ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS SUING THE ALBANIAN AUTHORITIES FOR THE ILLEGAL CONSTRUCTION OF THE VLORA AIRPORT
Environmental groups challenge the contract for the construction of Vlora International Airport as null due to the irregularities and the violation of laws. The airport, which is already under construction, is a massive threat to the natural ecosystem of the Vjosë-Nartë Protected Landscape. The development permit was issued before the finalization of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and the EIA process itself is irregular and not in compliance with general requirements according to the law.
23 November 2022, [Tirane] – Today, the Albanian environmental NGOs PPNEA and AOS, supported by the international NGO EuroNatur and the international scientific community, are submitting a lawsuit at the Administrative Court, challenging the administrative activity conducted for the construction of Vlora Airport. The illegal construction works lie within one of the most important wetlands and biodiversity areas in Albania and along the Adriatic flyway, an important flyway for many migratory birds. By continuing with the development plans, the Albanian authorities are violating national laws and international conventions, bypassing procedures, and rejecting the opposing remarks of international institutions.
The NGOs will present facts and findings on the violation of several laws like the Protected Areas Law, the Environmental Impact Assessment Law, the Strategic Assessment Law, the Spatial Planning Law, the pre-contractual concession procedures as well as various implementing regulations of such laws. Moreover, the plaintiffs will draw attention to the authorities’ use of irregular processes, lack of transparency and involvement of the interested parties, and the bypassing of essential procedures. Taken together, these actions deem the construction of the airport illegal and irregular with a concerning and irreversible negative impact on the environment. The plaintiffs are prepared to take the legal battle through all the court system instances, up to the Supreme Court, aiming to preserve the entirety of the ecological ecosystem and speaking up in the name of fauna and flora species living in the Vjosa-Narta Protected Area.
Aleksandër Trajçe, Executive Director of PPNEA states: “We have raised the concerns around the Vlora airport since the first plans for its location were unveiled to the public. It is inconceivable that such an enormous infrastructure is to be built within a protected area, the purpose of which is to actually stop projects like this from happening in that place. If this project goes ahead with all the irregularities that have been evidenced by a myriad of national and international experts, then the entire protected area network of Albania is under threat for the future. Nothing can stop further grey infrastructure investments happen in protected areas and destroy the ecological integrity and the natural heritage that we should preserve for future generations”
It has been less than one year since the beginning of the construction of the Vlora Airport. The scientific community and NGOs, national and international, have sent repetitive calls to the Albanian government to revoke the construction of the Vlora Airport within the Vjosë-Nartë Protected Landscape. This concern was accompanied by facts and documents which can’t justify these grey development plans within this area. Yet not a single action was taken by the government, and the construction continues without any concern.
The Vjosa-Narta is part of Albania’s Protected Area Network as a Protected Landscape, and is recognized as an ‘Important Bird Area’ (IBA), ‘Key Biodiversity Area’ (KBA), official candidate site for the Emerald Network under the Bern Convention, and meets all the criteria to be classified as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. The Vjosa-Narta plays an integral part in the health of an expansive ecological network. The massive construction, in the heart of the protected area, would permanently damage the entire natural ecosystem.
Taulant Bino, Head of Albanian Ornithological Society states: “It seems unthinkable that Albania would tarnish its contribution to the natural national and international heritage, by building an airport that destroys the biodiversity of Vjose-Narta protected area and other important Adriatic wetlands. An airport in a future Natura 2000 site is a no go for EU integration.”
Annette Spangenberg, Head of Conservation at EuroNatur says: “By building an airport into a protected landscape the Albanian Government is circumventing the Rule of Law to the disadvantage of nature and in favor of particular interests. Processes like this should also inspire distrust at the European Union.”
Vjosa-Narta Protected Area is one of the most important ecological ecosystems in Albania, the second most important wetland in Albania, and home of important fauna and flora species. This area is part of several ecological networks, located along the Adriatic migration flyway, which hosts more than 220 bird species.
National and international NGOs have opposed the plans for the construction of an airport within the protected area Vjosa-Narta Protected Area since the genesis of these plans. Open letters to authorities, manifestations, and revision of the EIA report are some of the actions taken to oppose the illegal construction of the airport within the Vjosa-Narta Protected Area.
Xhemal Xherri, PPNEA – [email protected]
Erald Xeka, AOS – erald[email protected]
Anja Arning, EuroNatur – [email protected]