Erion Veliaj was born in Tirana in 1979. He was elected as the 42nd Mayor of Tirana in June 2015. Veliaj’s leadership is focused on the implementation of child-friendly policies aimed at transforming Tirana into a long-term sustainable city. As part of his vision of giving the city back to its citizens, Veliaj’s administration worked on the complete renovation of the city’s central square, the Skanderbeg Square, which was awarded the European Prize for Urban Public Space 2018. During his term in office, another major project that has been undertaken by Mayor Veliaj’s team is the Orbital Forest; a two-million tree belt that will serve as a pivotal element in addressing the environmental concerns of the city by 2030.
Veliaj served as Minister of Social Welfare and Youth from September 2013 through April 2015. During his tenure, he introduced sweeping reforms in pensions, welfare payments, employment opportunities and professional education.
In the parliamentary elections of June 2013 Veliaj was elected Member of Parliament for the district of Gjirokastra. 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 elections.
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, particularly in Greece and Italy.
In 2003 Veliaj founded the movement “MJAFT” (i.e.: “Enough”), a civic organization which unified activists to raise awareness and inspire peaceful protest for 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 novel methods of peaceful protest. At the time, Veliaj became well-known for his innovative leadership focused on team-work and the delegation of tasks. Veliaj earlier worked with several international humanitarian organizations in the Americas, Eastern Africa and Kosovo.
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. In April 2017 Veliaj received the “Doctor Honoris Causa” degree, extended by the Grand Valley State University for his contribution to the improvement of the quality of the public services in Tirana.