Albania is a small country in the southeast of Europe. It forms part of the Balkan Peninsula, and is known for its natural beauty as well as an illustrious history that includes having been a communist state from the end of World War II until the early 1990s. These days, the Republic of Albania is trying hard to modernize many aspects of everyday life, and this includes its road network—an undertaking that can come with certain challenges as officials in the northern town of Kukes recently found out.
The opening of the country’s first modern toll road—a 110km highway linking Albania to neighboring Kosovo—was meant to be a proud moment for the government. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite go as planned. The project had been financed by an international consortium to the tune of over €1 billion (P64.2 billion). To recoup that kind of money, motorists now have to pay between €2.50 (P160) for a motorbike and €22.50 (P1,445) for a heavy truck to use the shiny new road, a fact that didn’t sit well with a lot of people in the area.
Albania is still quite a poor country, with the monthly minimum wage standing at a mere €160 (P10,000). So the relatively high toll fees enraged people so much that they promptly proceeded to not only protest against said fees, but also lay waste to the brand-new tollbooths in the process. The Balkan region can be quite complex in many respects, and it usually doesn’t take much for tempers to flare, as clearly demonstrated by the actions seen in a video taken from the scene. Needless to say, the government wasn’t best pleased with what happened, especially as 14 police officers were reportedly injured in the fracas.
Whether the violent protest will stop the charging of toll fees is questionable, but authorities have already indicated that cheaper rates for frequent users could be offered in the future, a measure that will hopefully prevent the place from being torched again when it reopens.