Q- Dear Mayor Veliaj, congratulations on your second mandate and the great work you are doing in developing and promoting Tirana. Tell us something more about your city!

A – It’s the best time to speak about our wonderful city; just this month we are celebrating the centennial of Tirana becoming the capital of Albania, and the 100 years that it has represented the aspirations, efforts, struggles and desires of our people, while colourfully mixing our traditions and historic legacy with our bright future and our European ambitions. 

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Tirana is the largest city demographically and the country’s administrative, cultural, economic and academic center. It’s a small metropolis with a big heart, an oasis of religious harmony where four religions coexist peacefully, and an up and coming regional tech hub in the region. It has also transformed itself into a touristic hotspot and a regional culinary destination, through a delicious mix of Albanian traditional cuisine with Ottoman, Greek and Italian influences, all in the company of local raki and wine. Once you’ve immersed yourself in our history and gourmet food, at night our hippest and most vibrant district (the Bllok) filled with cafes, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs will showcase our Mediterranean spirit and constant joie-de-vivre! 

Q – What makes Tirana attractive to foreigners?

A – Tirana is a colourful and vivid city that is flourishing with rapid steps. With close to a million inhabitants, the average age is 32 years old, making Tirana one of the most youthful cities in Europe. The adult literacy rate stands at 97%, and there are some 180 education institutions in the city, attended by more than 100.000 students from Albania and neighbouring countries. Many of the students choose to stay in Tirana after their studies, contributing to Tirana’s fastest GDP economic growth within the country,  around double of the country’s overall GDP growth. The key sectors contributing to economic growth are: construction, health and education, banking and insurance, services, tourism, and IT and innovation. Languages such as English, Italian and Greek are all widely spoken while French and German are included in education curricula at school. Tirana boosts an intriguing mix of brutalist communist architecture, 19th century ottoman influences, and modern infrastructure and buildings designed by world-level architects like Bjarke Ingels, Stefano Boeri, Hennig Larsen, and Winy Mass, just to mention a few of them. 

The market for housing and office space are abundant, modern and affordable, while Tirana’s General Urban Plan TR030 has set the tone for our city’s sustainable expansion in a vigilant manner that combines development with environmental awareness. Principles of resilience, human security and wellbeing have been integrated in our Green City Action Plan that we prepared jointly with the EBRD to mitigate adverse effects of climate change and to improve the quality of air, water, and waste management. 

Q – Any significant projects that you want to showcase?

A – I’ll start with the project I personally deem the most important: the transformation of the Pyramid. It is an old relic from the communist regime, at the very heart of Tirana, an abandoned behemoth that used to be our former dictator’s mausoleum. We have already started works to transform it into the biggest regional centre of innovation, creative and digital technologies, artificial intelligence, software design and multimedia. The new hub will focus exclusively on children and youth, providing tools, knowledge and capacities necessary for the digital age in the global world.

Then, there is a bouquet of big infrastructural interventions, which include the conclusion of the new northern boulevard, aspiring to serve as the city’s development backbone for the next 100 years, the city’s ring-road that will greatly improve inner-city mobility, the rehabilitation of the inner city’s Lana riverbanks, and the construction of 17 new schools. 

Last but not least, we have just started works for the construction of the Tirana Economic Development Area (TEDA), a 40-hectare Free Economic Zone developed by the Municipality of Tirana, providing cheap property, utilities, services and solutions for all foreign companies that want to transfer their manufacturing or industrial business in Tirana. TEDA is located only 10 km from the country’s international airport and the large port of Durrës and will provide financial and legal incentives for all potential investors, including exemption from custom duties and VAT, deduction of capital expenses, 50% of exemption from profit tax rate for 5 years, as well as deductible expenses for wages, social security, training, technology transfer and research & development.

Q – Any closing notes?

A – I’ll close on a very positive note; as you might have already heard, Tirana was awarded the title of European Youth Capital for the year 2022. This represents a great drive of inspiration and gratification for our amazing youth and its European spirit and ambitions, and we are preparing for an amazing 365 days of youth-centred activities, projects, cooperation and networking that will make Tirana the epicentre of European youth activities for 2022.

