By LLAZAR SEMINI – Associated Press
TIRANA, Albania (AP) — An international music festival founded by the father of singer-songwriter Dua Lipa to promote his native Kosovo has drawn recriminations for the small European country after losing the event to the neighboring Albania.
The Sunny Hill Festival debuted in Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, in 2018 and took place again in 2019, bringing artists like Miley Cyrus, Calvin Harris, Martin Garrix and Action Bronson to one of the nations most young and poorest in Europe. British-born Dua Lipa was also a star headliner.
Dukagjin Lipa, the singer’s father and manager, said the festival brought invaluable publicity to Kosovo, including coverage in more than 500 international media. The event has been suspended in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He is expected to return this summer, but Lipa said on Tuesday evening that “after a long wait, many efforts, requests” he had made the “difficult but necessary” decision to stage the August 4-7 event in the Albanian capital, Tirane. He said that a political dispute between the ruling party in Kosovo and the ruling party in Pristina had prevented the organizers from obtaining permission to hold the festival.
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He and the other festival directors had spent three years trying to convince the national government to allow them to run a 17-hectare (42-acre) park and build the proper infrastructure for the annual festival. They also did not receive permits for the August festival.
The mayor of Pristina, Perparim Rama, of the opposition Democratic League of Kosovo, was in favor of the organization of the music festival. He accused the national government, which is led by the Self-Determination Movement!, of delaying the decision and trying to change the city council’s decision.
Kosovo Culture Minister Hajrulla Ceku said the hold-up resulted from festival organizers asking for a 99-year lease. The government could not rush into such an agreement, and “the decision-making process needs time to be thorough and not misguided or abusive,” Ceku said.
Lipa, however, attributed the delay to a power struggle between the ruling self-determination movement! and the Democratic League of Kosovo came “at the expense of the festival and the usefulness it creates for the image of the state and the values that its society represents”.
However, the festival movement was not well received by people in Kosovo. Another opposition party, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, demanded the resignation of the government which “lost a festival that would promote Kosovo”, said Besnik Tahiri, a senior party official.
Tirana Mayor Erjon Veliaj told The Associated Press that his government immediately offered the Albanian capital “as a replacement with the aim of keeping the international festival in a major Albanian city.” Ethnic Albanians make up the majority of Kosovo’s population.
As proof that the Summer Hill Festival is in the right place, the mayor noted that the European Union has named Tirana EU Youth Capital for it. He also named several prominent figures of Albanian descent, from the late comedian John Belushi to the late Mother Teresa, now known as Saint Teresa of Calcutta.
“Dua Lipa and her festival do just as much, if not more, to promote a nation that punches above its weight,” Veliaj said.
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