Erion Veliaj

Erion Veliaj (born December 17, 1979) is an Albanian politician, who is currently serving as the 42nd Mayor of Tirana. Stemming from a civil society activism organization as the leader of MJAFT!, Veliaj joined the ranks of the Socialist Party of Albania in 2011, when he was appointed Secretary for Youth and Immigration.

Erion Veliaj
Erion Veliaj (1) (cropped).jpg
42nd Mayor of Tirana
Assumed office
21 July 2015
Preceded byLulzim Basha
Minister of Social Welfare and Youth
In office
15 September 2013 – 30 April 2015[1]
Preceded bySpiro Ksera
Succeeded byBlendi Klosi
Prime MinisterEdi Rama
Personal details
Born (1979-12-17) 17 December 1979 (age 42)
Tirana, Albania
Political partyG99 (2008–2010)[2]
Socialist Party (2010–present)
Residence(s)Tirana
Alma materGrand Valley State University,[3] University of Sussex
Signature

Previously he has served as a Member of the Parliament for the district of Gjirokastër and as Minister of Social Welfare and Youth under Prime Minister Edi Rama.[4] In April 2015, Veliaj was appointed as mayoral candidate of the Socialist Party in the city of Tirana. He won the elections and took office on July 31, 2015.

Personal life and educationEdit

Erion Veliaj was born on December 17, 1979, in Tirana, Albania. His father Luan Veliaj served as an officer in the Albanian Army, while his mother was an HR Manager in the military.[5] He attended the Sami Frashëri High School in Tirana and then later Grand Valley State University[6] in Allendale, Michigan where he graduated with a B.A. in political science. He received his master's degree in European Integration from the University of Sussex. Before returning to Albania, Veliaj worked with several international humanitarian organizations in the Americas, Eastern Africa, and Kosovo.

Veliaj is from a Muslim family which first left Islam and later became an atheist.[clarification needed] Getting in contact with missionaries from the United States, Erion Veliaj converted to Evangelicalism.[7] His Mjaft organisation showed the controversial Muhammad cartoons on its pages.[8] On April 30, 2017, as Mayor of Tirana, Erion Veliaj received “Doctor Honoris Causa” extended by the Grand Valley State University in the US for the contribution made in public services.[9]

He is married and has a son.

Political careerEdit

MJAFT!Edit

Veliaj was one of the earliest activists of MJAFT!, a civic organization created in 2003 aimed at protesting social and political injustices in Albania. He soon became one of the central figures of MJAFT! due to his many TV appearances. Veliaj was involved with MJAFT! until November 2007. Mjaft organization showed the controversial Muhammad cartoons on its pages when Veliaj was a leader of it.[8] In 2004, ‘MJAFT!’ was granted the United Nations Award for Civil Society by Kofi Annan for its exemplary and highly efficient methods of protest.[10]

G99Edit

In 2008, Erion Veliaj and a few other activists from MJAFT! created G99 (Group 99), a center-left political party.[11] While initially unaligned, G99 ended up joining other political parties of the center-left coalition in the 2009 Parliamentary Election. Erion Veliaj ran as G99's leading candidate for the district of Tirana. Despite the media attention, Erion Veliaj and G99 only earned 0.86% of the vote, failing to win a seat in the Parliament. In 2011, Veliaj leaves G99 and joins the Socialist Party of Albania.

Socialist Party of AlbaniaEdit

In the Socialist Party, Veliaj was nominated to serve as Secretary for Youth and Emigration.[12] In 2013, he was nominated as a candidate for MP representing the district of Gjirokastër.[13] The center-left coalition of political parties won the 2013 Parliamentary Election and Veliaj was appointed to serve as Minister of Social Welfare and Youth in Edi Rama's new cabinet.[14] He resigned in 2015 due to him being nominated as SPA's candidate for Mayor of Tirana. Veliaj was elected Mayor of Tirana with 53.58% of the vote, defeating Democratic Party's candidate, Halim Kosova and the independent candidate, Gjergj Bojaxhi.

Mayor of TiranaEdit

Tirana Mayoral Election 2015Edit

In April 2015, Veliaj was appointed as mayoral candidate of the Socialist Party in the city of Tirana. The candidate representing the oppositional Democratic Party was Halim Kosova, a well-known gynecologist, serving as a Member of Parliament at the time. Other candidates were Gjergj Bojaxhi, a former Democratic politician, and Sazan Guri, an environmental activist. Veliaj won the elections by a landslide and took office on July 31, 2015.

