The demolition of the National Theatre: Initial reactions and the current situation

In the early hours of Sunday, authorities in the Albanian capital, Tirana started the demolition of the National Theatre, which will give way to the construction of a new modern theatre. The question of the new theatre has encapsulated Albanian politics for almost three years, and opposition representatives, including activists from the artist community have labelled the project as clientelistic and corrupt.  including a few artists and the opposition, who claimed the project was corrupt.

During the early hours of the morning, clashes erupted between the opposition activists and the police when the latter decided to disperse the protesters in order to initiate the demolition of the building. Many former opposition MP’s, including the leader of SMI, Ms. Kryemadhi and the Head of the Youth Forum of DP Belind Kellici were arrested for not abiding the police instructions. They were released thereafter. In the meantime,  there have been a lot of reactions on this issue from the whole spectre of Albanian politics and civil society.

The leader of the largest opposition force, the Democratic Party, Lulzim Basha accused the Prime Minister as the only person who is responsible for this act.

“What we saw happening today can only be described in three words. Violence, greed and theft. The only responsible person for the destruction of the theatre and for the violence used against protesters is Edi Rama”, the opposition leader said.

Meanwhile, the other opposition’s co-chair,  Monika Kryemadhi has called on Albanian people not to recognize Rama’s state.

“I call on Albanian people not to recognize Edi Rama’s state”, she said.

The senior opposition official also added that the judicial reform, for which more than 100 million euros have been spent, is handling vulgar cases, while it has done nothing in relation to the unlawfulness of the actions in relation to the National Theatre.

“The only thing we know is that over 100 million euros have been spent for this reform. Today, there are hundreds of Albanians who are being tried and investigated for not paying their utility bills. And to this day, the Albanian justice system has done nothing about the fact that the mayor of Tirana has forged the minutes of the Municipal Council’s meeting”, Kryemadhi said.

The head of the state, Ilir Meta has also reacted about the demolition of the theatre through a message on social media.

“MAFIA ordered the destruction, not only of one of the most endangered cultural heritage monuments in Europe, but also of any illusion of the existence of the rule of law in Albania. This is a constitutional, legal and moral unforgivable crime”, Meta said in a tweet.

Actor and film director, Edmond Budina considered this as the instalment of dictatorship.

“The demolition of the theatre installed dictatorship. Fascism invaded Albania. I call on people to start a revolution. I call on President Meta to dissolve parliament. I call on ambassador Soreca and US ambassador to react about this crime”, Budina said.

On the other hand, the Albanian Journalists Association also issued a reaction condemning the violence used on journalists, artists and citizens.

“Police violence on journalists, artists and citizens who wanted to defend the National Theatre is a disgrace for the government and a violation of civil liberties. Police confrontations with journalist Alfred Lela are an attempt to turn this state into a police state. The Albanian Journalists Union condemns this violence and it requests for those who ordered this violence and those who perpetrated it to be brought to justice”, the statement of the Albanian Journalists Union reads.

Europa Nostra, a pan-European Federation for Cultural Heritage has reacted on Twitter, considering this a sad day for cultural heritage.

“Sad day for cultural heritage in Albania and Europe. Sad day for democracy and rule of law in Albania and Europe. Early this morning, Albanian authorities arrested civil society activists and started emolition of protected National Theatre in Tirana”, the message reads.

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