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News 10 Feb 17

Albanians Fear Durres Landmark Will Damage Ancient Remains

A 6-million-euro concrete project in the ancient city of Durres is now in question after nearby digs revealed important archeological remains.

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana
The area where 'Veliera' project is been building. Photo: Gezim Kabashi/BIRN

Albania's National Council of Archaeology, headed by the Minister of Culture, is expected to rule on the fate of a 6-million-euro project to renovate and decorate an area around the Venetian Tower, which forms part of the city's ancient walls.

The so-called "Veliera" project was launched in April 2016 and is expected to become a modern landmark of Durres - an area of 12,000 square metres with a 2,000 square metre square stone sailing ship in the centre that will rise 60 metres high.

However, the project is in question after archaeological remains were found nearby, and on Wednesday, artillery from the 1800s was found.

Locals are demanding more supervision by archeological institutions.

BIRN's publication, Reporter, earlier reported that the Durres municipality had signed a contract with the Institute and the Agency of Archeology to oversee the project two months after digging started.

The well-known historian Moikom Zeqo told Sot newspaper on Thursday that he strongly opposes the project, worrying that it could destroy the archeological legacy of the area.

"This is damaging the whole underground structure near the Venetian Tower. To build a concrete boat on it seems a crazy thing. The Veliera project is total artistic madness," he said.

Albania's Union of Journalists on Wednesday urged both journalists and the public to demand protection of Durres' archeological legacy.

"We call on the Ministry of Culture and the Durres Municipality to undo this barbarism," the union stated.

However, in an interview for TemA newspaper on February 1, the Mayor of Durres, Vangjush Dako, said that they were already closely working with archeological institutions to ensure no damage was done to the town's archeological treasures.

...

"The [city's] medieval walls are outside the area where we plan to build the project, and there are two National Council of Archaeology decisions confirming that. We are working on an  archeologically-free area that was covered before by sea water," he said.

Albania's main opposition Democratic Party, PD, also called on the citizens of Durres on Wednesday to protest against the project.

"Without any archeological or environmental permission they are throwing 6 million euros ... into concrete," the party leader said on Wednesday during a meeting with locals.

One of the oldest inhabited cities in Europe, Durres was an Ancient Greek town at last as far back as the the 7th century BC. Later it was the capital of the Roman province. It remains home to the largest Roman amphitheatre in Europe.

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