Mayoral tenureEdit

The issue of urban air pollution is a growing concern in Tirana, and the role of the car can be controversial.[15] In September 2015, Tirana organized its first vehicle-free day. In January 2017 the new Skanderbeg Square was inaugurated by Veliaj and the Prime Minister.[16] In July 2017 the Municipality of Tiranë voted to raise the water tariff significantly, Veliaj promoted this action by arguing that it would eventually make drinking water available 24 hours a day, and help improve its access and quality.[17] During his term as Mayor, he has earned the nickname "Lali Eri", which can be translated as "Big Brother Eri"

Notable projects of the Municipality of TiranaEdit

CriticismEdit

The death of Ardit GjoklajEdit

Ardit Gjoklaj, a 17-year-old boy died on 7 August 2016 working in very poor conditions in the landfill of Sharrë. His death became controversial because the company that managed the landfill of Sharrë "3R", was promoted publicly by Veliaj himself as having good working conditions.[22]

Comments about Injured PoliceEdit

On 27 November 2018, in a televised speech to the City Council, Veliaj reacted to the developing story about a police officer who lost her fingers in clashes with protesters in Tirana, by saying "We are all men here. Would any of us have eyes to marry someone with no fingers?"[23]

Fake news accusation regarding alleged kidnapping of Griselda RoshiEdit

In a 2011 email to EU representatives, Veliaj briefed them on what he claimed was a politically motivated kidnapping of Kavaja's mayor's wife, Griselda Roshi, which allegedly led to a forced abortion. He related the kidnapping to the fact that Elvis Roshi had been able to flip a district such as Kavaja that traditionally voted for the DPA.[24] The story was debunked after Roshi revealed to Albanian authorities that she had made up her kidnapping and was not pregnant.[25][26][27] In a 2011 meeting on human rights in Albania, MEP Tanja Fajon used this debunked story as an illustrative example. She later apologized and claimed Veliaj never updated her on this story.[28] This controversy has raised serious concerns over Veliaj's using of fake news and personal connections to influence high-ranked EU officials.[29]

The demolition of the National TheatreEdit

Amidst the protests against the construction of a new National Theatre building replacing the old National Theatre in Tirana, on 8 May 2020 the Albanian government transferred ownership of the land of the National Theatre to the Tirana Municipality through a special law. This law emphasized that the land must be used only for the construction of a new theatre building.[30]

After more than two years of consecutive protests for the protection of National theatre and after a dubious legal procedure, the building was demolished on Sunday 17 May 2020 by police bulldozers with heavy police presence [31] at 4:30 in the morning. This action which was took place during the emergency state in Albania due to COVID-19 pandemic.[32]

