Free legalizations; today ALUIZNI goes to the citizen

Speech of Prime Minister Edi Rama given today at the meeting with employees of ALUIZNI:

“First of all I would like to say that I am really happy to see, from this distance, that the majority of the employees of ALUIZNI, who are in direct contact with citizens, are women. This is very positive, because the process becomes much easier for the citizen and absolutely a lot less corruptible for the state. Since, it is known that where there are more women or where there are women, there is less corruption and fewer problems.

This said I would like to stop at some very important moments, because this is a very important commitment and a key priority of our Government. We are making free legalizations thus closing once and for all this horrible chapter opened by the anarchy of the 90s, and which governments of the past could not close for many years, although they would swear and commit at every electoral campaign to do it. In addition, by leaving this process open, they made it more difficult and complicated over the years, in an extraordinarily alarming way which brought to new problems. Because, at the end legalizations consist in two aspects: one of the aspects is formalization, while the other one is ending abuse and informal constructions.

It is universally known that an open legalization process, which cannot be closed, is a process that brings informality increase. So, we want to close this process, not only to end the long ordeal of dozens and thousands of families who have been waiting for years to receive the document that finally formalizes their investments, but also to end the era of informal constructions and of the destruction of many resources, for which we all must be extremely concerned and protect them as soon as possible, because a lot of damage has been caused and is being caused to them every day.

Actually, the first outcomes of this process, launched on the fundamental principle of free legalization and of door-to-door service to citizens, are really encouraging. So, I would like to thank and show my gratitude to all those who are here, but also to those who maybe couldn’t make it here, for the work they have done so far. But, on the other hand, the burden is really heavy, there is a lot to do and work pace must be increasingly speed up so that not only we can achieve our objective but, as I said, we will be able to close this process.

Actually, I’m reporting some figures already mentioned by the General Director. It is surprising to notice that only a total of 21.700 facilities were legalized in the past 8 years. It is a national calamity that the major part of these facilities was not the houses of people in need, who were eventually entitled to receive the much-promised document by any political party for many years. Instead, legalization was made for the most problematic, the most damaging facilities and the less entitled to be legalized and which were built for profit: cafeterias, motels, hotels and any kind of buildings on the sides of national roads, by the lakes and on the sea, in the very heart of residential areas, on sidewalks. Those legalizations have nothing in common with the reasons why a legalization process is started, but are connected to the need for illicit and giddy profits of the past 8 years.

In addition, the bill of these legalizations still needs to be seen because, as you know, these facilities are legal property already mortgaged, and for any intervention we need to do in connection to infrastructure, to increased security in the streets, in connection to the rehabilitation of many highways as far as green is concerned, we will have to expropriate these facilities as if they were houses or properties inherited by many generations, and not as if they were the fruit of the “tree” of corruption extended throughout ALUIZNI. I will just remind you of an expropriation made recently.

I will just remind you of the expropriation made recently for the facilities illegally built here, at the entrance of the National Park of Tirana, adjacent to the University of Tirana, which is also a cultural heritage. Those facilities were legalized shortly before the change of government, in a totally illegal way. For this, the General Director has submitted a lawsuit to the Prosecutor’s Office for abuse of power which, besides the environment damage and the destruction of the property and of image, has caused a huge economic damage to taxpayers; 21.700 legalizations, 25.000 permits issued per year, of which the majority were permits of this kind. Nobody cared, as you can see every day in your work, and as was mentioned by the General Director; nobody cared to respond to over 45 thousand families or individuals who have submitted their applications and have already paid. They didn’t pay the day before the government was changed, but they paid in 2006, in 2007, in 2008 and so on.

And without feeling any kind of shame, those who should lower their heads in shame and at least say no words on this process, have the courage to say that we are issuing permits for applications they have closed and that we found ready. I don’t understand why they left them ready for us and did not give them to citizens. Actually, they were not ready. On the contrary, as the General Director said, unfortunately we are automatically forced to redo measurements and to update facilities in loco.

However, I believe that the results achieved from April through September – since actually this is the period when the process started not with people in need going to ALUIZNI and waiting in long and prolonged queue, but the other way round with ALUIZNI going to people in need to make measurements – give us the opportunity to understand that we can do still do much more. Since from April to September we could update over 42.100 facilities and process applications for 10.670 facilities, then for sure we will make it within the first year of operation, that is until next April, to do ten times more compared to the past eight years, not 2500 but 25 thousand and, throughout the second year of operation, double this figure up to 50 thousand. In the third year of operation this figure will go to 60 thousand. This means that in three years together, we can make over 120 thousand or over 130 thousand legalizations throughout the country, thus laying a very solid foundation in order to go towards the conclusion of this process for free.

