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News 29 Sep 17

Albania Campaigners Hail Court Halt to Durres Project

The authorities of Durres have been forced to suspend the controversial ‘Veliera’ project, which civil society groups say threatens the city's archaeological heritage. 

Gezim Kabashi
BIRN
Durres
Archeologic ruins in Durres. Photo: BIRN

Campaigners in Albania were celebrating on Friday after the Appeal Court in the city of Durres ruled against the city's request to re-start work on the Veliera project, a 6-million-euro project to renovate and decorate an area of around 12,000 square metres close to the city's Venetian Tower.

The municipality launched the project in April 2016, aiming to create a modern landmark for Durres in the area around the city's port.

A First Instance Court in February stopped the work, following objections from civil society groups and archaeologists, which protested against the project.

They claimed that the project would destroy valuable archaeological remains of Durres' old city wall.

Friday's decision does not end the story, as it only keeps the project suspended. A lawsuit filed with the Administrative Court meanwhile asks for the project to be stopped for good.

Mirela Jorgo, lawyer for the civil society groups, told BIRN that since June this year, when the court agreed to adjudicate the case with a panel of judges, no court session had been held on their request.

According to the lawyer, the biggest delay had come from "the lack of willingness to handle this issue properly".

The civil society groups filed their lawsuit against the municipality almost immediately after the archaeological findings in emerged February on the northern side of the Veliera project.

Campaigners then blocked the work, so preserving the uncovered Roman and Ottoman fortifications and at the same time preventing the further realization of the project.

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

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