Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

Albania ignores UNESCO’s Butrint complaint.

By triji Mar 14, 2024

On Monday, Albania released the study on the Butrint National Park, which will be reviewed by the World Heritage Committee in India in July of this year.

The report was published in Albania. The Albanian Ministry of Economy, Culture, and Innovation has produced a report that is 170 pages long, but it does not include any responses to the severe charges that have been leveled against the UNESCO – ICOMOS mission.

Through the monitoring report that was handed over to the Albanian authorities in September 2023, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) mission expressed “deep concern” regarding the alteration of the boundaries of the Butrint National Park by the Albanian government, which involved the removal of 600 hectares without the knowledge and approval of the organization.

Nevertheless, official papers, which were initially reported by the Voice of America, indicate that 802 hectares have been removed from Butrint National Park, bringing the total acreage of the park down from 9424 hectares to 8622 hectares.

Neither the decision made by the Albanian government in January 2022 regarding the new borders of Butrint nor the decision made one month later to construct a resort in the portion of the land that was removed from the National Park are mentioned in any line of the report that was produced by the Albanian government.

Similar to the previous point, the report from the Albanian side does not provide a concrete response to the criticism that UNESCO has leveled against the new management model of the ancient city of Butrin, which is referred to as area A-3. This model was implemented by a non-profit organization (Foundation) that was established by the Albanian Ministry of Culture in collaboration with the Albanian American Development Foundation (AADF).

According to the report that was produced by the UNESCO mission in 2023, the administration of only the A-3 region, which encompasses around 614.3 hectares, does not fulfill the conditions that UNESCO has set for an integrated management of Butrint. This management integrates archaeology, monuments, and the natural part of the site.

In addition, the UNESCO mission has recommended that the Ministry of Culture continue to maintain “state party” authority for Butrint. This is the position in which the organization attempts to fulfill state responsibilities in accordance with the global standards established by UNESCO.

“The agreements between the Ministry of Culture, the AADF and the new Foundation do not provide a suitable solution, as they are not responsible for the management of the World Heritage property as such” , according to the organization’s statement.

The Albanian government has responded to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) by stating that the Butrint Management Foundation, in conjunction with the Ministry of Economy, Culture, and Innovation, will modify the Action Plan and work toward reaching an agreement in which the Ministry of Culture will have overall supervisory authority for Butrint and have responsibility to the World Heritage Committee.

As a matter of fact, the Ministry of Culture does not have any place for a new agreement because the existing agreement for the establishment of the new Foundation has a period that is twenty years long. Additionally, the Ministry of Culture does not hold a majority of seats on the Board of Directors of the Butrint Management Foundation, which is the highest decision-making body as it exists.

The Board of Directors of the Foundation is comprised of five individuals, including the minister in charge of culture, two representatives from the Albanian-American Foundation for Development, the director of the National Institute of Cultural Heritage, and an expert from another country.

A number of the demands that the World Heritage Center made to the Albanian government in a letter that was written to the Albanian Ambassador to UNESCO, Besiana Kadare, in October of the previous year appear to be unmet by the report that was submitted by the Albanian side.

It would appear that the Albanian authorities do not yet have this plan ready to provide to the World Heritage Committee, despite the fact that the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has sought “information from Albania on measures for the protection and integrated management of the property and its buffer zone.”

“The started work is being followed up with technical meetings aimed at preparing a detailed short-term and long-term action plan, for the implementation of UNESCO-ICOMOS recommendations” , according to the Albanian delegation’s report.

An additional request from UNESCO concerns “detailed clarifications and a clear and accurate map showing the boundaries of the property and the buffer zone, as approved by the World Heritage Committee in 2007″ .

These maps are not included in the report because the Albanian authorities have not yet developed them and they have not yet been included.

“The Foundation for the Management of Butrint will prepare a detailed and accurate map, in cooperation and under the supervision of the Ministry of Tourism and Environment and the Ministry of Economy, Culture and Innovation” , according to the information provided.

However, this goes against the responsibilities of the Foundation for the Management of Butrint, which, according to the law that was approved by the Albanian parliament, is only authorized to operate in the A-3 area of the Park, which encompasses approximately 614.3 hectares, and not for the entire Park Butrint National Park, which is currently comprised of 8622 hectares.

The advancements that have taken place with the borders of the Butrint National Park have been seen with very critical tones by the most recent UNESCO Mission. This is due to the fact that these developments are also in conflict with the recommendations of the Butrint Management Plan, which the Albanian government itself had authorized in the year 2020.

The management plan simply advocated a revision of the limits of the construction zone of Ksamil, which consisted of between 50 and 150 hectares, as well as the installation of a green belt to prohibit additional construction. However, it did not propose the removal of 802 hectares from the National Park.

The latest map of Butrint National Park, which represents the alteration of borders and where the coastal region from the Çuka channel, near the coastal end of Ksamil, is now beyond what is considered to be a protected area, was validated by Voice of America in the Albanian state geospatial system (ASIG).

There is no mention of any data regarding the events that have taken place before the Constitutional Court of Albania in relation to Butrint in the report that the Albanian side submitted to the World Heritage Committee for Butrint and submitted.

This court has been urged by a group of thirty-six opposition members of parliament to declare the law that governs the management of Butrint National Park to be illegal.

However, the UNESCO Report had been submitted to the National Institute of Cultural Heritage since September of the previous year; however, it had not been made public by UNESCO because the Albanian side had not given consent. The representatives of the Albanian government did not present the UNESCO Report during the plenary session that took place at the Constitutional Court in November of the previous year.

In January of this year, the Constitutional Court made a modification in its processes, requesting the government for the UNESCO report and reopening the plenary session on Butrint. This was an unprecedented move on the part of the court.

According to the bill that was adopted by the Parliament, the transfer of the Park to the management of the new Foundation should have been completed on February 14 of this year. However, the new Minister of Culture and Economy, Blendi Gonxhe, has not signed the transfer of the Park.

In a status update posted on social media, Mr. Gonxhe stated that “he wanted to ensure public opinion for maximum attention for the good administration of the challenging process of changing the management model of the Butrint National Park, in full implementation of international standards and the Albanian legal framework in power” .

The member of parliament for the Democratic Party, Ina Zhupa, who has been leading the initiative of opposition members of parliament at the Constitutional Court, has stated that the fight for Butrint is a fight for the identity, history, and heritage of its Albanian people.

By triji

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