Erion VeliajPosition: Mayor of the Municipality of Tirana
Erion Veliaj is the Mayor of Tirana. He was born in Tirana on December 17, 1979. After graduating from “Sami Frashëri” high school, he attended the university studies in the United States of America, where he graduated in “Political Science” at Grand Valley State University, Michigan. Later, he completed his Master's degree in the United Kingdom at the University of Sussex, focusing on European Integration. Prior to returning to Albania in 2003, Erion Veliaj worked in North and South America, East Africa and Kosovo.
In 2003, Veliaj founded the MJAFT Movement, an organization that unified the activist and protesting spirit of Albanian youth, and in 2004 he received the United Nations Award for Civil Society. MJAFT Movement, besides creativity and energy, became well-known for the innovative way of direction, where teamwork prevailed. Instead of centralizing the activities under the conduct of the leader, the movement was characterized by delegating work to all members of the team - an element that continues to remain essential in Veliaj’s leadership.
Erion Veliaj led MJAFT movement until November 2007. In the 2009 parliamentary elections, he was a candidate for the Albanian Parliament through the G99 civil list.
In the period 2007-2009, Veliaj joined the European Stability Initiative, a key body in promoting the EU’s enlargement to Central and Eastern European countries. In 2011, Veliaj joined the Presidency of the Socialist Party of Albania as Secretary for Youth and Immigration, where he was distinguished for organizing for the first time the structures of the Socialist Party in the countries where Albanians work and live, especially in Greece and Italy.
In the 2013 parliamentary elections, Veliaj was a candidate of the Socialist Party in the district of Gjirokastra, and he was elected deputy of the Albanian Parliament. In September 2013, Veliaj was appointed Minister of Social Welfare and Youth. At the head of this ministry, he was distinguished for the highly successful management of an institution whose budget accounts for about 30% of the state budget. In only one and a half years, under the conduct of Veliaj, the MoSWY stood out in the government cabinet and in the public sphere with the design and implementation of the five major reforms, which were of great importance to the country, due to the fact that they were never taken into account in 24 years of democracy:
1) Reform in pensions - One of the most courageous, but also one of the most necessary reforms for citizens, was the reform of pensions, which by increasing the benefits for all salaries, restored citizens’ trust in the scheme, increasing the number of contributors to 93,392 people in just 1 year.
2) Labour Market - With the opening of new and modern office offices and changing the image of employment services, the labour market reform gave the first results, increasing the number of employees.
3) Social Payments - An important challenge was also the situation with social payments for those in need, who did not receive the payments of the last months of the year. Clearing the schemes from abuse, digitalization and well-managed finance enabled them to receive all payments in time in 2014..
4) Vocational Education - A profound reform was noted in the vocational education system which orientated towards the dual German system, giving more importance to the practice of theoretical skills and approaching students' skills into the labour market..
5) The politically persecuted – Veliaj’s performance at the head of the MoSWY will be remembered for the courage shown in the launch of the process for opening former state security files and in reforming the system of indemnification for the politically persecuted, giving 4 instalments in only 1 year, while in 8 years they were reimbursed with only one instalment.