Presentation ceremony of the new tourist port in Durres. Remarks by Prime Minister Edi Rama and Muhamed Alabar, founder of the Dubai-based Emaar Group, the project investor:
Prime Minister Edi Rama:
Good evening everyone!
An Albanian saying has it that rain is bountiful and rewarding. I don’t know Mohammed, if you know what “bereqet” is. So, this is bereqet. God is blessing our dream and your Project. I would like to thank you personally and your team for having worked so hard!
We are a dream team and we will succeed. It is for me very exciting, because this is a long-cherished dream and I have always wanted and we have made efforts to turn Durres’ waterfront into an attraction, but frankly speaking we never dared to go that far as to imagine that we could one day build the biggest tourist harbour in the Mediterranean right here in Durres and that for reasons each and every one of you knows.
We actually were seeking to build an adjacent tourist port here and we have contacted people and we have made a lot of efforts to attract investors.
The painful story of the investor who eventually left Durres and migrated to Montenegro was not really helpful. Peter Mang was the man who wandered around Albania for several years, persistently demanding to build a tourist harbour, but he failed to succeed and eventually gave up. Although he was confident this was the right place to build a new gate to the whole region, because not far away, just a few steps away lies the largest amphitheatre Romans have ever built outside Rome and it is an incredible attraction and a reason on its own to attract elite tourists, the sort of visitors that spend a lot once they dock at port and boost entire tourism industry through their spending, create new best-paying jobs, create entire networks and chains of value for the city and whole country.
Montenegro was totally transformed thanks to the Port of Montenegro. However, it looks like that daytime dreams come true one day and all it takes is determination to chase them.
Of course, between daytime dreaming and the dream fulfilment there is a half sea and you should be prepared to withstand all sorts of waves, surprises, cope with exhaustion and disappointment and keep moving ahead constantly and the dream fulfilment comes closer to coming true on a beautiful day, because nothing happens coincidentally.
It took the meeting with our precious and dear friend that cleared the path to this project implementation.
Today, this is not a design for us to unveil as a sort of an advertisement. This is just the postcard of a design that is being worked on by whole team and which is ready to commence its first phase with the area, where the existing port Durres borders with the Durres beach area, precisely where, as you all know, that is littered with garbage, ruins, thorns and nothing else.
It is for me a very exciting moment, also for the fact that while attending this presentation I recalled the story of my great-grandfather from Durrës, who was the son of the director of customs administration here. My great-grandfather, being a man involved in the then patriotic movements, being a man involved in the efforts to build and open Albanian language schools, he considered my grandfather the man who he would pass on the torch and dispatched him to attend university in Italy and it was precisely this port where he showed up together with my great-grandmother and others to welcome the son who was returning back home to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
The boy got off the ferry while driving an Alfa Romeo car. It was actually quite a handsome Alfa Romeo car and his father was taken aback and bewildered at figuring out the money he had actually send to support his son’s education was used to buy a car. He came back home and lived here to work as driver in Durres, because he was crazy about cars and he was not interested in studying at all. But, his Alfa Romeo blare loud noises, yet it was very famous in the city. Few weeks after returning back home – he used to tell – he got a slap in the face as soon as he took his car on the road and was yelling here ‘this is my car” as his father realized his money was used to buy the car.
He was then summoned by Durres Mayor, who told him: “You have to choose between two options, either work as my driver by using your car, or you should leave Durres together with your car, because I can’t stand the fact that the Mayor has an old and uglier car than yours.” He replies he was ready to work for him and this way he became the Durres Mayor’s driver and he worked also as driver of heavy truck used to construct roads, because he was really crazy about cars.
And on an independence day event, with the King Zog hosting an Independence Day cocktail, the attendees also included Durres Mayor, who arrived at the King’s residence with an unusual car regarding the then standards for the taxpayers and His Highness scolds him:”Don’t you feel ashamed about coming to the Independence Day event by this car. This is the way you are spending the taxpayers’ money?” “No, your Highness, this is my driver’s car.” Send for your driver now – the King ordered him. His Highness tells him: “You will work as my driver with your car.” This is the way how he became the King’s driver and he remained a car enthusiast during his lifetime and I as a child had a grandfather who talked about cars only and there is nothing more fantastic than being a child and having your grandfather talking about cars only.
