From: Johannes Estrada
Veliaj Uses Judicial Reform as Excuse for Expropriations

Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj could not be absent from the continuous debate on the justice reform and especially the vetting law. His ambition to become the political successor of Prime Minister Edi Rama is clear, and this time around he was quick to stand by the convictions of the Prime Minister, even though the issue at hand does not directly pertain to him. However, he has found his excuse. In one of his many public appearances Erion Veliaj declared:

We have many construction sites in Tirana where the work has moved quite fast, but imagine how fast we could go if we weren’t interrupted by endless court sessions. And at the end, we discover that the bad guy, a person that refuses to work with the municipality and free an area that he has unjustly occupied, hinders the work of the municipality for many months, because he has buying power and can bribe the judge.

Mayor Veliaj is saying that the Albanian court favors legitimate or illegitimate owners of properties and “hinders” the government’s initiatives for public investments. But nothing could be further from the truth: The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg has continuously condemned the Albanian government for the way it deals with property and compensations.

We have previously explained the cases in which the municipality of Tirana has stolen private property in order to appease its clientist interests, while claiming it is working to redevelop the areas of the city as a key part of the Tirana030 Masterplan. Even though considered urban planning, this practice is often applied by the Albanian government especially in valuable touristic areas.

On the other hand, the constant decisions of the Albanian government against the owners are weighing heavily in the public budget. The Albanian government has lost ECtHR cases against former owners with a total value of $12 million. Furthermore, 82 other cases are in process with a total value of $550 million.

The municipality of Tirana does not have a bright past when it comes to expropriations. The buildings demolished to accommodate projects Unaza e Vogël and Bulevardi i Ri projects have caused physical clashes between the owners and the police because the value of the expropriation was ridiculous in comparison to market prices. These cases will take many years to be resolved in national and international courts.

If Erion Veliaj referred to the aforementioned facts and wouldn’t fantasize, he ought rather to fear a judicial reform that would free the national courts from political pressure. An independent court like the ECtHR has become a hindrance to the government’s attempts to appropriate  property from its owners, despite the excuses that the municipality uses. In debates on school construction by means of concessions, Veliaj shows a constant deep lack of knowledge of legal and financial problems of the country. It seems that for Veliaj, career advancement remains more important than resolving the real problems of his city and country.