New developments on the planned airport construction in the Narta lagoon: The lawsuit filed by PPNEA and AOS against the project was rejected in the first instance, but we are not backing down and have filed an appeal. Additionally, we have filed another lawsuit against the Albanian Council of Ministers.
The Albanian administrative court rejected the lawsuit against the planned airport in the Narta Lagoon, which the Albanian nature conservation organisations PPNEA and AOS filed with EuroNatur support at the end of November 2022. Remarkably, the 1,400-page statement of claim was processed by only one judge in a non-public session in just seven minutes. According to the judge, NGOs as plaintiffs are not entitled to challenge the building permit because they are unaffected by it. In December 2022, PPNEA and AOS appealed against the judicial decision.
The Vlora Airport ruling and reasoning is a surprising deviation from previous successful lawsuits aiming to protect the same ecosystem. Incidentally, this is the same judge who had ruled in favour of EuroNatur and EcoAlbania in 2017 in their lawsuit against the planned Poçem hydropower plant on the Vjosa River regarding the right to sue. Such indications show that pressure is exerted upon the judiciary in the Vlora Airport case.
In December 2022, the Albanian organizations, with EuroNatur support, filed another appeal, this time against the revision of the territorial boundaries of the Vjosa-Narta protected area made by the government in Tirana. This revision was not based on a legally compliant procedure, and there was a lack of consultation, and factual justification for reducing the protected area. Our partners evaluated the Geographic Information System (GIS) data, indicating the proposed new boundaries. According to the data, the planned airport is still within the limits of the Narta Conservation Area, which is a clear breach of the law. Moreover, some of the listed coordinates are located far away from Albania in countries of the Middle East.
“The evaluation of the GIS data points to the cumulative incompetence of the responsible authorities. We assume that this is also evident in other places, for example, in the Environmental Impact Assessment on which the construction of the airport is based,” said Annette Spangenberg, head of conservation at EuroNatur. “Actually, we should have good chances in court with this, but how independent the jurisdiction in the Vlora Airport case still is questionable,” said Spangenberg.