On the occasion of ESI's 20 years anniversary, the ESI team met in Albania's capital Tirana from 24 to 26 September 2019. We intensively worked on new ideas for ESI key topics such as asylum policy, EU enlargement policy, human rights and challenges to democracy in Europe. We also discussed some challenges that lie outside of our current focus, like global warming and China's efforts to build the perfect surveillance state using the technical instruments of the 21st century and its efforts to export this model
We thank former ESI analyst and Tirana mayor Erion Veliaj and his team for their hospitality and their time and effort to make us understand in more detail how to think about the key challenges of Balkan cities in the 21st century.
On Tuesday early evening we started with a stroll led by deputy mayor Arbi Mazniku through the centre and Tirana's new car-free main square
What Tirana mayor Erion Veliaj and his team started as a car-free day per month, turned into a car-free day per week and then into a permanently car-free zone
Once the most highly frequented traffic spot in the capital, the square and its adjacent streets are now one of the largest pedestrian zones in the Balkans. Here the ESI team is strolling to dinner.
On Wednesday morning Arbi Mazniku took us on a tour of the city, showing us main construction sites, new kindergartens, new schools and the refurbished Grand Park. We learned about Tirana's tree planting project, ideas behind the refurbishing of the centre and innovative ways to finance new projects.
Coffee break with Tirana's deputy major Arbi Mazniku
The new prolongation of the main boulevard
Where construction was still ongoing, some got more dirty than others (ESI senior fellow John Dalhuisen)
On Wednesday afternoon ESI retreated to Enver Hoxha's villa in Bloku, now a museum, to discuss various topics with a few special guests
With Ditmir Bushati, MP and former Albanian foreign minister, we debated the future of EU enlargement policy
Adi Cerimagic, one of ESI's Balkan specialists
Kai Strittmatter spoke about his new book about China ("We Have Been Harmonised. Life in China's Surveillance State")
Analyst Erkut Emcioglu, one of the longest-serving ESI team members
Analyst Friedrich Püttmann and junior fellow Philip Horster in Villa Enver
On Thursday and Friday we continued our brainstormings on future challenges (here on asylum policy)
Marijn Clevers who works as an analyst with Alex Stiglmayer in Brussels
Philip Horster, our junior fellow based in London
Visiting Tirana mayor and former ESI analyst Erion Veliaj in his office
The ESI team with Erion Veliaj and one of his colleagues after dinner on Thursday