Q- Dear Mayor Veliaj, congratulations on your second mandate and the great work you are doing in developing and promoting Tirana. Tell us something more about your city!

A – It’s the best time to speak about our wonderful city; just this month we are celebrating the centennial of Tirana becoming the capital of Albania, and the 100 years that it has represented the aspirations, efforts, struggles and desires of our people, while colourfully mixing our traditions and historic legacy with our bright future and our European ambitions. 

Tirana is the largest city demographically and the country’s administrative, cultural, economic and academic center. It’s a small metropolis with a big heart, an oasis of religious harmony where four religions coexist peacefully, and an up and coming regional tech hub in the region. It has also transformed itself into a touristic hotspot and a regional culinary destination, through a delicious mix of Albanian traditional cuisine with Ottoman, Greek and Italian influences, all in the company of local raki and wine. Once you’ve immersed yourself in our history and gourmet food, at night our hippest and most vibrant district (the Bllok) filled with cafes, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs will showcase our Mediterranean spirit and constant joie-de-vivre! 

Q – What makes Tirana attractive to foreigners?

A – Tirana is a colourful and vivid city that is flourishing with rapid steps. With close to a million inhabitants, the average age is 32 years old, making Tirana one of the most youthful cities in Europe. The adult literacy rate stands at 97%, and there are some 180 education institutions in the city, attended by more than 100.000 students from Albania and neighbouring countries. Many of the students choose to stay in Tirana after their studies, contributing to Tirana’s fastest GDP economic growth within the country,  around double of the country’s overall GDP growth. The key sectors contributing to economic growth are: construction, health and education, banking and insurance, services, tourism, and IT and innovation. Languages such as English, Italian and Greek are all widely spoken while French and German are included in education curricula at school. Tirana boosts an intriguing mix of brutalist communist architecture, 19th century ottoman influences, and modern infrastructure and buildings designed by world-level architects like Bjarke Ingels, Stefano Boeri, Hennig Larsen, and Winy Mass, just to mention a few of them. 

The market for housing and office space are abundant, modern and affordable, while Tirana’s General Urban Plan TR030 has set the tone for our city’s sustainable expansion in a vigilant manner that combines development with environmental awareness. Principles of resilience, human security and wellbeing have been integrated in our Green City Action Plan that we prepared jointly with the EBRD to mitigate adverse effects of climate change and to improve the quality of air, water, and waste management. 

Q – Any significant projects that you want to showcase?

A – I’ll start with the project I personally deem the most important: the transformation of the Pyramid. It is an old relic from the communist regime, at the very heart of Tirana, an abandoned behemoth that used to be our former dictator’s mausoleum. We have already started works to transform it into the biggest regional centre of innovation, creative and digital technologies, artificial intelligence, software design and multimedia. The new hub will focus exclusively on children and youth, providing tools, knowledge and capacities necessary for the digital age in the global world.

Then, there is a bouquet of big infrastructural interventions, which include the conclusion of the new northern boulevard, aspiring to serve as the city’s development backbone for the next 100 years, the city’s ring-road that will greatly improve inner-city mobility, the rehabilitation of the inner city’s Lana riverbanks, and the construction of 17 new schools. 

Last but not least, we have just started works for the construction of the Tirana Economic Development Area (TEDA), a 40-hectare Free Economic Zone developed by the Municipality of Tirana, providing cheap property, utilities, services and solutions for all foreign companies that want to transfer their manufacturing or industrial business in Tirana. TEDA is located only 10 km from the country’s international airport and the large port of Durrës and will provide financial and legal incentives for all potential investors, including exemption from custom duties and VAT, deduction of capital expenses, 50% of exemption from profit tax rate for 5 years, as well as deductible expenses for wages, social security, training, technology transfer and research & development.

Q – Any closing notes?

A – I’ll close on a very positive note; as you might have already heard, Tirana was awarded the title of European Youth Capital for the year 2022. This represents a great drive of inspiration and gratification for our amazing youth and its European spirit and ambitions, and we are preparing for an amazing 365 days of youth-centred activities, projects, cooperation and networking that will make Tirana the epicentre of European youth activities for 2022.