Mayor of Tirana
Erion Veliaj was born in Tirana in 1979. He was elected as the 42nd Mayor of Tirana in June 2015. Veliaj holds a Master’s degree in European Integration from the University of Sussex, UK and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the Grand Valley State University, Michigan. Prior to his return in Albania in the aftermath of his studies, Veliaj worked with several international humanitarian organizations in the Americas, Eastern Africa and Kosovo.
In 2003, Veliaj founded the movement “MJAFT”, a civic organization which unified activists to raise awareness and inspire the spirit of peaceful protest for diverse social, educational and political issues in Albania. “MJAFT” gained huge popularity as a youth movement and in 2004, it was granted the United Nations Award for Civil Society by the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, for its highly efficient and novel methods of protest. During his tenure, Veliaj became well-known for his innovative leadership, focused on team-work and the delegation of tasks.
In 2011, Veliaj joined the ranks of the Socialist Party of Albania, as Secretary for Youth and Immigration. For the first time, he structured the Socialist Party’s branches in countries where the Albanian Diaspora resides, especially in Greece and Italy.
Veliaj was elected Member of Parliament for the district of Gjirokastra in the parliamentary elections of 2013. His main focus during the electoral campaign was the organization of the voting process for the Albanian immigrants, which resulted in more than 70,000 immigrants voting in the 2013 elections.
In September 2013, Veliaj was appointed Minister of Social Welfare and Youth, a tenure during which he introduced influential reforms regarding pensions, welfare payments, employment opportunities and professional education.
Veliaj was elected Mayor of Tirana in June 2015. His leadership of Tirana has been by far marked by its focus on the creation of a child-friendly city. Veliaj believes that given that children are quick to embrace new ideas, they are the best allies one can have in trying to build a greener, more humane and more sustainable city. Veliaj’s major project up to date is the “Tirana030” project, planned as a landscape recovery with the aim of halting the continuous expansion of a city which hosts one third of the population of Albania. The project foresees the creation of a sustainable Greater Tirana with the addition of an orbital forest around the city as a natural barrier to this expansion. In April 2017, Veliaj received the “Doctor Honoris Causa” degree, extended by the Grand Valley State University, due to his contribution to the improvement of the quality of the public services in the city of Tirana.