Albania President Green-Lights Waste Referendum

President Bujar Nishani set Tuesday December 22 as the day when a historic referendum on trash imports will be held, the first such grassroots initiative in Albania.The referendum request had been spearheaded by a group of activists, environmentalists and intellectuals, who collected more than 64,000 signatures in order to annul two articles of a law that allows waste imports into Albania.

The signatures, collected by the Alliance Against Waste Imports, AKIP, were certified by the Central Electoral Commission, which requires 50,000 signatures for a referendum, and the legality of the request was approved by the Constitutional Court.

Arguing that Albania’s nascent recycling industry could not survive on the proceeds of domestic waste alone, in November 2011 the government approved a bill allowing some waste to be imported into the country so long as it conformed to a so-called “green list” of 55 materials.

Following approval of the law, activists joined forces and formed AKIP to condemn the change to the law and to demand a referendum on the issue, arguing that by allowing in such imports Albania was turning itself into the garbage can of Europe.

The December 22 poll will be the first referendum in Albania’s history called by voters. The only two referendums held since the collapse of the Communist regime of former Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha in 1991 were meant to approve Albania’s constitution.

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