Happy Flag Day! Construction work for Vlora International Airport begins

Albanian citizens honour and celebrate the National Flag Day and the 109th anniversary of Albania’s declaration of independence today. Like every year, hundreds of citizens gathered at the Flag Square in the coastal city of Vlora to attend the national flag hoisting ceremony. Prime Minister Edi Rama the ceremony in the square where independent Albania’s flag was raised for the first time in 1912.

In the meantime, work began on the very same day to construct the international airport near the south-western port city of Vlora , set to become the country’s largest international airport of tremendous historic importance for Albanians. Prime Minister Edi Rama his Flag Day greetings and in a speech marking the occasion said:

 

I would like to wish a Happy Flag Day and Independence Day to all Albanians in Albania, Kosovo and in any territory where Albanians reside in this region and all over the world, where they currently work and live, but their hearts still beat for Albania and the red and black flag of Gjergj Kastrioti and Ismail Qemali.

The city of Vlora has a history of air transport.

First Albanian school of aviation was opened in Vlora, whereas an airfield for military purposes was constructed in 1920 precisely on the site where we are standing now. We are beginning a new age on the trail of the old airfield together with a good friend, one of the most prominent representatives of our national entrepreneurship, a personality who has made a name for himself through his works all over the world. A man I am honoured to consider a personal friend, Behgjet Pacolli, whom I would like to thank for involving in this joint adventure, because, for the sake of truth, it has been really difficult for us to finalize the project, which unfortunately happened to be slated to be built here in Vlora, where I had to withstand the impatience of Vlora residents, notoriously known for their impatience in entire Albanian universe.

The process just wasn’t meant to go smoothly as we all would have wished. The process was launched and suspended several times for objective reasons, which have nothing to do with us, since major public works normally encounter such surprises.

The pandemic gripped the world and our country, with the aviation sector being one of the worst-hit and it was almost impossible to reach out to people and companies that would show interest in building a new airport as the aviation industry was languishing in the clutches of the invisible enemy.

However, we didn’t stop trying and eventually we gained momentum and gathered forces to press ahead with this major project, and this is Behgjet Pacolli’s power, his company and the consortium he has founded and all the delays and the entire accumulated stress, to which Vlora residents specifically contributed through their typical mocking and traditional scourging, somehow was turned into benevolence, because we have come together today not for the consortium founded by Behgjet, but also for an amazing alliance for the airport’s future, namely the alliance with the Munich airport, one of the major powers in the air transport, not only in Europe, but also in the world, whose representatives have joined us today after starting their preparations for the project and its implementation in the very earliest stages of the project, and they are ready to take over operations of Vlora airport as soon as the consortium completes its construction and make the facility available and operational to host the initial flights.

It is amazing news that Munich airport will join in this effort as an operational power, which guarantees not only a top level management, but also a synergy with other structures, with other international airports.

Airports are somehow like family clans in a way. It wouldn’t be sufficient to build a beautiful infrastructure, or a 3.2-km long runway, which will provide capacities for direct transatlantic flights, but you should also build the alliances and synergies with other airports, to handle a much higher number of passengers and create a system with airport structures supporting and complementing one another.

This airport is the third among four sky gates we are seeking to open in Albania after Tirana and Kukes airports, before work kicks off to construct the fourth seasonal airport in Saranda, which is specifically designed to support the tourism sector. If you consider the today’s mindset of the world tourism industry, which is all about not only quantity but also a quality of the tourists influx, eyeing not only a huge number of visitors, but also predicting the spending rate by tourists to the territory, which means attracting A class visitors, who spend more when on holidays, it is a must that their destination is not located farther than 45 minutes to one hour away from their landing place.

This is the reason why we need four airports at this stage. We would probably need more airports in a later stage, after 20 years, and all those wondering why we need so many airports, should know the fact that number of airports depends on the capacity and accessibility to a country, where tourism and economic development are top priorities. On the other hand, they also need to be informed about the fact that airports are neither car parking lots for airplanes to land and accommodate nor stations for people coming just to meet their transportation needs.

