TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania on Tuesday signed a contract with a Swiss-based consortium to build a 104 million-euro ($125 million) new international airport.
Lugano-based Mabco Constructions will make preparatory work, environmental, archaeological and other paper work in about two years and then complete the new airport in 36 months.
The Vlora International airport will be located 150 kilometers (90 miles) southwest of the capital, Tirana, close to the Narta Lagoon and the Vjosa River.
It will have a 3.2-kilometer (2-mile) runway and is planned to be able to handle up to 2 million passengers a year.
It will also offer aircraft maintenance services, which are not currently available in the tiny Balkan country.
The consortium has a 35-year concession to operate the airport.
Prime Minister Edi Rama said the airport will promote tourism and economic development, making Albania “a country where the number of tourists, visitors will increase exponentially.”
Rama praised Behgjet Pacolli, an ethnic Albanian businessman from neighboring Kosovo, the main funder of the consortium, as the person “found at the right place, at the right time to make something fantastic for Albania.”
Conservation groups had asked the government to scrap the project, saying it would seriously damage the country’s western wetlands in the protected area of Vjose-Narta.
Albania has the Tirana Mother Teresa International Airport near the capital and last week inaugurated the Kukes International Airport in the northeast, which will handle low-cost flights. The country plans to build another airport in the southernmost district of Saranda.
The Albanian Infrastructure Ministry has said that air traffic in Albania fell 57% during the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Albania expects to start full membership negotiations with the European Union, likely this year.