The project, being promoted by Italian company La Petrolífera Italo Rumena and originally seeking a EUR 15 million loan from the EBRD, has been the object of fierce local protests, with locals asking for – and being denied – a referendum on its implementation.
Daniel Berg, the EBRD’s head of office in Tirana, offered one explanation for the bank’s pull-out from the project to the national newspaper Shekulli: “For us, the financial terms requested for this investment were not acceptable. This project has been undergoing a great public debate and I think it is very important that the community gives its own opinion on these investments.”
A due diligence process to determine whether or not the EBRD would finance the terminal had been set in motion, involving consultations on the project’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) process. Public comments and the quality review of the EIA revealed that the study lacks monitoring and management plans, it does not offer solutions to oil spills and hazardous wastes removal and underestimates the impacts on protected areas. Additionally, the original EIA lacked any mention of resettlement and land compensation issues associated with the terminal, as several families were displaced as a result of project construction.
Although the EBRD’s decision has certainly jolted the project, La Petrolífera Italo Rumena can still ask for financial support from other sources. In May 2004 the company received a project concession for the price of one euro to build and operate the EUR 50 million terminal on public, ocean-front property, which would become exclusively Italian after a 30-year period.
Lavdosh Ferruni, secretary of the Civic Alliance for Protection of Vlora Bay, commented: “This is an important decision for all Albanians. Even if the investor continues to seek other financial sources, decision-makers in Albania have received a good lesson and must realise that they are proceeding in the wrong way.”
Albanian NGO EDEN and Bankwatch join with local campaigners in hoping hope that this landmark decision will lead to other decisions that respect the development of a sustainable environment in Vlora and elsewhere in Albania – the kind of development that people in Vlora have shown they care deeply about.
Never miss an update
We expose the risks of international public finance and bring critical updates from the ground – straight to your inbox.