Albania to hold monthly car-free days as fuel crisis bites

Albania to hold monthly car-free days as fuel crisis bites
/ Clare Nuttall
By bne IntelliNews March 26, 2022

Albania will have a car-free day on the first Sunday of each month, Tourism Minister Mirela Kumbaro Furxhi announced on March 24.

The move was motivated by both environmental concerns and more urgently the need to reduce fuel consumption at a time when prices have risen sharply on international markets following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, sparking a series of protests across Albania. 

"From 3 April, the first Sunday of each month will be the beginning of a DAY WITHOUT CARS in the major cities of each county. If we can't turn the vehicle off all the time, at least make it on our days off and use our bike or walk. We immediately start coordinating with municipalities this national plan for saving, for the environment and for everyone's health,” Furxhi wrote on Facebook.

“With a day without cars in every district of Albania, not only do we save fuel and let the environment breathe; we also create space for activities dedicated to children because the city belongs to them. We start on April 3 and continue as a good tradition every month,” she added. 

The decision was made after Tirana was declared a car-free zone on the Nowruz holiday on March 22. 

As it depends on imports, Albania has been badly hit by the hike in international energy prices. It is an importer of car fuel; while it produces oil, the heavy oil is unsuitable for refining into car fuel and the country therefore relies on imports. 

Previously, Energy and Infrastructure Minister Belinda Balluku urged Albanians to save petrol too by walking rather than using their cars for short journeys, after sharply rising fuel and food prices sparked a series of protests in the country. 

Meanwhile, weather conditions mean that Albania, which produces almost all its electricity from hydropower, has been forced to import electricity as well. This is a result of both low precipitation and cool temperatures that have slowed the winter snow melt in the mountains. As well as announcing car-free days, Albania is cutting back on power use for street lighting and other public sector uses in an attempt to reduce the consumption of electricity.