Of course, there were no iPads or iPhones back then and one couldn’t gen of a Ferrari to engage in online car races like my son Zaho does today, but my grandfather was definitely a source of great inspiration for the idea of speed and movement.
This is a nostalgia I naturally experience when thinking I am today here for something that my great-grandfather, my grandfather and all my ancestors and definitely everyone else living at that time – and Durres back then had a population with an Italian lifestyle, a city bearing the hallmark of the influence from the world across the sea – they would have been extremely proud that Durres, thanks to this project and investment, is being prepared to move to a whole new level.
Durres is designed to become a port offering a various range of opportunities and Mediterranean attractions. Durres is finally becoming the largest gate of the Albanian tourism, a port where everyone would want to come and dock at. All the sailing enthusiasts, all yacht owners, those who spend summer aboard their vessels and all those who like to embark on voyages round the world, they would definitely want to experience new things and visit Durres.
This is really a reason to feel very inspired, very motivated, and determined to take to ultimately finalize this dream which, from a 3D design, will become a reality right here in the next four, five or six years. Right here where one will no longer see containers, cranes, no more scrap, where there will no longer be coal, chrome, where there will be no more pollution, but there will be a new life that pulsates and will be the heart of Albanian tourism and not only that, but Durrës will turn into a great added force of to the Albanian economy.
Durres will return to the point where it was, the place where the then few ships used to berth and the trade hub, exactly to the place where all the ships of nowadays will come and all the maritime trade will take place for the whole area on our eastern or northeastern flanks of the region where we live.
Durres as the Balkan’s trade gate is an expression we have been hearing all the time, a dream we have shared in our lifetime and this is the day that marks the transition from a dream to the reality. Walt Disney used to say: “The difference between the dream and the reality is the project’s date.” And today we have a project and a deadline between our dream and the reality.
We have already embarked on the path of fulfilling our dream and transforming all what we have been dreaming about into a tangible reality. The good news is that the man who is presenting himself through this projection screen fabric, showing our dream via images, and his not someone with a lot of cash, but he is someone who has always delivered on what he is showing here through similar project in Dubai, the so-called Dubai Tourist Harbour, a former desert turned into the world’s magnet.
So, it is not an investor coming to simply invest some money here, but he is an investor quite aware that every single euro he would invest here will serve to build what we already saw and which means this is an undisputable guarantee that what you see on the projection screen will become a reality in the next four, five or six years. We will be sitting along those promenades and beaches, enjoying this spectacle of the man’s power to make the dream come true.
This is a source of energy for the whole area. All the facilities due to be built in this port will be reflected in the economy and revenues of all of those who have built their hotels along the beach, who have courageously invested to build their future and still fight and resist, keep dreaming and working hard. The value of their properties and everything they have invested in will significantly increase thanks to the new tourist harbour, just like it will be the case with the properties not only in Durres, but in the whole area, just like it will be the case with the value of properties in Kruje and Shijak, just like impact will grow also in a wider region.
The 2-billion euros investment will significantly impact structure of our tourism industry. Our nascent tourism industry will move to a whole new level thanks to this investment. We have seen such investments taking place in Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia and in all countries with a long tradition, as they were open to the world. When people were sent to prison for listening Celentano here, Croatia and Slovenia had nudist beaches.
This is set to be the largest harbour, but not the only one. We will open four gates along our coastline, from Adriatic to Ionian Sea. This is will definitely be the largest gate. I believe we will start constructing another tourist port in Vlora within June, while a new harbour is already being built in Saranda. So, three tourist harbours are in the process, whereas construction of a new tourist port in Shengjin will begin within 2023.
Four sea gates and four air gates. Kukes airport has completed. Vlora international airport is set to complete in the next three or four years and the same goes for Saranda airport. All these gates will attract more and more people, and will also serve to disseminate the news everywhere, telling the rest of the world how beautiful Albania is, how inviting and welcoming Albania is and that Albania has nothing to do with the stereotype created over the years as a dangerous for tourists.
