I started by fighting for Valbona. I started, because I live here. I started, in the first instance, fighting for what I love. But there are others, who have lived here longer, much longer. And in the end, I think I am fighting now for them, with them. For you? Perhaps. By fighting for Valbona, we are fighting for all of us. We are fighting for the past, and for the future.
There are too many things that stink about the hydropower projects in Valbona. There is the simple fact of the damage they will create. But there are other facts. There are the facts of the way that the deals have been done.
Take the lack of information to the locals. Are local people stupid? Do they not deserve to know what is being planned? Are local people franchised, with the right to know and determine their future, or are we simply . . . detritus? Whatever you think, the rights of Albanian people to know what is being done to and around them are declared by law. These rights have been ignored in Valbona, and this is simply and clearly illegal.
There are the facts of the Environmental Permit, which is clearly and documented substandard. According to Albanian law, the JOB of an environmental permit is to: 1) know what’s here 2) think about how it might be damaged 3) plan how to minimize damage and 4) make a plan to monitor progress. NONE of these responsibilities – not a single one – are met by the environmental documents submitted, and approved by the Albanian Government, previous and current, in order to permit the hydropower developments in Valbona. There are no jackals in Valbona, and there are more than “a few walnut trees, tek tuk” here. The environmental permit, based on nothing as it is, is illegal. Point of law, point of fact.
There has been, when they bothered to answer at all, a lot of fluff from the Albanian Government: We don’t like it, but it was done before us. We don’t like it, but it’s up to the present administration to sort out. We wish it wasn’t true, but it is and there’s nothing we can do. Including the latest, and the only from Edi Rama: The penalties are worse than your worst nightmare.
With all due respect, this is the JOB of government. To be responsible. To take care. To deal with difficult things. To make things better. Or at least try to. To have a positive vision for the future. Don’t tell me “it’s a nightmare” Mr. Rama. I am not a child, to be frightened by dreams. Nor are any of the people here, with whom I live. We are Malesori, Mr. Rama. Your idea of a nightmare is probably our idea of day’s outing with picnic. And we haven’t even begun to fight. Beware. Beware, Mr. Rama, because whether it was your fault or not, you now have the job of fixing it. Will you succeed? Will you even make the effort? Or will you rest on trying to frighten us, as if we were children, as if we were idiots? We are neither.
Unlike apparently you, we understand that a financial arrangement was made, between the Albanian people – who will ultimately pay the bill, either way – represented by the Albanian Government and the hydropower developers. We choose to believe, in the absence of any evidence mind you, that standard business practices were applied: The Albanian Government made certain assurances and the developer promised to proceed with due caution for law. The Albanian government now claims that if they fail to fulfill their side of the bargain, penalties will apply. Penalties “worse than our worst nightmares.” But what assurance do we have that the developer has fulfilled their side of the bargain? They have submitted faked signatures, signatures of dead people on their public consultations. This is fraud, and this is illegal. This is documented, this is illegal. And this stinks. They submitted vastly substandard environmental documentation. This is documented, this is illegal. And this STINKS.
And this is what we know, without ever even seeing the Concession Contracts, which are being hidden in a highly unusual way. The Concession Contracts include not only the physical plans for the developments, but the financial agreements struck. I have tried three different ways to gain access to these contracts, and in each instance I have been told: These are secret.
These are secret, and these are the source of your nightmares, Mr. Rama. Your nightmares, you seek to share not only with me, but with the people of the nation you are meant to be leading.
How can a legally binding, financial agreement between the Albanian people and a private company be privileged? How can we not be allowed to know? We cannot. There is no precedent, as I understand, for an entire contract being kept secret. Certain trade secrets, or even company names, might be blacked out. An entire contract, written on my behalf, on the behalf of those around me, cannot be a secret.
Don’t tell us it’s a nightmare. Don’t try to frighten us. Don’t hide behind repeated phrases, thinking that repetition will make them true, that repetition will make us believe, that we will forget their illegality.
We have evidence that the developer is guilty of fraud. We demand to know what previous and current administrations have committed us to. We demand your representation, or if you cannot represent us, your resignation. We demand our justice.
Valbona is the first instance. The heartland. It may gather here, but it won’t stop here. Beware, with all respect, not our nightmares, but yours.