Montenegro, ex concentration camp could become resort

Government plans to transform Mamula, vote expected

28 December, 17:14

    (ANSAmed) - TRIESTE, December 28 - Montenegrin Parliament is expected to vote today for the second time about the longterm lease contract for Mamula fortress, which sees Swiss-Egyptian company Orascom as the leader of the project to transform this former concentration camp into a luxury tourism resort. The Austro-Hungarian fortress, located on an uninhabited island at the entrance to the Bay of Kotor (UNESCO), was used as a war prison during the Second World War, when the area was under occupation of Mussolini.

    Since the majority of the prisoners were locals, many find that a luxury resort is not the best solution for preserving the fortress, where locals would prefer to see a museum in full respect of its history. (It is estimated that at least 130 were killed or starved to death, while over 2,300 were imprisoned at Campo Mamula between the spring of 1942 and autumn of 1943.) On top of a harsh public debate, a voice against the Orascom project came even from Butros Butros Gali, former Secretary General of the United Nations, in a letter he sent to the president of the Montenegrin Parliament Ranko Krivokapic, in which it was stated that it was "surprising that the only solution to enhance the fortress seems to be a mere economic agreement". The letter was also signed by Federico Major, former Director General of UNESCO and other prominent international figures, who proposed the alternative of transforming the island into a centre which would host important peace negotiations and world leaders' meetings.

    For their part, the investor and the government promised that the project would fully respect the island's history, as it includes a memorial room for the victims, even though there is no mention of this in the official presentation of the project available on the website mamulaisland.com.

    The duration of rental period of 49 years - too long according to opposition - is among the contested elements of the contract, together with the yearly rent fee of only 1.5 euros per square meter (equaling to only 4000 Euros per month for the 30 thousand square meters island, including a fort officialy registered as a monument). The daily amount of a vegetables market stall in Podgorica, is twice more expensive than the yearly rent of the entire island, emphasized the representatives of Podgorica-based non-profit organization, MANS. According to the Government, the low rental price is justified given that the contract, signed with Orascom in February, requires the investor to pour in 15 million Euros into a resort unique in its kind, consisting of 23 rooms, 2 restaurants, a spa, a beach club and a mini-marina for yachts.

    This will be the second Skupstina vote about Mamula, as the Government failed to achieve the necessary majority by only two votes last July. The vote of Djukanovic's party coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SDP), will be of crucial importance, since in recent months, SDP entered in a dispute with Djukanovic's (DPS), undermining the Government's ability to obtain majority.

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