30 Apr 15
Montenegro MPs Block Resort Plan for Old Fort
A plan to offer the Mamula fort on a long-term lease to a Swiss company to turn into a hotel has failed to win the support of a parliamentary committee in Montenegro.
A parliamentary committee on Wednesday refused to support government plans to lease out the island of Lastavica and the Mamula fort in Boka Bay, which opposition parties have slated as a corrupt deal.
The proposal to offer the Austro-Hungarian fortress to a private firm to turn into a luxury tourist complex received the support of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists.
However, the opposition, which at the session on Wednesday had a majority, voted against the idea.
Opposition MP Nebojsa Medojevic accused the government of “donating part of the territory of Montenegro” to foreigners to build private villas.
“Such a deal contains all the elements of corruption and proclaiming every foreigner a ‘strategic investor’ has already cost us a lot,” Medojevic said.
After nine months of negotiations, the Tourism Minister, Branimir Gvozdenovic, and the Swiss-based Orascom company in February signed a contract for the long-term lease of the island, including the fort.
The contract was for a 49-year lease and included an obligation for Orascom to invest 15 million euro. The Swiss company plans to reconstuct Mamula fort into a five-star hotel with 23 rooms, a spa, marina, heliport, swimming pool and casino.
Under Montenegrin law, however, such contracts must obtain prior approval in parliament.
The fort on Lastavica island, located at the entrance of the Bay of Kotor, near the coastal resort of Herceg Novi, was built by Austria-Hungary in the 19th century. It was used mainly as a prison during both World Wars.
For years, the fort served as a memorial monument, attracting thousands of visitors every summer.
The opposition has accused the government of treating the nation’s cultural heritage as market goods.
An influential watchdog, MANS, welcomed the committee’s decision, saying that if the agreement was adopted in the form in which it was signed, the state would get only 48,000 euro a year in income from the lease, which was too little.
“That is far less than the lease amount that the state is asking for a local beach in Budva,” MANS commented.
Some environmental organizations and an association of citizens also criticized the plan to rent out the historic monument.
The Association of Boka said that no one was against the reconstruction of the memorial complex, where more than 2,000 locals were detained during WWII, but the fort deserved better than being turned into a hotel with a casino.
Last summer, thousands of people from Montenegro’s coastal areas protested for several days, after the plan to rent out the fort was first revealed.
Source: Balkan Insight (Montenegro)