Albanian monument plans spark debate

Albanian monument plans spark debate
Petrelë Castle near Tirana (Image: Enrik Hysko under a CC licence)

31 March 2016

Plans by Albania’s Ministry of Culture to lease cultural monuments for up to 20 years have sparked controversy.

The debate, which has drawn in a number of respected heritage experts, centres on possible damage to the monuments and a lack of transparency in the decision-making process.

Opponents of the scheme have cited the leasing of the medieval castles of Petrelë and Lëkurësi in the early 2000s as an example of badly managed public-private partnership.

“They are no longer castles but just restaurants. Nobody can learn about their history by visiting them now,” said Auron Tare, a heritage expert and member of UNESCO’s Scientific Advisory Board, underlining that such an outcome should be avoided for other Albanian monuments. While not against public-private partnership in principle, Mr Tare argued that Albania lacks good practice in this area, and that state control mechanisms over the private sector remain very weak.

“It is important to have an open debate on the issue that includes tourism bodies, as stimulating tourism through these initiatives is important. But we have to be careful not to lose the historic identity of these monuments,” Mr Tare stated, suggesting that it may be preferable to give control of some neglected or endangered monuments back to the religious communities that founded them.

Minister of Culture Mirela Kumbaro has affirmed, however, that the decision to lease the monuments follows an extensive two-year study.

“Public-private partnership is one of the ways to administer cultural assets [...] our decision on the issue is more careful than those of former ministers,” Mr Kumbaro stated.

Vasil Tole, who headed up the working group that prepared Albania’s law on cultural heritage in 2013, stated that the top priority was to preserve the monuments, rather than helping private businesses.

“Besides a full list of monuments we need to clarify what types of business will be allowed to rent the monuments and restrict others that should not do so,” Mr Tole stressed, as thus far there has been a lack of information regarding the monuments in question and the types of business that will be allowed to rent them.

Source: Balkan Insight