Flights at TIA are back/ Three controllers arrested for abuse of office

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times April 8, 2021 18:07

Flights at TIA are back/ Three controllers arrested for abuse of office

After the strike of air traffic controllers against pay and staff cuts, the crisis created with the block of all the inbound and outbound flights from Tirana International Airport has come to an end. In the afternoon, it was announced that the essential flights would return from today at 3:00 PM, while the commercial flights would return from tomorrow. “This difficult and extraordinary situation has made us realize that it was an organized plan to have a block until the elections, but the data have been taken to make an even more in-depth verification of the situation,” said the Minister of Infrastructure Belinda Balluku while announcing the return of the essential flights at TIA.

During the day, the State Police arrested three controllers who are suspected to be the organizers of the strike. The three controllers were part of a group of 24 controllers escorted during the night by the police after the Tirana Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation on the episode. While the three controllers are accused of abuse of office, the lawyer of the controllers, Rezart Kthupi, said that the accusation of abuse of office applies only to workers of the public administration and not to a company that does not depend on the state.

According to the government, the strike held by the 65 air traffic controllers from Albcontrol has risked Albanian national security. Earlier in the day, the Minister of Defence Peleshi announced that other controllers from Albania or abroad can take the lead of the Albanian air traffic. "The Civil Defense Committee, composed of several ministers, has taken a three-point decision. The first point charges the Minister of Infrastructure and Energy to take the necessary measures to enable the return to work, even by replacing the controllers, whether from outside Albania or inside; determine the licensing criteria to resume flights as soon as possible and do what is necessary for the gradual resumption of work,” said Peleshi, who yesterday considered the airport “a strategic object of special importance for national security.”

From last night, the Armed Forces have taken the control of the building of Albcontrol at Tirana International Airport. So far, it is still unclear who will be the air traffic controllers in charge of the operations, although according to some media reports a group of Turkish controllers has arrived in Albania to assist the whole process. The strike started after the controllers opposed the change of the employment contract, which has led to the halving of their monthly salaries, and for that reason, they have stated their inability to continue the activity due to stress. While Minister Balluku considered it “a coup”, Prime Minister Rama accused former PM Sali Berisha and President Meta of being the orchestrators of the strike for political reasons. "Ilir, I have bad news for you: Vaccines are coming today and flights will resume normally tomorrow! Your plan with Sali to block the vaccination […] on the eve of the elections failed!” wrote Rama on Twitter after the announcement that the flights would return at TIA.

At the other hand, President Meta requested a full audit of Albcontrol, based on the latest situation created by the strike. Yesterday the President invited the controllers to remain in office without interruption, to fulfill their mission in guarantying the proper functioning and without any problems of the Albanian air traffic. Meanwhile, according to the leader of the opposition Lulzim Basha, the strike at TIA was just another example of the failure of the state, “what is happening with the airport is nothing but the next failure of a man who has put his interests above the interests of every Albania,” declared Basha.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times April 8, 2021 18:07