Despite what cynics say in their comments and analysis filled with defamations, despite what they do – because this is what they live from, while we live from this job – the fact is that today, not only legalization is free but it is also a process done by us, the state and not by the citizens. Citizens stay at home and ALUIZNI goes to their doors, and you know it very well since it is you who does this, you create together with families the entire process providing them assistance from the very beginning up to the very end.

Of course, when it comes to land, which is not owned – because when the land is owned you don’t have to pay a single penny – there is a charge for the parcel in order to end for all following generations the potential conflict between the legalized home, its heirs and heirs of the property, in order not to leave behind seeds of fratricidal conflicts, as it has constantly happened throughout these years, but clearly separate what belongs to who is given the legalization permit from what belongs to who has been entitled to land ownership since forever.

On the other hand, this meeting is important to highlight that we will legalize for free, as we have said, repeated and over repeated, all houses and buildings of sacrifices, efforts, savings, dreams and hopes of the families who have come to the big cities or have settled within the informal areas for a better life.

Not only we will not legalize for free facilities built for profit, but we will not legalize them at all if they conflict with the interests of the community – as has happened throughout the period in which the National Urban Inspectorate would make interventions in Tirana and in other cities, where squatters had occupied sidewalks, spaces between dwelling buildings and even streets and kept saying that they were under legalization process. There is no legalization process for such occupations. Squatters cannot become owners of sidewalks and spaces between dwelling buildings for profit.

There is a big difference at this point. The same as they cannot become owners of lake shores, of the sand, of the sea, of archaeological sites, they cannot be owners of facilities built on collectors and public works, those who not only have built but have destroyed everything. This momentum will make a clear distinction. We will hit, hit and hit with zero tolerance and with no sense of compromise all those buildings generated by the arrogance, brutality, corruption and collaboration with the local government, from Tirana and everywhere, which have suffocated communities and families, have suffocated cities, children, old people and have forced them to walk in a single file at the side of roads because there were no sidewalks. They have been forced to bend in order to enter buildings, because there were no entrances. They have been forced to cover themselves with duvets during summer, because the loud music and noise were getting them crazy. They have suffered any kind of absurdity for the profit of others. I’ve heard people say that this affects employment. This is not true! The same as the destruction of crazy facilities on both sides of the river Lana did not affect employment in Tirana and the development of the city. Those who built these facilities have had more than enough time to get back the investments they’ve made and to have more money to invest elsewhere, in a legal way and without any doubt with more profit for themselves. Just think of all investments made on the Lana to understand that, after they were destroyed not only did the economy of the city or employment decrease, but on the contrary they improved – as far as a comparison between the two stages can be done – along with an increase in value of all trade areas, increasing also normal investments with their savings.

I will say one last thing. It is clear that you knock at the doors of families who in most of the cases are really in need; their biggest concern is that they have accumulated only deceptions and it is impossible for them to believe that they can make it with this process; they have also accumulated over the years the sense of impossibility to solve problems, which often are more complex than just measurements or documents; they have problems with the Mortgage Office, with the Properties Office, they have problems with any office. You must not abandon them. You must not say to them: “This is not my responsibility, go and ask for solution somewhere else”. Because, our philosophy for this service is precisely this: Assist these families, prepare folders and issue them the paper. They’ve been waiting for that paper for 20 years. We must not let them wander through doors and labyrinths and become prey of bureaucracy and bribery. Free legalization has also this value. Because, being the whole process free, the level of corruption falls exponentially, as it has fallen. I have not heard anybody so far, in all the meetings that I have had with the Director and the Minister to issue those documents that a single person has complained about services.

The most recent case was in Durres. I do not think there is any other director in Albania who has received so much praise and congratulations than the Director of Durres. Nobody asked people to do this. Indeed, I was expecting people to congratulate Artan Lame, but they praised much more the Director. I thank you for being here. And having this picture in front of me, I am very honestly saying that I would like to come here more often and talk with you who serve citizens in these offices and through such difficult but noble ways. Because there is here a great humanism and willingness to serve people and I believe you feel it as well. And I hope that you can benefit from this energy and motivation even more than you are benefitting from salaries which are not small but that, of course are not enough for this extremely intense and stressful job of yours.

Thank you!

Good night!

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Prime Minister Edi Rama and Minister of Urban Development and Tourism Eglantina Gjermeni met today with leaders and employees of ALUIZNI.

Agency’s General Director, Artan Lame analyzed outcomes since the process restarted. Work, Lame said, started with a new approach to this process, following the reforming of the agency and the improvement of the legal framework. Minister Gjermeni noted that the legalization process will continue with the urbanization process of these areas. “The vision of the government consists, first of all, in having control on the territory, eradicating informality and increasing citizen’s role on the planning and development of the territory, and urban regeneration throughout the country. These are challenges we will go through together. Free legalization concerns the first and very important part of this process. In addition, through pilot projects and specific programs for informal areas, we are trying at the same time to start processes fort their urbanization, in order to provide citizens a better quality of life.”