Flamingos or planes: Protests against Airport in Albania

++ World Wetlands Day focuses attention on global destruction of rivers, lakes, marshes and coasts ++ Major demonstration in Albania against controversial airport construction ++ Court decision raises doubts over independence of Albanian judiciary in Vlora airport case ++

Bird Conservationists organise a protest

On Saturday 28 January, conservationists protested loudly but peacefully against the planned airport construction.

Man plants small tree

The protest was combined with a tree planting campaign in the protected area at the edge of the construction site.

construction site Vlora Airport

Despite all protests, construction work in the Narta lagoon is progressing.

© Gabriel Schwaderer

Radolfzell, Vlora. Today, on World Wetlands Day, international nature conservation foundation EuroNatur is drawing attention to the planned destruction of an important migratory bird area in the Adriatic Sea. An international airport is to be built near to the Albanian coastal town of Vlora - right in the middle of the Narta Lagoon bird paradise, where the wild river Vjosa flows into the Adriatic Sea.

With our support, our Albanian partner organisations PPNEA and AOS filed a complaint against the project at the end of November 2022. This was ruled inadmissible by the Albanian Constitutional Court on the basis that NGOs, as complainants, have absolutely no authority to challenge the EIA procedure or the construction permit. “It is not just the decision itself but more particularly the procedure that makes one wonder whether the Albanian judiciary is really acting independently in this case,” says Annette Spangenberg, Head of Conservation at EuroNatur.

The construction of the airport is also being met with resistance from the local population. On Saturday, 28 January, a large number of Albanian citizens protested against the Albanian authorities' environmentally destructive plan. In addition, both the EU Commission and the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention - one of the most important nature conservation conventions in Europe - are explicitly pointing out to Albania that the Narta Lagoon needs to be protected. “This shows that this natural treasure belongs not only to us, but to the whole of Europe, and that foreign governments are doing more to protect the Narta Lagoon than our own government officials,” says PPNEA's Zydjon Vorpsi.

Background information:

  • World Wetlands Day 2023: World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year on 2 February. The call this year is to “Revive and restore degraded wetlands”. https://www.worldwetlandsday.org
  • Narta Lagoon: The Narta Lagoon is Albania’s second most important waterbird habitat. The 42 km² wetland plays a key role in bird migration along the Adriatic coast and is an important feeding ground for endangered Dalmatian pelicans. Here, on a largely untouched stretch of coast, the Vjosa - one of the last large, unspoilt wild rivers in Europe - flows into the Adriatic.
  • Vlora Airport: According to the government in Tirana, the construction of the airport is expected to create around 27,000 jobs. Furthermore, the airport is being hailed as a great boost for tourism. But its location in the Vjosa-Narta lagoon - right in the middle of the flight path for many migratory birds - is causing outrage among conservationists and ornithologists. On 6 and 7 February, a conference on the construction of the airport will be held in Tirana. Its aim is to highlight the importance of the Vjosa-Narta Lagoon protected area for nature conservation in Albania, and to provide information on the current legal position. In addition to Albanian and international nature conservation organisations, an EU delegation and several ambassadors will also be discussing the controversial infrastructure project.

Christian Stielow, christian.stielow(at)euronatur.org, Tel.: +49 (0)7732 – 92 72 15

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