If you only visit Albania for a few days, you run the risk of getting lost in the chaos that dominates the country. It is not easy to get your bearings – not when navigating its maze of alleyways, nor when trying to assess the fiercely debated issues in the Albanian media and politics, which often play on stereotypes. No matter how much research you do. You could just join the chorus of dissatisfied voices, decrying corruption as a ubiquitous evil, and rant and rave about why everything isn’t just done differently.
But everyday life in Albania is simply not as black and white as we would sometimes like it to be: things here are rarely all good, but they are also rarely all bad. Instead, there are countless different shades of grey in between.
Urban development in Tirana is also one of these grey areas. Some projects seem to be heading in a positive direction, but when it comes to putting them into practice, much still goes wrong. Politicians like Erion Veliaj are faced with a dilemma. They want to present Albania to the world as a modern and attractive country. At the same time, however, they must also make the country more appealing to its residents in their everyday lives to stop them emigrating in droves in search of a better future elsewhere, to make them see that this future is possible in Albania.
Signature projects like those being planned on a vast scale in the centre of the city can only help to a certain extent here, because so much basic infrastructure is lacking elsewhere. On the one hand, you have fountains seeping out of expensive natural stone on award-winning Skanderbeg Square. On the other, tanks on the roofs of houses to make sure the water keeps running. One question that remains is: how many shades of grey can a country like Albania withstand?