a point where it can approve these kinds of projects, which undergo very little scrutiny and are awarded to dubious companies, only with the majority’s vote – something disturbing in itself. This way, it will now be “constructing” the Milot-Balldren road, 17,2 kilometers long for a value of 256 million euros and the Orikum-Dukat road in the country’s south, 14,7 kilometers long, for a value of over 60 million euros. Similar in character to the Great Ring project, among other PPP construction contracts, this development seems to almost have relied on the easy-going season to go by unnoticed and further uncriticized.
Second comes the situation taking place in front of the National Theatre building, for the protection of which actors and citizens have been protesting for over a year now. Earlier this week, police authorities approached the building – which is to be demolished so that high-rise concrete buildings can take its place and spare a place for a ‘modern theatre facility’ most Albanians haven’t been consulted for – seeming determined to proceed with the municipality’s plan for the city centre. This led to clashes between actors and activists and the state police, which did not refrain from using tear gas against them, as a number of local media reported. Not that this was necessary – there were pictures circling the internet of police punching citizens trying to enter the theatre, distrusting their own government officials and their intentions. This in itself should have sparked anger at least among the capital’s artists and intellectuals, but the reactions have been minimal as news reach Albanians soaking in the sun somewhere away from the hurricane’s eye.
Most people hope for an endless summer, while the rest of us with a task of monitoring the world around us with a critical eye find ourselves hoping September comes as fast as possible, before irrevocable damage is done while everyone is tanning.