Opposition Grows to Albania Wind Project

Tirana – Opposition is mounting against a deal between Albania and Italy to build one of Europe’s biggest wind farms, after a Balkan Insight investigation lifted the lid on shady aspects of the agreement.

In a protest held on Tuesday when the agreement for the wind farm was signed in the presence of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his Albanian counterpart Sali Berisha, the Mjaft Movement accused the government of allowing the colonization of Albania.

Under the slogan: “Albania is not for sale”, protesters compared Berlusconi’s visit the Italian invasion in 1939.

Opposition MPs have also questioned the government decision in parliament arguing that the energy deal is not transparent and does not benefit Albania.

“The government should answer some serious questions about how Albania benefits from this deal,” said a deputy from the Socialist Party Andis Harasini.

The project has also been contested by various environmental groups and intellectuals.

Balkan Insight has reported that the continent’s potentially biggest onshore wind-farm could wreak havoc to the unspoiled coastline – and could also be breaking the law.

Albania’s government risks wrecking one of Europe’s last unspoiled environments by allowing an Italian company, acting through an Albanian subsidiary, to build a wind farm on a coastal nature reserve and on part of a national park.

The government has transferred more than 97 hectares of land to Italy’s Moncada Energy Group, which through its Albanian subsidiary, Enpower Albania, aims to build a 500 megawatt wind farm in the south of the country.

Both the decision to grant the land the subsequent environmental permit are illegal under Albania’s own law for protecting natural reserves, Balkan Insight can reveal.

Balkan Insight has learned that the Albanian government changed a law on the transfer of public lands just weeks before the company presented its project, although officials deny the change was connected to any desire on the part of the government to accommodate the Italian company.

Environmental groups, meanwhile, are outraged that the Ministry of Environment issued a permit for the wind farm on the Karaburun peninsula – the site of the nature reserve park – as this is one of the most pristine sites in the Mediterranean.

Although the Albanian Energy Regulatory Agency approved a licensed for the construction of the wind farm in September 2008, after the Environment Ministry issued a permit, Enpower Albania has not completed a feasibility study proving there is enough wind to justify the project.

Meanwhile, experts have pointed out that even if it is constructed, Albania will not benefit because the electricity will be transported to Italy.

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