33 organizations demand suspension of construction work on Vlora Airport



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The Alliance for the Protection of Mediterranean Lagoons, a coalition of environmental organizations, has penned a letter addressed to Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, the European Commission, and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), in which they call for the suspension of construction activities at Vlora Airport, located in the Narta Lagoon.

This letter has received endorsements from 33 environmental organizations spanning at least 27 countries across the region.

The letter is in alignment with the most recent decision from the Bern Convention, announced on Thursday, which urges Albanian authorities to halt construction of the international airport within the protected region of the Vjosa-Narta Lagoon. This lagoon area is of paramount importance for the annual migration of thousands of birds traveling between Europe and Africa.

Recommendation 219 of the Bern Convention stipulates that the request to suspend construction at Vlora Airport was made following a comprehensive review of documents submitted by Albanian environmental organizations, the Albanian Government, and an on-site environmental assessment. Back in December 2022, the Convention Committee had already called on Albanian authorities to suspend construction activities.

The Bern Convention, also known as the Convention for the Conservation of Wildlife and Natural Habitats in Europe, represents a legally binding international instrument dedicated to the conservation and protection of nature. Albania became a signatory to this Convention in 1995, with it entering into force in May 1999.

Despite the reactions from environmental organizations and the December request from the Bern Convention Committee to halt work on Vlora Airport until a new environmental impact assessment is conducted, the Albanian Government has thus far ignored these appeals.

Approximately one month ago, Prime Minister Edi Rama shared images on social media showcasing the new runway at the recently constructed airport. He expressed that work is progressing at a rapid pace, with the aim of welcoming the first flight to Vlora Airport in the summer of 2025.

The Vjosa-Narta Protected Landscape is recognized by environmental organizations as one of Albania’s most significant ecological systems. It is the second most important lagoon in the country, serving as a habitat for numerous vital flora and fauna species. Furthermore, it is an integral part of several international ecological networks, including the Adriatic flyway, which facilitates the migration of over 220 bird species.

Construction activities for Vlora Airport commenced in November 2021 through a consortium of companies. This consortium initially comprised “Mabetex”, a company owned by entrepreneur Behgjet Pacolli, holding a 50% stake, and the Turkish company “Yda Group”, which had a 48% ownership stake. The remaining 2% belonged to the Kosovo-based company “2A Group”.

In March of this year, the Turkish company withdrew from the consortium, leading Mabco Constructions Company to acquire 98% of the shares associated with the Vlora International Airport concession. This acquisition involved the purchase of shares previously held by the Turkish company, with a transaction value of 4,450 euros.

Vlora Airport encompasses a sprawling area of 297 hectares and carries an estimated investment value of approximately 104 million euros.