By Lazar Cimini – The Associated Press
TIRANA, Albania (AP) – An international music festival founded by the father of singer-songwriter Dua Lipa to promote his native Kosovo has led the tiny European nation to trade accusations after it lost the event to neighboring Albania.
The Sunny Hill Festival debuted in Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, in 2018 and held again in 2019, bringing artists such as Miley Cyrus, Calvin Harris, Martin Garrix, and Action Bronson to one of Europe’s smallest and poorest countries. British-born Dua Lipa also made headlines.
Dukajen Lipa, the singer’s father and manager, said the festival brought invaluable publicity in Kosovo, including coverage in more than 500 international media outlets. The event has been suspended in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He is set to return this summer, but Lipa said late on Tuesday that after “a long wait, many efforts and requests”, he had made the “difficult but necessary” decision to organize the August 4-7 event in Albania’s capital, Tirana. He said that the political dispute between the ruling party in Kosovo and the ruling party in Pristina prevented the organizers from obtaining permission to hold the festival.
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He and other festival directors have spent three years trying to persuade the national government to allow them to manage 17 hectares (42 acres) of parkland and build the appropriate infrastructure for the annual festival. They also did not receive permits for the August festival.
Pristina Mayor Berbarim Rama, of the opposition Democratic League of Kosovo party, favored the music festival. He accused the national government, led by the Self-Determination Movement!, of delaying the decision and trying to change the decision of the city council.
Kosovo’s Minister of Culture, Hajarullah Seko, said the disruption was caused by the festival’s organizers seeking a 99-year lease. Sekou said the government could not rush into such an agreement, and “the decision-making process needs time to be complete and not wrong or abusive.”
But Lipa attributed the delay to a power struggle between the ruling self-determination movement! The Democratic League of Kosovo came “at the expense of the festival and the benefit it creates for the country’s image and the values that its society represents”.
In both cases, the festival movement did not get along well with the people in Kosovo. Pesnik Taheri, a prominent party leader, said another opposition party, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, had demanded the resignation of the government, which “lost a festival that would strengthen Kosovo”.
Tirana’s mayor, Ergun Filia, told The Associated Press that his government immediately offered Albania’s capital “as an alternative in an effort to preserve 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 designated Tirana as the EU Youth Capital for this purpose. He has also named many dignitaries 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, in promoting a nation beyond its own weight,” said Veliage.
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