This port won’t simply create new jobs, but it will also create a new generation of jobs. Once the construction work begins here, we will also kick off work to build the new vocational education school, which will be the fruit of cooperation with this company and it will deliver highest world education standards for hundreds and thousands of boys and girls, who would have to learn a range of trades in order to keep this huge engine of economy constantly on. This is set to be a place where life goes on 24 hours a day. This new generation of job position will mean highest-paying jobs or quality-jobs as Mohamed likes to call it.
I am convinced it would be undisputable that by having a package of investments available, which has its backbone, as well as other investments that form entire skeleton, we will transplant the today’s skeleton of the Albanian economy and implant a new much stronger skeleton to the Albanian economy. It is not tourism, ports and airports only, but also investments in energy will transform Albania into a net electricity exporter. In the meantime, Albania will diversify the green energy portfolio. In addition to the photovoltaic park already being constructed in Karavasta, the largest solar power facility in the region, construction of another photovoltaic park is expected to start in the area of Spitalle soon. The two are important engines of energy generation that add to our electricity generation portfolio. Skavica hydropower plant in Albania’s north, due to be constructed under the agreement with the United States government, and cooperation with one of the largest U.S. companies to make Vlora thermo power plant into a liquefied gas-fired plant under the same deal with the U.S. government, will make Albania a net electricity exporter.
Albania will no longer be rain-dependant for its electricity production and will no longer be forced to access foreign market for costly electricity imports. The country will also face no problems due to the torrential rains, when we are forced to open the dams’ gates to discharge water and flood agricultural land in lowland areas. Not a single drop of water will be wasted, but it will be stored in the Skavica dam. On the other hand, not a single cent will be used to purchase costly energy as Albania will become a net electricity exporter.
*Speech by Mohamed Alabbar:
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to first thank you all for joining us tonight. At the same time, your excellencies, I would also like to thank you for providing me the opportunity to do something special in Albania. I remember when for the first time I met his excellency, my dear brother and I remember you saying: “Mohamed, I want to uplift my people. I am a businessman, yet an emotional businessman and I was deeply moved by that, because I do business in many countries around the world, but I rarely meet people like you, where at the centre of everything are the people.
If we don’t uplift human life, their spirit, then we haven’t done our job, we are not successful. If we don’t train and teach thousands of young boys and girls most advanced technologies and the way how such massive projects would be implemented, then we have failed. But the good news is that I have been doing this for over 25 years. I have made quite valuable mistakes in my life. I already think I am stronger than ever so I want you to know that this will be done with a lot of love, with a lot of care but at the same time, when I see Albania, when I see the efforts of my dear brother the Prime Minister and all his people do by putting the soul there and how much work they do, it makes me even more enthusiastic to participate in this project because partners are needed to move forward.
I have visited Durrës once, twice, three times and in fact I was very upset because of the pollution caused by the existing port. We have to respect our people, we have to respect the environment, and we have to respect our children, because our children deserve something better. So by all these, I want to say that all these people, all these hotels that have fought, have worked hard all these years, I promise them, they are genuine heroes who have built the infrastructure in Durrës and have fought and worked so much despite so many obstacles. They will celebrate with us and I promise you the value of their properties will only go up. I have done it many, many times.
I visited Belgrade to inspect the project and all of a sudden someone told me this was the strangest station to be converted and already operational and he asked me: “Do you know what the value of these buildings is now?” No, I don’t know – I told him – but I strongly hope they all emerge winners, they all celebrate, because the value is 30% higher and not only. But the question is how to uplift all this chain of values. The same will be the case here. I promise that training of young people we will conduct under his excellency’s leadership will make them move forward and develop their skills.
This is a historic moment in my life, I believe in the life of Albania and I assure you that we will work hard, we will do the right things all the time to achieve this. It has to do with self-confidence. We want to have more and more trust and investment as well. We owe it to Albanians, and we owe it to the citizens of Durrës. I would avail myself of this opportunity to thank you very much for trusting me and I promise that I will do everything possible to become even better from what the video shows, to create something very valuable after all that what I learned myself with my team together I want to thank a lot and the team for that you saw. Thank you very much!
I would also like to take this opportunity to tell you that I hope that in the next few years you will see an increase in value. It is not very long, it is 4 or 4 and a half years but it walks very fast. With the support I have on the ground, I have no doubt we will move fast. Thank you very much and I wish you and your families all the best.