The airports and ports are incredible engines for development of the economy and tourism of every country and these projects will create a significant number of new jobs. To all those who keep playing the same old tune and claiming that “the citizens lack their daily bread, and therefore we don’t need airports,” I would reiterate it here, although I frequently repeat it via the social media, the issue of the daily bread is something Albanians haven’t been facing since the Skanderbeg era. The airports are really “bread factories”, because airports generate more revenues for the country, as airports bring consumers to the country and the more people visit the country, the more the country would seek to boost its services, the more the country will work to increase production, as a whole chain of economy is created.

Tourists are consumers and by building more airports we improve and increase the quality of the visitors to the country, as I already said, in terms of the money they spend in the country.

Every visitor is certainly welcomed, but an average tourist is thought to spend more on vacation and therefore local entrepreneurship and tourism industry benefit, production grows and the state budget revenues grow along this whole chain of added value and all those who claim “we need to complete construction of the rural roads,” I would tell, of course we need to complete all the projects on water and energy supply systems.” However, how are we supposed to complete and deliver all these projects? We would be able to complete them if we increase the state budget and local budget revenues. But how are we supposed to increase the state budget and the local government budget? We would increase revenues through all these related activities that generate more revenues for the state budget and the government redistributes them by investing in various public projects in view of the public services.

I probably took so long to explain all these, but taking notice of the attention this event attracts today, I took advantage to say that no one should worry about plans on construction of new airports and ports as they are the engines of economy. They boost the engine power of our economy. With the launch of this project and with the launch of work on construction of Saranda airport we are starting a series of new engines of the country’s economy. Through airport and port projects we boost the engine power of our economy and with the launch of this project and with the launch of Saranda airport project, we will practically establish a new system of engines for the Albanian economy, taking into consideration also the fact that we are now witnessing a drastic cut in flight ticket prices for travellers, and Albanian travellers in particular, at Tirana airport.

On the other hand, the new investment plan on the second terminal and runway extension will commence very soon and the project is designed to increase the airport’s hosting capacities this year, as the Minister said, confirming that the visitors influx has increased many times compared with the pre-pandemic visitor numbers in 2019.

It is also time for us to focus and launch investment in construction of the tourist port in Vlora as soon as possible, and its construction will hopefully kick off ahead of the New Year Eve, namely construction of the new port at Triport area, which will relocate entire commercial activity currently being handled at the Vlora port into a brand new and modern infrastructure, which will house fishing boats that need a port for years now; the new tourist port in Durres, which will bring about both an incredible transformation of economy and tourism quality, the new commercial or cargo port in Durrës, as the existing port will be relocated and a new port will be built and construction work will kick off soon as one of the largest architecture studio has been announced as winner of the tender; the tourist port in Saranda, where work is already underway and in the meantime we are working on the existing Saranda port, and we plan to transform and take the tourist port in Shengjin to a whole new level.

These are all ongoing projects and they are projects I believe, a good part of them, we will see finalized or nearing their completion within our third term in office.

I very much wish and hope that this rainfall and storm associating the launch of this project, finally underway, is an auspicious harbinger of prosperity for future of Vlora and, in the meantime, not only I would wish to believe, but I strongly believe through whole power of my mind and heart, this airport is a milestone project not only for Vlora, not only for Albania, but also for Kosovo and all Albanians.

I would wish Behgjet the best of luck, as luck is needed, because, as I already said, the objective reasons, not depending on our desire or our subjective work, postponed the start of the project, and that’s why I want to wish him and everyone else involved in this project starting today the best luck and every success.

Thank you for your presence and for taking the trouble to come here despite all the difficulties and bad weather. I know that thousands of Vlora residents would have joined us here should this was to be a sunny day, but this is not a big deal, because what matters most is the fact that they finally put us to work and they are now watching us on TV and as we head back home this evening I will receive the initial text messages like “will the airport open next week? “

Thank you!