Restored Bridge to Attract Tourists and Boost Local Economy

February 17, 2023

A 18th century bridge, once part of an old caravan route connecting Kruja and Tirana, was renovated under the EU-funded EU4Culture programme implemented by UNOPS in close partnership with the Ministry of Culture of Albania. The inauguration ceremony marking completion of the restoration works at the Kurcaj Bridge brought together Elva Margariti, the Minister of Culture of Albania, Alexis Hupin, the EU Delegation to Albania Chargé D’affaires, Artur Bushi, the Mayor of Kruja, Pamela Lama, the UNOPS Albania Country Manager and representatives of local community.

The bridge was damaged in the 2019 earthquake and restored under the EU4Culture programme funded by the European Union and implemented by UNOPS in close cooperation with  the Ministry of Culture of Albania.

In the absence of definite historical resources, scholars believe that the Kurçaj Bridge was built in the XVIII century, when many new bridges were built across Albania to connect major trade centers. It is located on the Zeza River in the village of Kurçaj. In 1984 the bridge was declared a national monument of the first category and is protected as a historical evidence of engineering achievements of its time. Today, the bridge is a historical and cultural heritage site connecting local hiking routes and can be visited on foot only.

“I thank the European Delegation for not giving up for a single second of all the challenges the program faced, despite the long bureaucratic procedures. As we have already finalized the restoration of churches, continuing with museums and bridges as living symbols of the entire Albanian cultural heritage, paying attention to the communities development and capacity building of professions in the restoration field” –  stated Minister of Culture, Elva Margariti during the inauguration ceremony.

“A few days ago we were again reminded of the tragedy that earthquakes can bring among the communities. But here we are also showing that there is a day after the tragedy, there is a day for showing resilience, reconstruction and this is why we wanted to be here together to mark the third anniversary of the donor conference that was held in Brussel on this day three years ago after the earthquake that hit Albania. We are proud to work with the government of Albania and with our implementing partner UNOPS who deployed the largest ever programme for culture and reconstruction in the Western Balkans. Along the principle of “Building Back Together” and “Building Back Better’’ we hope that actually this opportunity will offer a chance for the community to demonstrate and show the beauty of this landscape but also for more economic development” – noted the EU Delegation to Albania Chargé D’affaires, Mr Alexis Hupin.

“As UNOPS, a United Nations agency specializing in procurement, in major infrastructure projects, in financial and project management, we are proud to be selected as a trusted partner for this amazing project. We restored and gave this bridge back to the community, enabling tourists to visit and enjoy this amazing area of the country which is not well known. We really hope that we can also boost the local economy through this intervention. This is one of the 24 sites that we are revitalizing through the EU-funded EU4Culture project implemented by UNOPS in Albania” – underlined Pamela Lama, UNOPS Country Manager. 

“We thank all the stakeholders who made the restoration of this damaged bridge possible. For us it is another site that increases income opportunities for the community. We will soon asphalt the road from the center of the village to this bridge, which will make it easier for residents and tourists to get to this area. Thank you!” – said Artur Bushi, Mayor of Kruja.

The EU4Culture project is funded by the European Union (EU) and is implemented by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in close partnership with the Ministry of Culture of Albania. It focuses on renovation and revitalization of major cultural heritage sites damaged by the earthquake and represents one of the largest cultural heritage programmes funded by the European Union with a total budget of € 40 million. In parallel, the EU4Culture aims to enhance Albania’s tourism potential, thus directly contributing to local and regional socio-economic recovery. To that aim, special focus is given to innovative technologies, including digital story-telling and creation of multimedia products designed to be accessible for all. Additionally, the project is supporting local entrepreneurship, artisanship and cultural initiatives evolving around selected sites through the allocation of grants, providing a direct boost to the local economy.