This decision drew the widespread condemnation from several local activists, opposition political parties and artists against the Municipality of Tirana and the Albanian government. Europa Nostra called the demolition of the theatre as illegal and against the rule of law. The Delegation of EU in Albania voiced their concern regarding the lack of dialogue between the authorities and activists before the demolition took place.[33]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ SOT DORËHIQET VELIAJ, TAKON STAFIN E MINISTRISË TEK MUZEU KOMBËTAR Archived 2017-02-02 at the Wayback Machine, Gazeta Shqiptare, 2015-04-30 (in Albanian)
  2. ^ "Veliaj dorëhiqet nga G99, bashkohet me PS-në". Archived from the original on 18 January 2017. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  3. ^ "Veliaj merr titullin "Honoris Causa" në Universitetin "Grand Valley" në SHBA". top-channel.tv. Archived from the original on 28 July 2017. Retrieved 3 December 2017.
  4. ^ "Albanian Presidency Official Website". 11 September 2013.
  5. ^ "Veliaj rrëfen jetën: Nga emigracioni te njohja me Ramën".
  6. ^ "Veliaj merr titullin "Honoris Causa" në Universitetin "Grand Valley" në SHBA – Lajme – Top Channel". top-channel.tv. Archived from the original on 2017-07-28. Retrieved 2017-07-28.
  7. ^ Ernst, Andreas (2017-07-12). "Ein Segen für Albanien". NZZ. Retrieved 2017-08-13.
  8. ^ a b Jazexhi, Olsi (December 2007). "The Political Exploitation of Islamophobia in post–communist Albania". Olsi Jazexhi. Retrieved 2016-11-07.
  9. ^ https://www.ata.gov.al/en/tirana-mayor-veliaj-receives-doctor-honoris-causa-from-grand-valley-state-university/[dead link]
  10. ^ "United Nations Information Service Vienna".
  11. ^ Tom Lansford (20 March 2014). Political Handbook of the World 2014. SAGE Publications. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-4833-8626-3. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  12. ^ "Veliaj shkarkon kryetarët e FRESSH të Korçës e Hasit". panorama.com.al (in Albanian). Retrieved 2017-07-28.
  13. ^ "Lista e PS, emrat e rinj të deputetëve në qarqe. Veliaj në Gjirokastër, Fino në Korçë, Duka në Durrës". panorama.com.al (in Albanian). Retrieved 2017-07-28.
  14. ^ "Shqiptarja.com – Veliaj merr Ministrinë e Punës vizita e parë te romët". Shqiptarja.com. Retrieved 2017-07-28.
  15. ^ Williams, Sean (11 July 2014). "Tirana fights to beat its addiction to cars and get its residents cycling". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
  16. ^ "Sheshi "Skënderbej", Rama: Ambicia jonë për Tiranën fitoi, mirënjohje Veliajt; Kryebashkiaku: Të bashkohemi si kurrë më parë për Tiranën dhe Shqipërinë që duam (Foto) | ZATHUR". zathur.net. Retrieved 2017-07-28.
  17. ^ "Bashkia rrit çmimin e ujit për familjet e biznesin, ja të gjitha tarifat e reja". panorama.com.al (in Albanian). Retrieved 2017-07-28.
  18. ^ "Albanian Daily News". albaniannews.com. Retrieved 3 December 2017.
  19. ^ "Plastic bag usage reduced with 60% in Tirana". top-channel.tv. Retrieved 3 December 2017.
  20. ^ "15 Must-See Installations at the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial". 22 September 2017. Retrieved 3 December 2017.
  21. ^ "Pazari i Ri". Bashkia Tiranë. Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  22. ^ "Vdekja e Ardit Gjoklajt: Gjykata akuza Prokurorisë për hetime 'selektive' – reporter.al" (in Albanian). 2018-05-17. Retrieved 2019-07-04.
  23. ^ Gazeta Shqiptare, Veliaj për policen e dëmtuar: Kush është ai burrë që martohet me një pa gishta, retrieved 2018-12-06
  24. ^ "Rrembimi i Griselda Roshit zbulohet letra e Erion Veliajt per SHBA e BE". Shqiperia (in Albanian). Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  25. ^ "Flet Griselda: S'bëja dot fëmijë, shpika shtatzëninë". panorama.com.al (in Albanian). Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  26. ^ "Prokurori, Griselda Roshi pranon mashtrimin". Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  27. ^ "Griselda pranon mashtrimin – Telegrafi". Telegrafi. 2011-06-02. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  28. ^ "Doda: Debati në PE me Tanja Fajon për Griseldën". panorama.com.al (in Albanian). Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  29. ^ "Telenovela Griselda, seria e dytë luhet në Bruksel- Edi Rama dhe Erjon Veliaj kanë furnizuar me mashtrime BE-në". Gazeta 55 (in Albanian). 15 June 2011. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  30. ^ "Albanian Government Hands Ownership of National Theatre Land to Municipality of Tirana". 9 May 2020. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  31. ^ "FOTO/ Nga shembja, përplasja dhe tek policët pa maska, çfarë ndodhi tek Teatri". Gazeta Mapo. 2020-05-17. Retrieved 2020-05-17.
  32. ^ "Protesters, Police Clash over Theatre Demolition in Tirana". 17 May 2020. Retrieved 17 May 2020.
  33. ^ "Europa Nostra: Sad Day for Cultural Heritage and Rule of Law in Albania and Europe". 17 May 2020. Retrieved 17 May 2020.

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Spiro Ksera
Minister of Social Welfare and Youth
2011–2013
Succeeded by
Preceded by Mayor of Tirana
2015 – ...
Succeeded by
incumbent