From Concentration Camp to Luxury Resort
Montenegro’s plans to transform a dilapidated Austro-Hungarian fortress island into a resort, while preserving its heritage, provoke a growing backlash.
When Montenegro announced plans to transform a dilapidated Austro-Hungarian fortress island into a resort, while simultaneously preserving its heritage, no doubt it did not expect a backlash. Of course, the fortress-island in question, Mamula, also served as a WWII concentration camp so perhaps the authorities should have anticipated trouble. Now this is a relevant discussion to have, especially because in our part of Asia, we have our own troubled history with the wounds of wars and dictators past. In the example of Mamula island, the Montenegro government leased out the uninhabited island to Swiss-based Orascom Development Holding AG for 49 years. The hope was that the 15 million euro project would create 200 local jobs and pay for the preservation of the site, which might be the only island-fort built by the Austro-Hungarian Empire of old. However, even before the final plans were submitted to authorities, the local residents – some of whom are descendants of those held prisoner on Mamula – have protested this development, according to this report. Clearly there are two sides here with valid points of view but it appears to boil down to a choice between preserving the Mamula in some form (as promised by Orascom) or leaving it to disintegrate under the weight of time.