From: Alice Taylor
Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj Set to Talk About His Contribution to Democracy

Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj is set to take part in a round table where he will talk about what he says he has done to strengthen democracy in his Municipality.

On Friday 18 September, mayors from various European country will launch the initiative “European Capital of Democracy” in Vienna. The initiative is under the patronage of the Vice President of the European Commission Dubravka Suica and the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejcinovic Buric.

Between 5pm and 8pm, three roundtables will take place where mayors, including Veliaj, will discuss what they have done and plan to do in order to strengthen democracy. Mayors from Athens, Vienna, Gdansk, Sofia, Frankfurt, Prague, Budapest, Paris, Warsaw, and Bratislava will also take part.

The initiative was started with the aim of making a “real contribution to strengthening democracy in Europe”. Each year, one city will be awarded the title of European Capital of Democracy and will then implement a comprehensive programme to strengthen democracy.

Mayor Veliaj was elected in a single-party election in June 2019 where around 15% of the electorate voted. He is a member of the Socialist Party under Prime Minister Edi Rama who is implicated in the electiongate scandal. This refers to leaked prosecution wiretaps that found evidence of collusion to rig, buy votes, and pressure the electorate in two elections. None of those involved has been prosecuted to date.

Furthermore, Albania’s ranking in the Freedom House Democracy Index has continued to decrease. This year, they dropped to 3.82 out of a possible 7 points and are classified as a “hybrid regime”- somewhere between autocracy and democracy. They scored badly in democratic governance, electoral processes, media freedom, and corruption- cornerstones of democracy. The report noted that democracy had deteriorated to the point where there was a growing fear of authoritarianism. 

The event will take place online due to COVID-19 restrictions.