Last update: June 15th 2021
Last update: June 15th 2021
16th June 2021
Culture is OPEN with a few restrictions
On June 3, 2021, 10, 000 people including internationals, came together at UNUM music festival, which was the first international event to take place in Albania since the Covid-19 restrictions were enforced in March, 2020, marking the opening of such events in the country. Also, the Boeing Boeing theatre show from Çajupi Travelling Theatre started touring on May 24th, 2021 offering shows to rural areas in Albania. However, the Covid-19 restrictions had already began to loosen up during April, 2021 national election and voting month, and no cultural groups besides political parties were able to organize large gatherings while respecting rules and regulations. Currently, museums, galleries and parks are open in Albania, however masks and distancing are required indoors.
The most recent order by the Minister of Culture, Order Nr. 291 on May 10, 2021 on “The functioning and the responsibilities of the culture heritage and art institutions during the tourism summer season 2021” contains information for the period from May 10 until September 30, 2021 on the promotion of cultural values, arts and culture heritage and best quality services for visitors, including details on the opening hours of the public cultural institutions, museums, heritage parcs, castles, tickets, presentation, on-line updates, guides, etc. while respecting the recommended measures by the Institute of Public Health to limit the spread of Covid-19 for visitors and staff indoors and outdoors.
Following the decrease in Covid-19 infection cases and increase in vaccination, the Technical Experts Committee on Covid-19 announced on May 27, 2021 the “Gradual Plan of easing the restrictions”, removing the mandatory masks for outdoors, recommending physical distancing indoors, allowing for 30% capacity for indoor shows, etc. During the Covid-19 restrictions, the performing arts institutions, groups and organisations were, as the actress Eliona Thomaraj would say completely paralyzed, calling for attention and support from the Ministry of Culture. Even though the opening of theatre, cinema, etc. was good news, the private sector considered this an unfair situation as in relation to publicly funded institutions, they are more financially dependent on income from audiences.
Throughout the summer of 2020, fall and winter, the artists, institutions, and organizations cultural events continued online. The Albanian Ministry of Culture and its institutions organized several events, opera, theatre, etc. and emphasized a more digital focus by launching on December 2020, the yearly call for grants to organisations and individuals under the theme “The Future is in the Origins” on digital technology and culture and announced the Competition Winners on January 2021. On February 10, 2021 the Ministry of Culture supported the Online International Theatre, 20 participating teams, with the support of the Ministry of Culture, National Theatre, Tirana Municipality, and Raiffeisen Bank. While in Shkoder, the National Photography Museum “Marubi” opened its doors and season on January 11, 2021 to an exhibition by the Italian artist Armin Linke.
During the same time period, the artists, organizations, festivals, etc. faced an uncertain future. All projects, events, dreams were shut down. Financially, the freelance artists contribute 15% income tax per service contract to the Ministry of Finance, yet they receive no financial support from the government. The push and need for digital presentation made creatives look for new ways mainly digitally, but also looking at alternative outdoor small activities.. The Syndicate of the Artists as many others are still concerned for no increase in wages, no status for the artist, no new art laws, no fair distribution of copyright royalties, etc. On a press statement Arben Ahmetaj, the Minister of State for Reconstruction and coordinator for Albania 2030 National Plan, stated that there will be zero income tax on small businesses until 2029. However, the NGO culture sector has not received any financial support or relief from municipal taxes and other state obligations. Some NGO’s have already moved to a passive status, due to long inactivity and financial uncertainties.
In general, while many cultural activities and institutions were closed during the last 15 months, the Ministry of Culture continued throughout most of the time the restoration of sites, buildings, mosaics, and also the National Book & Reading Center continued their activities by supporting literary works and writers through various funds.
During Covid-19, Albanians mourned the loss of several artists, musicians, humorists, painters including Besim Tula, Kujtim Prodani, Fatmir Xhelilaj, Andrea Canaj, Enrik Çefa, Koço Devole, Guljelm Radoja, Arben Bajo, Mustafa Arapi, Guljelm Radoja, Muharrem Fejzo, etc. May everyone’s contributions always be remembered.
