Albanian parliament adopts controversial law on waste imports despite protests

By bne IntelliNews September 23, 2016

The Albanian parliament adopted a controversial law on waste imports late on September 22, without the support of the opposition and amid protests by environmental activists. 

The government hopes adoption of the law will help Albania’s recycling industry to develop, but environmental groups claim it will turn the country into a “garbage bin”. Albania currently struggles to deal with its own waste; less than 20% of waste is currently collected and recycled.

According to the government, the law is aimed at importing solid waste, which is not harmful to citizens’ health and is in line with the European Union’s standards.

Minister of Environment Lefter Koka told the parliament that the law will support the development of the recycling industry in the country, according to news provider Monitor.

The law on waste imports was initially adopted in 2011 by the government led by the now opposition Democratic Party, but was overturned by the current Socialist Party-led cabinet in 2013, before it entered into force. The  law has since been adjusted and expanded. 

However, there were signs of discord within the Socialist Party-led ruling coalition during the vote, which took place after a 12-hour parliament session. Just 63 MPs voted in favour of the law, with a number of members of the coalition not present. Meanwhile, there were 27 dissenting votes and the four MPs from the small right-wing Party for Justice, Integration and Unity (PDIU) abstained, Albania Daily News reported.

Dozens of environmental activists blocked the road in front of the parliament with rubbish bins during the vote. At one point they clashed with the police and continued to protest even after the law was adopted. They claim the law will turn the country into a garbage bin.

The leader of opposition Democratic Party Lulzim Basha was quoted by news provider Res Publica as saying that he would support holding a referendum on annulling the newly adopted law on waste.

"63 votes indicates that the law does not have the full support of the majority and I want to praise all those MPs from the ruling coalition who had the courage not the obey the political order to vote," Basha was quoted as saying.

The opposition also claims that the law, which will abolish the limits on waste coming from Europe, is criminal and that those who supported the law should be considered directly responsible for endangering the health of hundreds of thousands of Albanians, and soil, water and food in the country due to increasing quantities of waste that will arrive as a result of the law. 

Albania is considered to be one of the most polluted countries in Europe.

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