Lulzim Basha ( listen ; born 12 June 1974) is a prominent Albanian politician who was Mayor of Tirana, the capital of Albania, from 2011 to 2015. He has also been leader of the Democratic Party of Albania, the main opposition party, since 2013.
Prior to being elected Mayor of Tirana, Basha was twice elected as member of Parliament representing Tirana (2005-2009) and Elbasan (2009-2011). During that period he served as Albania's Minister of Public Works, Transport and Telecommunications (2005-2007), Minister of Foreign Affairs (2007-2009), and Minister of the Interior (2009–2011).
Early life and education
Lulzim Basha was born in Tirana on 12 June 1974. His family hails from Peć in Kosovo, from where they were expelled by the Yugoslav Partisans. After attending the Sami Frashëri High School, he studied law at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and worked for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia as member of the investigation team of war crimes of Serbian forces in Kosovo (1998–1999).
In 2000 Basha joined the Department of Justice of the UN administration of Kosovo,[a] UNMIK, first as legal advisor and then as Deputy Chief of Cabinet of the Director of the UNMIK Justice Department since October 2001 . From November 2002 until January 2005 Basha served as special advisor for Transition in the same department.
Basha joined the Democratic Party of Albania in January 2005 and became a member of the party's Presidency in May of that year. He has since held several ministerial positions in Democratic Party-led governments.
He served as the party's spokesperson during the 2005 parliamentary elections at which he was elected to the Albanian Parliament as the MP of Constituency #33 in Tirana. He was then nominated in the Berisha government as Minister of Public Works, Transport and Telecommunications, where he served for a period of two years. Basha initiated the major infrastructural work in Albanian history, Durrës-Kukes Highway, involving the construction of a 5.6 km tunnel. In 2007, the Chief Prosecutor of Albania Theodhori Sollaku asked the parliament to lift Basha's immunity from prosecution so he could begin an investigation into possible political corruption and abuse of power charges. This was in regard to the awarding of the highway construction contract to Bechtel-ENKA, a U.S.-Turkish joint venture. These charges were filed after the Chief Prosecutor himself had been impeached by the Parliament on charges of collusion with organized crime. Basha said that the charges were politically motivated, although he asked the Parliament to lift his immunity. Consequently, the Supreme Court of Albania after a legal process relieved him of all the charges.
Basha served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from May 2007 until his appointment as Minister of Interior in September 2009. During his term, Albania was admitted to NATO, applied for EU membership and started the dialogue to secure visa free travel for its citizens to the Schengen countries.
After the 2009 election, Basha was nominated as Minister of Interior in the new Berisha government. As Minister of Interior, he implemented all the required criteria for visa-free travel to the Schengen countries, including the modernisation of the Albanian border and immigration police system, the issuing of high security biometric passports and a tougher fight against criminal activity and criminal assets. These steps won international praise, notably by EUROPOL and other law enforcement bodies, and led to the decision of the EU on 8 November 2010 to lift all travel visa requirements for Albanian citizens effective 15 December 2010.
In 2011 Basha was the governing party's candidate for the post of Mayor of Tirana. He defeated the leader of the Socialist opposition, Edi Rama, by a very narrow margin (only 81 votes after the recount) in a hotly contested election. He served as Mayor until 2015.
After the defeat of the Democratic Party-led coalition in the 2013 parliamentary election and the resignation of Sali Berisha as party leader, Basha was elected as chairman of the Democratic Party.