Thousands of music fans flock to Albania beach festival despite Covid, Laura Sharman, Evening Standard, UK https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/music-fans-unum-beach-festival-albania-covid-shengjin-b939438.html
 The travelling theatre Cajupi on Monday in Puke, by Julia Vrapi, Gazeta Sot, May 20, 2021 https://sot.com.al/kultura/boeing-boeing-i-teatrit-shetites-ajupi-ulet-te-henen-ne-qytetin-e-pukes–i442445
 Udhëzimi i Ministrit të Kulturës nr. 291, datë 10.05.2021,“Për mënyrën e funksionimit dhe përgjegjësitë e institucioneve të trashëgimisë kulturore dhe artit gjatë sezonit turistik veror 2021, në kuadër të sezonit turistik veror 2021” (https://kultura.gov.al/udhezimi-i-ministrit-te-kultures-nr-291-date-10-05-2021per-menyren-e-funksionimit-dhe-pergjegjesite-e-institucioneve-te-trashegimise-kulturore-dhe-artit-gjate-sezonit-turistik-veror-2021/
 Technical Experts Committee declares the plan on easing the restrictions, Ministry of Health and Social Protection, 27 May, 2021 https://shendetesia.gov.al/komiteti-teknik-i-eksperteve-shpall-planin-gradual-te-lehtesimit-te-masave/
 “The Artists: A professional artist can not stay without work for 14 months” by Julia Vrapi, Sot Newspaper, May 25, 2021, https://sot.com.al/kultura/artistet-nuk-mund-te-rrije-nje-artist-profesionist-14-muaj-pa-punuar-min-i443332
 The call opens for the cultural projects for the year 2021, Ministry of Culture, December 3, 2020 https://kultura.gov.al/njoftim-per-hapjen-e-projekteve-me-thirrje-2021/
 Announcing the Winners for the Cultural Projects, February 2021, https://kultura.gov.al/shpallen-fituesit-e-thirrjes-per-projekte-kulturore-2021/
 The International Online Theatre- 20 Competing teams, Ministry of Culture, Feb. 10, 2021 https://kultura.gov.al/zhvillohet-festivali-mbarekombetar-i-teatrit-online-20-trupa-ne-gare/
 National Photography Museum “Marubi” opens the season with an exhibition by Armin Linke, Ministry of Culture, January 11, 2021 https://kultura.gov.al/muzeu-kombetar-i-fotografise-marubi-hap-sezonin-me-ekspoziten-e-armin-linke/
 Art and Culture in the times of Covid, Blerina Goce, July 12, 2020, Gazeta Si, https://gazetasi.al/arti-dhe-kultura-ne-epoken-post-covid/
 Zero taxes for the small business until 2029, Prime-Ministry, Press release, https://kryeministria.al/en/newsroom/zero-tatim-fitimi-per-biznesin-e-vogel-deri-ne-2029/
4th June 2020
Cultural lockdown and developments
Based on Order nr. 132 (08.03.2020) “For the closing of public and non-public activities and cancellation of mass gatherings in open and closed spaces” by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, and the World Health Organisation protocol for planned measures after the identification of first two corona virus cases in Albania, all cultural activities in Albania were suspended. This was publicly announced by the Ministry of Culture on March 9th.
On May 4th, a few art spaces opened — for example Bunk’Art in Tirana — while maintaining physical distancing regulations, and on May 18th (International Museum Day) the Ministry of Culture opened most of the museums for free. Some cultural activities including most businesses, excluding large scale events, could be resumed for the first time after being closed for 71 days. During May, maintenance work on heritage sites continued in order to be ready for the opening by end of the month and the Ministry of Culture declared May the Museum Month. On May 28th, the National Art Gallery opened its doors to visitors as well and the Museum of Leaves opened a call for photo submissions for “Albania and Corona Exhibition- Your story is part of the history”, which documents and presents personal stories from Albanian citizens.
