Albania: Tirana

Albania gained independence from the Ottoman empire in 1912. It moved its capital from Durres (formerly Durazzo) on the coast to Tirana, 25 miles inland, in 1920. The British legation was the last to move from Durres to Tirana. Although successive British ministers started to press for the move in 1928, the legation remained until 1939 in Durres, where it was in a leased house on Rruga Tomorica, described (by D R Oakley Hill) as ‘a fine, solid comfortable house, with its bulwark of Venetian wall,’ unmatchable by anything in Tirana.


In 1938, the Office of Works bought a site belonging to a Mr Saraci, a former minister of public works, with an unfinished building on it, on which it resumed construction work early in 1939. The contractor was a Mr A Motta. Work on site was interrupted when the Italians invaded Albania a few months later but was mainly completed before diplomatic relations ceased and the minister was withdrawn from Durres in June 1939. He was briefly succeeded by a consul-general who transferred all his consulate’s official and private effects to storage in the newly-completed building in Tirana before he evacuated, leaving the building in the care of Mr Motta. A British Military Mission arrived in Tirana in March 1945 but was gradually frozen out and withdrew in 1946: it is unclear whether it occupied the villa built for the legation, which was confiscated by the Albanian government (and called Villa 30).

Diplomatic relations were resumed over fifty years later, with a non-resident ambassador at Rome, after the Cold War in 1991. A chargé d’affaires arrived in Tirana in 1992, and shared premises with the French embassy until 1995, when he moved to an unsatisfactory house on Vasho Pasha Street while discussions continued about retrieving the confiscated Villa 30 for the embassy’s occupation. This was hardly realistic, because it was now much too large a building having been extended by the Albanian government, but the discussions paved the way for the acceptable alternative offer, made towards the end of 1994, of Villa 6, which was about to be vacated by the European Community Monitoring Mission. When it was vacated in summer 1995, a claimant asserted title to Villa 6, which claim the Albanian courts rejected in spring 1996. With the property claim thus settled, the chargé d’affaires was upgraded to resident ambassador and Villa 6 became the British government’s property.

By then, however, the mission had moved into another (leased) villa, Villa Pali at 12 Rruga Skenderbej, which had formerly been a Palestine Liberation Organisation office. It was potentially preferable to Villa 6 for long term embassy offices. The newly-acquired Villa 6 was therefore leased to others while 12 Rruga Skenderbej was improved and enlarged by the contractor Orostream in 2001-2. In 2002 Villa 6 was exchanged for the freehold of Villa 55, adjacent to the offices on Rruga Skenderbej, and on which a new residence was built in 2005. [designed etc by who?][?still the position]


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