Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Club Med quits Albania resort, cites land problems

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Thomson Reuters

By Benet Koleka
TIRANA, June 16 (Reuters) - France's Club Mediterranee has quit a project to operate a holiday resort on Albania's Ionian coast after a prolonged dispute over the ownership of the site, a letter by Club Med revealed on Tuesday.
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The five-year old controversy over who owned the horseshoe shaped bay facing Greece's holiday island of Corfu illustrates the confusion over title to property in post-communist Albania, a tangled problem deterring investment.
The European Union, which expects Albania to break with its history with free and fair elections on June 28, has also urged it to solve the problem of disputed titles to attract foreign investors and meet the criteria for membership.
'There's no project for a Club Med in Albania,' Florence Le Gall, Club Mediterranee's director of regional development, wrote to villagers claiming ownership of the land at Kakome, near Sarande in southern Albania.
Chrystel Baude, a Club Med spokeswoman, confirmed the authenticity of Le Gall's letter.
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Club Med's withdrawal is a blow to Albania's efforts to attract Western tourists to its virgin beaches on the Ionian.
The project's developers and the government hoped the project would have put Albania, which closed itself off from the world for nearly 40 years after World War Two under Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha, on the map for mass tourism.
'The project is stopped for our part due to issues not yet resolved, and the ownership of the property is one of them,' Le Gall said.
Albania's Riviera firm started work there this year.

'We are no more under any agreement with the Riviera company. We are not aware at all of what is currently under construction or not on this site. So, please, stop sending e-mails about a non-existing project,' Le Gall told the villagers.

Le Gall's letter came shortly before an appeals court in Tirana ruled against the 129 families claiming ownership of the land at Kakome. The Albanian Riviera company says the land is public property and it has a 99-year lease.
Vladimir Kumi, one of the claimants and an elected regional chairman, had said they intended to appeal the ruling and take the matter to the supreme court.
The Riviera Company said it started work to build the seaside resort village after police broke the resistance of villagers and made several arrests in mid-January. No official was available for comment on Tuesday.

(Editing by Adam Tanner/Will Waterman) Keywords: CLUBMED ALBANIA/
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