14 May 2020 Statement of President Meta on the new request presented to the Constitutional Court regarding the issue of the National Theater
Today, I have submitted to the Constitutional Court the request for Repeal of Decision no. 377, dated 8.5.2020 of the Council of Ministers “On the transfer of ownership of the Municipality of Tirana, of property no. 1/241, titled “The National Theater“, at the cadastral zone 8150, Tirana ”, as incompatible with the Constitution.
It is a constitutional obligation of the President of the Republic that within his competencies, to guarantee the protection of the basic principles that the Albanian people has accorded upon him by referendum since 1998!
Unfortunately, the Council of Ministers in this decision, in its very point 1, expresses the will that, with the transfer of ownership to the Municipality of Tirana, of the “National Theater”, this municipality must continue the procedures for the demolition of Theater buildings and construction of new buildings.
Through this act, Albanians everywhere are today, are being ordered to lose a public property of high national interest. With its demolition, the cultural heritage and national identity embodied in these buildings are intended to disappear, and our shared collective memory to be lost.
This decision of the Council of Ministers continues to carry the unconstitutional goal of infringing on publicly owned property that is closely linked to national cultural heritage and national identity.
Thus it is clear that, through the phrase in point 1 of this decision where it is quoted “with the purpose of constructing a contemporary building and with standards of the National Theater“, accompanied by the phrase in point 2 that, “Tirana Municipality is prohibited to change the destination of property defined in point 1 of this decision ”, the purpose for the destruction of the current buildings of the National Theater complex has been imposed and ordered by the Council of Ministers, while the Mayor of Tirana and the Municipal Council, remain only to enforce this political will of the Government and the Prime Minister.
In essence, even this act of the Council of Ministers, although referring to the selected form and procedure, is covered under the argument of a routine decision of transfer of ownership of a public property from the central government to the local government, in essence, contains the same constitutional issues and the same risk as the special law no. 37/2018, which is currently under review by the Constitutional Court.
Both of these acts – law no. 37/2018 and DCM no. 377/2020, clearly express the same political purpose: The demolition of existing buildings of the National Theater, which would constitute the most serious violation of constitutional principles related to our national identity and heritage, values protected by the Constitution of the Republic of Albania and international acts to which the Republic of Albania has acceded or ratified.
Therefore, these acts must be repealed by the Constitutional Court, which must decide as soon as possible even for the suspension of their execution.
On May 9, 2020, I made public two press statements, requesting reflection from the institutions of the Council of Ministers and the Municipality of Tirana, which are also parties in the process already open in the Constitutional Court.
I waited for the reflection of the relevant institutions and I followed the public reactions of both the Chairman of the Council of Ministers and the mayor of Tirana.
These two authorities during this week have reacted publicly by openly showing that their political and unified goal is clear, that they will not withdraw from the will to demolish the buildings of the existing complex of the National Theater and construct a new building on its land.
These statements, in addition to contradicting the constitutional principles on which a rule of law should operate, for the Mayor also exceed the limits allowed by the law “On local self-government”, which stipulates that municipalities are responsible for development, protection and promoting the values of cultural heritage of local interest, as well as the administration of facilities related to the exercise of these functions.
Given that the property that passes into the ownership of the Municipality of Tirana has the name “National Theater”, and is thus an object related to the general national interest, and not with values of cultural heritage of local interest, the Municipality of Tirana can not have in ownership and even less to be expressed on issues that go beyond the limits of local competence and jurisdiction that belong to them by law.
The jurisdiction of the Municipality of Tirana to decide on the “National Theater” is limited. For such a public property, the property must remain in the name of the Republic of Albania.
This new request with the object of abrogation as unconstitutional of DCM no. 377/2020, which was filed today for evaluation at the Constitutional Court, expresses once again the will of the Head of State as a representative of the unity of the people that, even the request / issue raised by the President of the Republic in the request of 24 July 2019 for abrogation as unconstitutional of law no. 37/2018, pursuant to Article 51 of Law no. 8577/2000, will have to continue to be issued, as both of these opposed acts regardless of the body that issued them, or the continuity of the implementation of their purpose, are acts that affect the existence of the complex of existing buildings of the National Theater, which represents a high public and state interest directly related to the observance, among other things, of the basic constitutional principles.
The right to decide on the existence of objects and our material and immaterialproperty directly related to our national cultural heritage and identity does not belong to a government or a municipality.
Sovereignty for such issues should belong to all citizens and as long as this unity is embodied in the Constitution of the Republic of Albania, in the basic principles provided by it, then it belongs only to the Constitutional Court to finally express itself on this issue and none any other institution.
