Tirana mayor Erion Veliaj has failed to keep his promise to construct modern produce markets throughout the city’s 24 municipal units. Such a development was intended to reduce street vendors by providing them with a centralized, regulated space in which they could sell their produce.
From the beginning of his term as mayor, Erion Veliaj declared war on informality that, in practice, primarily targeted society’s poorest members, leading to the forceful confiscation of ‘illegal’ makeshift homes of Roma residents and street vendors’ market stalls that constituted their owners’ sole means of survival.
The municipality’s official stance claimed that produce vendors must move their business from the sidewalks to the new modern, regulated markets the municipality would build for them. In exchange for space, vendors would pay rent and taxes to the city.
During the 2017 presentation of the Mine Peza market project, Veliaj declared that by the end of the following year modern markets would be constructed in every municipal unit, thus ending the 100-year-old phenomenon of selling in the street.
Three years later, an investigative television program ‘Boom‘ has found that most of the markets in Tirana’s municipal units have seen no significant changes. Due to no substantial investment, infrastructure and hygiene remain lacking.
Vendors who live in villages surrounding Tirana and come to Kombinat to sell their produce accused the Municipality of lying and failing to actualize the projects promised in its propaganda efforts.
Furthermore, they protested the fact that, even though the municipality has yet to construct a market from which they can conduct their business, it has still authorized police officers to confiscate street vendors’ produce and even impose fines upon them.
One vendor Boom spoke to expressed deep frustration at the long wait for a market in Kombinat. “We didn’t elect this mayor so he can go on TV and babble,” he said. “Where is the market? He promised Kombinat a market. People from many villages – Peza, Ndroq, Vaqarr- come to Kombinat to sell.”
Lacking produce markets, some produce vendors operate in mixed marketplaces, alongside clothes vendors, whereas others continue selling on the street, lacking any significant health and hygiene regulation.