Just days after Albania opened Kukës International Airport, the country signed a deal with a Swiss consortium to build one more international airport in Vlora. The consortium will also have a 35-year concession to operate the airport.
One more new airport for Albania
Yesterday, 21st April, Albania signed a contract worth $125 million with a Swiss consortium to construct Vlora International Airport, AP reports. The consortium will also have a 35-year concession to operate the airport.
The Swiss consortium will be led by Mabco Constructions, a subsidiary of Mabetex Group that is headquartered in Lugano and controlled by Kosovo Albanian businessman Behgjet Pacolli.
Mabco Constructions will undertake the preparatory work. This will include all paperwork, including environmental and archaeological, and it will take two years. After that, the new airport will be constructed within a year.
Vlora International Airport will be located 150 kilometers (90 miles) southwest of the capital Tirana, and it will have the capacity to handle two million passengers a year on its two-mile runway.
One more airport for Albania
The news that Vlora International Airport will be built comes just days after Albania opened Kukës International Airport. Kukës, also called Zayed-North Wings, is only the second international airport in Albania so far.
Albania’s aviation sector has increasingly gained prominence in recent years. The country established a national flag carrier, Air Albania, with help from Turkish Airlines. Turkey’s President Erdogan had personally expressed support for the project at the time.
Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama said that building one more airport will make Albania “a country where the number of tourists and visitors will increase exponentially.”
The opening of Kukës Airport last week was met with much political attention too. The opening ceremony involved the landing of an Air Albania aircraft with the Prime Minister, Edi Rama, on board.
The aircraft, an A319, flew in from London Stansted to Tirana, where Prime Minister Rama boarded it. It then flew from Tirana to Kukës. In this way, Rama met his election campaign promise that there would be a flight into Kukës from London before elections take place at the end of this week.
Conservation groups have opposed the plan
However, not everyone in Albania is happy with this infrastructural expansion.
Before the contract was signed, conservation groups had asked the Albanian government to scrap the project, saying it would seriously damage the country’s western wetlands in the protected area of Vjose-Narta.
Albania has a tough trade-off to make. On the one hand, it wants to make it easier for tourists to arrive to see its natural beauties. But, on the other hand, building new airports diminishes Albania’s strongest asset: vast areas of unspoiled nature.
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