Published on : 12 June 2017

Towards an epochal transformation for Shkoder

Speech by Prime Minister Edi Rama at the inauguration of the reconstruction of Buna Bridge:

 

Hello everyone!

I am very happy that today we are here in Shkoder, and we are starting this day with some good works that are a continuation of what we have tried and will continue to do for Shkoder, even though you know the extraordinary difficulty we have to find translators to communicate with the municipality.

First of all, I am glad that today, the Buna Bridge, which was built in 1889 and had remained in the same conditions it was in 1959, has been completely reconstructed. It is a work of a special architectural significance, designed by Turkish engineers at the initiative of the governor of Shkoder, the mayor of that time, and it really carries some stories of the civilization of Shkoder, its shape and age. Therefore, our emergency intervention was essential considering that the bridge, which is also a cultural monument, was not only degrading day by day, but was also at risk of collapse.

It’s really pitiful that the Mayor, instead of listening to our voice and accept the repeated invitations made by me and Ditmir, who persistently asked her to be here, even when the works began, not only did not come, but on the contrary started a nonsense debate over who owns the bridge, and it turned out that this monument so important to Shkoder is the property of the ministry of defence, which is certainly not true.

However, let’s not deal with the rotten legs of the bridge of those who run Shkoder today, and deal instead with what we will continue to do. On the way here, we checked on the works that have just started on the sites for the thorough reconstruction of the tourist Shkoder-Velipoje road, which will be totally different from what it is today within 18 months, and which, I believe, will meet a longstanding need, and fulfil a great wish of the residents of this whole area, to have a dignified connection to the beach, and on the other hand, I believe this will also give a real impetus to the economy of tourism, as this connection will be totally different from what it has been to date both aesthetically and in terms of its dimensions.   

But it doesn’t stop here because for us it is of great importance to take forward a strategic development project, which we have started together with Benet Beci, a guy from Shkoder who has embodied in his being the synthesis between left and right, and also thanks to the cooperation with the already renowned architect who designed the National Museum of Photography “Marubi”, which is one of the jewels of contemporary architecture combined with tradition, and which has now become part of the map of photography museums in Europe. 

What is the project about? The project aims at thoroughly transforming the west coast of the Shkoder Lake up to Shiroke, and from the bridge to the lower part, in order to create a totally different access for all those who live in Shkoder or who visit it.

Let’s not forget that Shkoder Lake has been given a special status since 2005, and the government is compelled to protect this asset. Nevertheless, what happened in the 8 years prior to the 44 months of our government, was but the destruction of this asset, and due to this there have been not a few diplomatic incidents with Montenegro, which have been discussed in order to overcome them and move on, because legacy was very heavy in this regard, and the accountability of all state structures face to this asset was really alarming.    

The project will regenerate the whole west coast, by means of interventions in the public infrastructure, and thus it will be a real impetus for the development of tourism and economy across this area.

The museum of the Shkoder Lake and the visitors’ centre, which will turn into a reference identification point for the lake area near Shkoder, will become an important added value of the area, and also, what is important is that this project will unify the lake coast and will create not only a promenade, but also complementary areas for cultural and sports activities.

I won’t list everything I’ve been written here about the investments we have made in this area, but I’d like to underline only one fact, and it is that the Urban Renaissance – which by some ignorant people and due to the very heavy legacy that taught everybody to coexist peacefully with waste, potholes, dust, cars, and never think that the people who coexist in a community, need to have their public space more than anything else – has been represented as a story of surface, or as they call it a story of “facades”.     

I don’t consider “façade” as a negative word because, as I told also Luli when I met with him, “had the façade been unimportant, you wouldn’t have to brush your hair before leaving home. You could perfectly go outside uncombed, undressed, filthy, because you’re still the same person. There’s no problem”. And this applies to everything. Imagine just one moment how civilization would be today, if every woman were uncombed, undressed, messy, and every man were unshaved, with long hair, and everybody were concerned about stuffing themselves with food and putting their senses to rest.     

The same applies also to environment and urban spaces. I haven’t seen any prosperous country with ruined public spaces. I haven’t. I don’t know of any prosperous country with ruined cities or villages. There is no prosperity, there’s only survival and alimony. Meanwhile, the countries that have beautiful public spaces, and have facades and lightening, palms and tress, are “surprisingly” prosperous. There must be a connection between the two things, mustn’t it?

In the meantime, another important aspect is that we have opened 641 construction sites from Tropoje to Konsipol, and they are the basis of a thorough and epochal transformation, a civilizing transformation for the Albania of the future. In addition, 49.326 Albanian citizens have been employed on these sites, neither Chinese citizens, nor Turkish citizens or Pakistani citizens, but Albanian citizens. 

This whole program has not only had a serious impact on the cities, first of all, and it will extend further, deep in the rural areas of the new municipalities, boosting economy, small enterprises, consumption and tourism, but in addition it has injected money in our domestic economy, and has created jobs. There are 49.326 jobs created by this program, and they are duly registered employees for whom social insurances and every relevant contribution are paid.   

We strongly believe that despite everything that is being said by the jokers of progress and by charlatans, who apparently don’t know how to deal with beauty and with change, we are determined to keep on with this program. And of course, as I said, now we’re entering the stage where the main beneficiaries from this program will be the rural areas, but there’s one thing which is important, and this is that if the number of tourists has increased by 48% in Albania, this is certainly connected to this program. And if people wanted to go back to Tirana, the reborn “Skanderbeg” square, and urban transformations would definitely have an impact on their wish. The same applies to Shkoder, to Vlore and to all of Albania.

Thank you very much for being here today, and let me tell all the people of Shkoder that despite we have been put in a difficult situation, and couldn’t find a translator in order to cooperate with the mayor and the city hall, we will continue to work for Shkoder increasingly every month and every year. I am convinced that in the four coming years, this whole area we are talking about, together with Velipoje, will be the mirror of an epochal transformation for Shkoder, and of course for all of Albania, because Shkoder is also a reflection of Albania.

Many thanks!

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