The Constitutional Court is the only institution that has the duty to express itself on the compliance of normative acts of central and local bodies with the Constitution and international agreements (according to Article 131 of the Constitution).
The complex of buildings of the National Theater has a special status according to article 3 of law no. 8743/2001, because it is a complex of buildings historically used since its construction for cultural and social purposes.
That complex of buildings, due to the interest and heritage it contains, is not a matter of further evaluation of a Government or a Municipality, but a matter of public sensitivity accepted by all for the artistic and cultural values it carries.
This complex of buildings is a public real estate property, which has a different status and legal regime from state real estate property.
The decision of the Council of Ministers on the transfer of ownership to the Municipality of Tirana of the property with the title “National Theater”, in addition to being contrary to the requirements and legal procedure, its purpose is essentially the same as stated in law no. . 37/2018, on the continuation of the project of demolition of the theater, making direct implications of incompatibility with the Constitution of the Republic of Albania.
This incompatibility is evidenced by the fact that the purpose of this act contradicts the constitutional principles of protection of the national heritage and cultural identity, provided in Article 3 of the Constitution of the Republic of Albania.
These constitutional values and principles require that in a democratic order, the state have the primary responsibility to preserve all those assets of immovable property or not, which relate, display, or embody the cultural and historical heritage of the past that altogether form that which is called cultural and social identity.
Therefore in the practices of a democratic and responsible government, efforts to destroy these material or immaterial assets are considered as an expression of the will of a minority that for whatever reason has no legitimacy to decide on such major issues that are of high public interest in national level.
Referring to this reasoning, the transfer of ownership to the Municipality of Tirana, a body of local government, of the buildings of the National Theater, with a predetermined purpose that these buildings will be demolished, is a direct violation of constitutional principles protected by Article 3 of the Constitution with a consequently an irreparable damage to our national identity and heritage.
The building complex of the National Theater, for 80 years of operation in various dimensions, has created its memory and makes it undoubtedly a worthy representative of the cultural, artistic, educational, social, Albanology and political history of the Albanian state; i.e, of the national heritage, which in this respect is the property of all and for these very reasons enjoys direct protection by the Constitution.
On this issue, the Albanian government and the Municipality of Tirana must show their commitment to creating environments for the benefit of actors and the public, certainly aiming to build new contemporary functional buildings, but at the same time, without damaging the heritage created over the years in the complex of existing buildings of the National Theater, as such a loss would be ultimately irreparable in the future.
The existence of these buildings of the complex of the National Theater, is an integral part of immaterial cultural heritage, as in this space has been produced over the years stage art, cultivating for decades the most sublime values of Albanian culture throughout the Albanian space, which constitute cultural heritage.
The protection of this heritage requires that the environments in which it is created, be strengthened, come to life even more, as they are related to the memory associated with the place where they were created, i.e. the buildings, which if destroyed and no longer exist, pose a risk that the memory of the cultural and artistic activity associated with them will be lost.
This is a strong argument that finds support not only in the provisions of the articles of the Convention on the Protection of the Immaterial Cultural Heritage, but in the introductory part (preamble) of this convention which states that immaterial cultural heritage and material cultural and natural heritage are interdependent.
The organization “Europa Nostra” supported by the Council of Europe and the European Parliament has praised this building, demanding the cessation of any action on it by the Albanian institutions. Opposing a European Union support aimed only at preserving the values of cultural heritage is the worst signal of cooperation and behavior towards the values we have been trying to embrace for 30 years.
The review of the request by the Constitutional Court on the unconstitutionality of law no. 37/2018, although the interested parties in this trial may claim the cessation of its legal effects, it should still proceed jointly with the review of this request for the unconstitutionality of Decision no. 377, dated 8.5.2020 of the Council of Ministers.
I emphasize once again that, if the National Theater were to be violated as a building before the decision of the Constitutional Court on the issues presented by the President of the Republic, then the consequences would be irreparable.
This makes it necessary to decide on the suspension of any activity or act that violates the buildings of the National Theater, a suspension that should last until the decision of the Constitutional Court takes effect.
In the meantime, state institutions must abide by the obligations enshrined in the Constitution and international law, officials at all levels must exercise in bona fide, in a reasonable way, the power given to them, within the purpose for which that power has been granted, without exceeding the limits of such competencies, guaranteeing in any decision-making sufficient protection of the principles, rights and freedoms protected by the Constitution.
Only in this way can a state of law be guaranteed, which gives priority to the legality of governmental or local practices, practices that do not allow unilateral authoritarian actions, to the detriment of public and national interests.