Violent protest erupts over Albania’s first toll road

Violent protest erupts over Albania’s first toll road
The protest over the new tolling system on the Durres-Kukes motorway quickly got out of control. / GRANIT MUSTAFAJ
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje April 2, 2018

Albanian police arrested 23 people for violence against police officers during the protest against the first toll road in Albania in the northern town of Kukes on March 31.

The Durres-Kukes motorway, which will link Albania to Kosovo, is set to become the first toll road in Albania starting from April 15, and the test system has been already launched. However, the plans to start charging motorists to use the road have angered local communities and opposition activists, as well as Kosovan companies who use the road to trade with Albania.

Protestors gathered on March 31 on the motorway that leads to Kosovo, also known as Nation's Road, to express their anger against the toll which according to many is too high at €5 for vehicles and €22.5 for trucks.

However the protest got out of control and the protesters pelted police officers with stones and burned down the toll booths.

After the violent protest, according to protestors, police entered their houses during the night to arrest them, after cutting electricity off in the entire area and acted violently, Tirana Times reported.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said that the protest was held due to “disinformation".

The leader of the opposition Democratic Party Lulzim Basha urged the authorities to release those arrested and to remove the tariff.

The Durres-Kukes motorway connects Albania’s biggest Adriatic port of Durres with the northern city of Kukes, and leads to the Morine border crossing with Kosovo.

Ahead of the launch of the toll system, around 50 construction companies from Kosovo also decided to boycott the road. The Kosovo Economic Chamber (KEC) is mulling the idea of filing a complaint to the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg over the toll, while the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce says that increasing charges on the main road linking the two countries will impede trade

According to the Albanian infrastructure ministry, the toll will be used for road maintenance.

The concessionaire of the Milot-Morine section, which is part of the Durres-Kukes motorway, is United Arab Emirates-based Catalyst Viva Das General Contracting.