"Sunny Hill" with 16.9 hectares for 99 years in Bërnica, promises a 6 million investment

The grant of land for 99 years in Lower Bërnica for the "Sunny Hill" festival, which provoked clashes between the local and central government, has remained unchanged in the contract between the Municipality of Pristina and "Sunny Hill". The Mayor of the Municipality of Pristina, Përparim Rama, signed the contract based on the decision that did not pass the legality review. The works have started, the dates of the festival have been set and those who two years ago opposed it separately for the 99-year-old do not know anything

Excavators are preparing the space that at the end of July is expected to be filled with thousands of music lovers. After a one-year hiatus, the "Sunny Hill" festival will return, but now in a different location: in Bërnica te Poshtme, a village on the outskirts of the capital. The company "Sunny Hill" has made this possible through a contract with the Municipality of Pristina. Utilization of 99 hectares for up to 16.9 years, investment of 6.6 million euros in five years by the company and the possibility for the Municipality to use the space non-commercially for up to 60 days a year are the main points of the agreement.

The contract that has ended a long history of negotiations and clashes was signed between the mayor of the Municipality, Pëparim Rama, and Dukagjin Lipa, as a representative of the company "Sunny Hill".

But this agreement was made without examining the legality of the decision of the Municipal Assembly where it is based. The 99-year-old provision of plots has remained unchanged even though it was precisely this point that caused a stir two years ago. That's why it didn't pass the legality at that time. Now, even those who opposed it do not know anything about the details of the contract.

Collision points, again in the contract

There are two plots of 14 and 2.9 hectares owned by the Municipality of Pristina that have been leased for 99 years to the company that organizes the "Sunny Hill" festival. With very easy access to the Pristina-Mitrovica road, the space is being prepared for this year's edition, which was announced at the weekend to be held at the end of July. According to the contract for the use of the immovable property of the Municipality, the minimum investment value of the company for five years will be 6 million and 691 thousand euros. According to the contract signed on February 15 of last year, "Sunny Hill", in addition to organizing the festival, can also develop other activities within the property.

"'The Sunny Hill sh.p.k' is obliged to make available to the Municipality of Pristina the immovable property given for use for the organization of events...", it is written in article 60 of the contract. According to this document that KOHA has provided through access to public documents, the primary is the calendar of the company's activities, which must be made public by January 5, and the activities of the Municipality cannot be held 31 days before and 40 days after the festival. The municipality does not have the right to have tickets in its organizations and the events cannot have more than 20 people. Likewise, the Municipality can organize events of classical music, jazz and not festivals that can compete with the "Suny Hill" festival.

"Thirty (30%) of the profit from the income of other activities organized by 'The Sunny Hill sh.p.k' will belong to the Municipality of Pristina", it is written in the contract. According to the agreement, if the festival is not organized three years in a row, the property is returned to use by the Municipality. It is also mentioned in the agreement that the contract must be evaluated in accordance with the capital's development strategy and the same can be renewed every 25 years. According to this agreement, the company that has the property in use reports to the Municipality twice a year as long as it cannot mortgage the immovable property of the Municipality. On most of these points, when the festival was canceled in 2022 only to return a few days later, there were clashes.

Signature without approval of legality

In 2022, there was a big noise when the organizers of the festival, due to a dispute with the institution, warned that the edition of that year would not be held and that it would be moved to Tirana. The local government and the central government have been accused of the legality of the decision of the Municipal Assembly to give the property into use. Then, that same year, the festival held its edition in Germi, as in previous years. Also another edition in Tirana. But years ago "Sunny Hill" announced that there will be no edition as they are getting ready for 2024.

But the troubles between central and local government remain the same. According to the Law on Local Self-Government, the decisions of the Municipal Assembly are sent to the Ministry of Local Government Administration for review of legality. The decision of the Municipal Assembly of Pristina on May 15, 2022 had not passed the review of legality by the MLGA. The ministry had requested additional data. As a result, the contract for the use of the property was not concluded. But in 2023, based on the same decision of the Municipal Assembly, the legality of which was not approved, the mayor Pëparim Rama signed the contract with "Sunny Hill".

MLGA: "The Mayor of the Municipality of Pristina has not responded to the minister's letter"

KOHA has requested clarification from MLGA on this matter. According to this institution, the minister of the Ministry of Local Government Administration, Elbert Krasniqi, through the letter of 10.6.2022, addressed the mayor of the Municipality of Pristina, Përparim Rama, where he requested to reconsider the deadline for giving the property of the Municipality to " The Sunny Hill" LLC, but have not received any response from the Municipality of Pristina.

"Given that the mayor of the Municipality of Pristina has not responded to the minister's letter and from the public statement it is understood that 'The Sunny Hill' LLC has withdrawn from the festival, we as the Minister have suspended the process regarding the assessment of the legality of the decision no. 01-463/01-104027/22, dated 15.5.2022", is written in the response of MLGA.

When accusations broke out between the government and the opposition in the Municipality, one of the loudest was the head of Vetëvendosje councilors in the Municipal Assembly, Gëzim Sveçla.

He said that they are not aware that the mayor Rama has reached an agreement because they estimate that this issue still remains between the MLGA and the Municipality of Pristina.

"It has not passed the legality and this is the reason that the year that the decision was made in the Assembly, the festival was held in 'Gërmi'. Last year it was not held at all. We think that this issue has not yet passed the legal issues and remains to be discussed between the institutions of the central level, specifically the MLGA and the Municipality of Pristina", said Sveçla. According to him, the signing of the contract is a continuation of bad governance in the capital.

"This is due to the continuation of the actions of this government headed by Mr. Rama, who does not cry loudly for the decisions of the central level and decisions of the justice level. It means that he works on his own and best reflects the mindset that governs the Municipality of Pristina", he said. In 2022, the Minister of Culture, Hajrulla Çeku, was involved in the public debate on this issue.

He said that at that time it was only a joint effort and he was one of those who tried to ensure the continuity of "Sunny Hill" in Pristina and he is happy for this goal achieved.

"However, we do not have any communication or any information regarding the next edition and I cannot comment as I do not know what agreement has been concluded between 'Sunny Hill' and the Municipality of Pristina", he said.

The municipality of Pristina has not answered why it entered into a contract without passing the legality review and what is the public interest in concluding the contract.

And last year, the staff of "Sunny Hill" told KOHĖ that after the end of the festival, this space will also serve as a public park of the capital for entertainment and recreation, throughout the year, for all citizens.

"This will be a full investment made by 'Sunny Hill' in the service of our city and the permanent residence of the festival", the answer reads. According to the staff, the agreement was reached "with the relevant authorities and all comments and requests of all parties have been taken into account".

"The festival has already finalized all the plans for the start of the works and now the works will begin with increased dynamics to reach the new edition in a new space and ready for the new and extraordinary edition of 'Sunny Hill Festival 2024' '", is written in response. According to them, all parties now understand and agree that "Sunny Hill" has created the most important platform for the promotion of cultural tourism in Kosovo, has a tremendous impact on improving the state's image in the world, and creates direct benefits economic for the capital and the country in general.

"Therefore, in addition to overcoming objections from any party, we need even greater support in order to reach our full potential - to become one of the biggest festivals in South-Eastern Europe and to reaffirm that the 'Sunny Hill Festival' in Pristina is the destination that should not be missed during the summer of every year", the answer reads.

Last week KOHA was at the space where the works are being done. But, the staff has said that they currently have nothing to present and remain behind what they declared last year. Meanwhile, days later, the dates of this year's edition were announced, which are from July 25 to 28.