Clashes erupt in Tirana over demolition of Albanian national theatre

Albanian police on Sunday clashed with opposition supporters who were protesting the demolition of the country's National Theater building in the capital of Tirana, news wires reported. Police pulled a group of artists and some opposition leaders away from the building before heavy machinery started to bring it down.

The government’s decision to destroy the old National Theater, built by Italians when they occupied Albania during World War II, was opposed by artists and others who wanted it renovated instead. They argued the existing building was part of the country’s heritage, and accused PM Edi Rama of corrupt practices. Critics of the original plan for a new theatre said the work had been awarded to one of the government’s preferred partners without being subject to tender, with the construction of several new high-rise properties included in the deal.

An opposition politician said 30 people, including a journalist, were detained by police. Television footage showed Monika Kryemadhi, leader of a small opposition party and spouse of the country's president, being put into a police van. The position of president in Albania is mostly a ceremonial post.

The leaders of the opposition Democratic Party, Lulzim Basha, urged residents to topple the government over the theater's destruction.

PM Edi Rama, whose government says the theatre was decrepit and in need of modernisation, stuck to his idea he was pushing for progress, after building a new soccer stadium and market. “These are the same people who rise against every project in Tirana. They do not want development, but they cannot stop Tirana,” Rama said in a Facebook post.

Mariya Gabriel, the EU’s Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner, last week urged further discussions before any decision was made on the theatre.

Similar articles