Shpend Ahmeti |Photo: BIRN.

Prishtina Mayor addresses rumors about ‘the yacht affair’

In an exclusive interview for Jeta ne Kosove, Shpend Ahmeti revealed the truth behind ‘the yacht photo’ and discussed the governing of Prishtina.

Last weekend, a photo of Prishtina Mayor Shpend Ahmeti on a yacht in Budva appeared on Kosovo websites. The yacht, local media claimed, belonged to Blerim Devolli, associated to one of the largest companies in Kosovo, the Devolli Group. The photo caused a furore, especially since Ahmeti’s party, Vetevendosje, purports itself to be the only corruption-free party in Kosovo.

In an exclusive interview with BIRN Kosovo’s television programme Jeta ne Kosove on Thursday, Ahmeti confirmed that the photo was real, and said he was on holiday with his family.

“There were various groups of people that I met during the day [in Budva]. After I had dinner with my wife I went to [the yacht] and in five minutes the news appeared on some website. I was invited to the yacht to have a drink and I didn’t ask who owned the yacht, or whom they bought it from. I went to have a drink because I cannot refuse even an invitation from Devolli,” said Ahmeti, adding that Blerim Devolli joined them later in the yacht, which was docked at the Budva waterfront and serving as a restaurant.

“I had a Coke zero, because I’m on a diet,” answered Ahmeti after being pressed about the details of the evening by Jeta Xharra.

Ahmeti claims this is an pre-election attack on him, but admitted that he should have been more careful.

“Citizens hold me to a higher degree of accountability. I am accountable if citizens think I made a mistake,” said Ahmeti.

Ahmeti was also questioned about his campaign promises and the extent to which they have been fulfilled. During his campaign in 2013, Ahmeti promised to stop all illegal constructions in the city.

However, the head of the Association of Architects Eljesi Surdulli claims that the urban development plan is not being respected in Prishtina’s newly constructed Mat neighborhood. According to Surdulli, planned green spaces were scrapped and the mandatory distance between buildings has not been respected either.

The Ministry of Spatial Planning and Environment also claims that the Municipality of Prishtina has failed to act according to a report of the Inspectorate of the ministry.

Ahmeti claimed that his municipality was only implementing the Regulation Plan ratified in 2013, before he came to power.

“When I came to power there were 46 construction sites without permits and I stopped them,” said Ahmeti. “In 2013 the Kosovo Assembly passed the law on construction, which does not permit the change of Regulation Plans and the Urban Development Plan, ratified [for Prishtina] by LDK [the Democratic League of Kosovo, which was in power] in 2013. Every municipality needs to draft a zoning map to be able to make changes,” Ahmeti explained.

Ahmeti also discussed pollution, with air quality reaching ‘hazardous’ levels according to the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, measurements at the US Embassy in Kosovo. He said the air was “good” now and that the new buses, which were launched in February, contributed to the reduction of pollution.

31/03/2017 - 13:03

31 March 2017 - 13:03