By the end of May, most museums, galleries, archeological and heritage sites, shops, and cultural centres are resuming their activities. On June 1st, National Kids Day, daycares opened, and the National Circus performed outdoors. At the same time, the National Opera and the National Theatre are continuing their online shows and international tourism remains a challenge for the summer.
The most internationally echoed culture news during the lockdown in Albania has been the demolition of the National Theatre in Tirana on May 17th. Europa Nostra “strongly condemned such a brutal act” and had listed the building as one of “Europe’s 7 most endangered heritage sites” in 2020. Since February 2018, civil society, experts, and professionals were concerned about changes to the Law on Arts and Culture regarding public private partnerships, and the possibility of replacing the National Theatre building with a new one. The civil Alliance for the Protection of the National Theatre, other organisations, diverse groups and individuals occupied the building for about 27 months, organising gatherings, meetings, exhibitions and performances until they were taken out by police forces on the day of the demolition.
Financial measures and support
Through normative acts and decisions by the Council of Ministers as outlined by the Ministry of Finance and summarized by AIDA – Albanian Investment Development Agency, the Albanian government made available the following:
Briefly, in reference to the documents, these measures include:
The deadline for submitting yearly financial reports has been postponed from March to July, 2020, applying to all cultural organisations and business. Also, income tax payment deadlines have been extended.
Financial benefits for self-employed individuals who have a yearly turn over above EUR 11.300. The financial support is EUR 210 euro, the minimum wage, and the unemployed and beneficiaries of economic support receive a double minimum wage, about EUR 420.
For businesses whose yearly income is EUR 114,164 (14 million Lekë) and whose activity was suspended in March and April due to corona virus, the rent for these two months will be paid after May, and as agreed with the lessor.
One payment support of EUR 322 for those working in businesses with a yearly income over EUR 114.164 if the business in question was closed during March-June, excluding those working in the NGO sector and some other categories, such as lawyers, architects, double employed, etc.
On March 24th, 54 civil society organisations demand financial support from the Albanian government. On April 21st, freelance artists and professionals also requested support for the cultural sector as they contribute 15% income tax per contract service. This category of workers does not have a tax number and such contributions are not yet individually identified in the system. The discussion about an economic support plan continued among 117 freelancers and the Ministry of Culture, but no details have been made public yet. In April, the Italian Institute of Culture in Tirana also opened a call to support artists during COVID-19 with the theme “Living Space”.
In May, the National Book Centre launched a call for support, open until June, with the theme “Quarantine Book”.
Due to travelling restrictions, organisations working with international artists were not able to continue their activities, including residencies and exhibitions. Artists increased their online presence by creating and sharing videos with performances, painting, reading, discussions, playing music, etc.
In an interview in late April, the Minister of Culture Elvana Margariti mentioned that during the closure of culture public institutions, there has been a loss of around EUR 218.142.
Culture during COVID-19
In March, the public cultural institutions quickly raised awareness through sharing the digital official information by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection on safety recommendations and regulations for COVID-19. There also was a strong digital promotion of artists and an increased dissemination of public cultural archives on social media.
On March 14th, the Ministry of Culture began promoting cultural initiatives mainly through social media. Examples are “Open the Windows, Let the Music in” and a series of digital meetings with all the Ministry’s subordinate institutions under the themes “Music from Home”, Music from the Window”, “Read at Home”, “Opera at Home”, “Opera in Pajamas” and many more. The National History Museum organised “Drawing History from Home”, the National Film Archive shared archived films for diverse age groups and the National Library promoted its digital library,.
All Albanian public cultural resources were highly promoted by the Ministry of Culture through virtual tours and digital resources. April was declared the Book Month and the Ministry engaged public institutions in digital events. The National Photography Museum Marubi shared coloring pages from their book, for anyone to use at home.