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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

May 19, 2020
Clashes in Tirana, Albania, on May 17, over the demolition of the National Theatre   -   Copyright  Loreta Cuka

The wife of Albania's president was detained along with more than 30 others during a protest against the demolition of the National Theatre in Tirana yesterday.

Monika Kryemadhi is also an MP and leader of the Socialist Movement for Integration party.

Television footage showed Kryemadhi being put into a police van.

In 2018, Albania authorities decided to tear the building down and shut it due to its poor conditions.

But the decision was opposed by groups of artists who wanted it to be renovated and kept using it.

During the demolition, protesters tried to break through the police cordon and officers used pepper spray against them.

Artists and opposition leaders joined the protest.

Police said the detained protesters were released shortly afterwards but were reminded that no mass gatherings are allowed under the country's current lockdown state.During the clashes, two policemen were injured.
A tense political situation

The theatre's demolition was harshly criticised by Albania's opposition.

In a Facebook post, Albania's President Ilir Meta called it a "constitutional, legal and moral crime" and said that the theatre's "destruction" had been ordered "by the mafia".

The leader of the country's Democratic Party, Lulzim Basha, took to Facebook too, saying that the demolition was "illegal" and adding that "violence against citizens and journalists" was "unacceptable".

He also called Albania's prime minister Edi Rama a "criminal who usurped every power".

The EU delegation to Albania stepped in saying that national and local institutions did not follow up on its call for "dialogue between authorities and civil society".

Earlier this year, Albania began negotiations to join the European Union, amid a tense political situation that saw the country's opposition parties leaving their sits in parliament in February 2019.
Theatre set to be replaced by new €30million building

The theatre, also known as Teatri Kombëtar (TK), was inaugurated in 1940 during the Italian occupation in World War II and changed name many times throughout its history.

A new €30 million-euro theatre is set to be built on the same site by architects from the Bjarke Ingels Group.

But it is unknown when the construction will begin.

Initially, a local construction company was going to build the new theatre in exchange for land from the government. However, following protests, the government abandoned the plan, and now the construction of the new theatre is going to be funded by Tirana's city council.