The citizens of Vlora protest against the construction of a thermal power station and a terminal for petroleum products in the bay of Valona. Police arrest demonstrators. The testimony of one of them tells of serious violations of human rights.
For several weeks, the citizens of Vlora have been protesting against the government's energy plan that would upset the climate balance, and not only that of the bay of the city.
Their requests to hold a referendum on a question that touches the lives of around 200 thousand inhabitants, were not taken into consideration by the authorities.
The project that is still in progress provides for the construction of a thermal power plant (TEC) and a terminal for petroleum products, by the Italian company "La Petrolifera Italo-Rumena". Initially it was part of the so-called "energy park", a plan that involved the American pipeline "Ambo" intended to connect Burgas to Vlora, so much desired by the previous socialist government.
The current Albanian prime minister, Sali Berisha, who was in opposition at the time, said he was against these projects that would "destroy tourism in the area". After his return to government in the 2005 many of these plans simply changed locations, moving from Vlora to the neighboring city of Fier. All, except the TEC and the oil deposits of the Italian company "La Petrolifera".
Simple citizens, intellectuals and some of the major local NGOs have thus united, giving life to the city alliance for the defense of the bay of Valona. With the sole purpose of holding a referendum in order to give citizens the chance to have their say. But the Central Electoral Commission refused the request and their meetings with ambassadors and senior state officials - including the President of the Republic, Bamir Topi - did not lead to any results.
In addition to pointing the finger at Albanian politics, in a press release, the Alliance has publicly denounced how "in this immoral campaign - both from the political point of view and from that of democratic principles - foreign representatives like the Italian ambassador are also involved D'Elia and the representative of the World Bank in Albania, Mrs Margaret ”.
Protests and arrests
Faced with this general indifference of local and central authorities over their destiny, the citizens of Vlora supported peaceful protests led by the Alliance in late March-early April. Given the growing attention of the media, the Vlora police decided to intervene on the evening of 31 last March by arresting 6 people, including students and leaders of the Alliance, accusing them of having "blocked the circulation of vehicles on the street and organized illegal demonstrations" .
The news goes around the media and the April 2 leaves from Tirana a delegation of journalists, human rights activists, intellectuals and lawyers to talk to local prosecutors and police officers. Among them, only one had special permission from the Ministry of the Interior to speak with the inmates. These are his notes quoted by the Albanian press: "One of the detainees, Vasil Sholla, had a very visible mark on his left eye. He said he was hit by the cops and he had fainted. The detainees told me that after being stopped by the police they were put in a room where the floor was completely covered with urine. Later, they were transferred to another room made up of a bathroom, a room where they all slept together and two other completely dark empty rooms. The inmates slept on the floor, on some very thin blankets. They were traumatized and very cold. The minimum hygiene requirements were lacking: there was no hot water for showering, in the bathroom, from which came a strong stench, there was only one toilet, a sink and a container of water ".
The police accompanied the six detainees before the judge after 85 hours from their detention, thus violating the Albanian law. Two of them were considered "dangerous" by the Valona Court which opted for pre-trial detention. Given also the protests of the most prestigious names of Albanian journalism, the two were released later.
The witnessOne of these detainees, Eneid Hamzaj, one of the leaders of the Alliance, told the Balkans Observatory (OB) of his experience in the cell: “there were in all three rooms, a bathroom and a corridor in the middle. Often the cops bragged that they had even locked up 23 people in a room. We were forced to sleep in turn, given the lack of space. You can't even talk about hygienic conditions. "" Personally I was not physically abused - says Hamzaj to the OB - But I was subjected to a strong psychological pressure, by the police chief and other plainclothes policemen, at the time of detention ”.
Hamzaj also lists a series of rights that were denied to him during the detention: "I was not given the opportunity to notify the family or the lawyer. I am accused of being caught red-handed but actually I was arrested 3-4 hours later. We were taken to the 85 court hours after the arrest, when the Constitution (Article 28) clearly states that this was to take place within 48 hours, otherwise we had to be released. ”Andrea Stefani, a well-known press analyst in Tirana, directly accused the political spheres of the arrest of the six activists: "I have doubts - said Stefani - that I think I also share with others: in an indirect and hidden way, through the prosecutor's office and the organs of justice, it is politics that moves the threads of the story , and his invisible hand is unjust ".
The Petrolifera owner of the city"The heavy goods vehicles of this company circulate outside of any technical condition, loaded with massive stones and without side protection. Moreover, they circulate outside of any time established by the Municipality of Vlora and in one of the main streets of the city. All this happens before the eyes of the State Police, "says Hamzaj.
To confirm this situation is also another town of Vlora: "Every three minutes a high-speed truck passes right in front of my house, which is on a main road that connects the construction area with that of" Kanina ", where these trucks are loaded. Moreover, about 15 days ago the mayor decided to ban the passage of these trucks on this road, but this order is not respected, "said Erviola Selenica at the Balkans Observatory. To our question, if "La Petrolifera" has ever asked the inhabitants of the area near the construction site, he replies: "I don't think they care so much about the people who live around them."
There have been some attempts by "La Petrolifera" to dialogue with the citizens of Vlora. But as Eneid Hamzaj explains, "every public meeting with 'La Petrolifera', in the conditions in which it has occupied a part of the city territory endangering people's lives, has been rejected and boycotted by public opinion".
While this article was in the pipeline, the Albanian press reported an agreement between the Greek public company PPC and the German energy giant RWE, which envisages the construction in Albania of a term
very powerful central, from 500 to 800 MW. That is 5-8 times more powerful than the one being built in Vlore.
According to both the Albanian and Greek press, the two companies have chosen the Albanian territory following the strong protests of the Greek citizens of the city where the construction was originally planned. At first the Albanian authorities said they knew nothing about the agreement, only to confirm later.
The Tirana Minister for Economy and Energy, Genc Ruli, has declared that so far "the Albanian authorities have come to know only of a proposal on the construction of a TEC in Albania. But only this ". According to Ruli, the Albanian government will decide only after receiving a detailed proposal.
Meanwhile, the Athens media has specified that the energy produced by this TEC will almost entirely satisfy the needs of the Greek state and only a small part will supply the Albanian market.
Source: Observatory on the Balkans