Minority bill sent to parliament
TIRANA, April 19 – Albania’s government has delivered to parliament a new bill which aims to regulate and protect the rights and liberties of minorities in Albania.
The initiative was mandatory for Albania following the requirements set out by the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and European Commission.
The draft law has 22 articles agreed by some of Albania’s institutions and interest groups representing national minorities in Albania such as Greek, Macedonian, Serb, Montenegrin, and Vlach-Aromanian minorities.
The 2011 census carried out by Albania’s Institute of Statistics acknowledges two groups of minorities, those who are considered national ethnic and those who are considered cultural and lingual minorities. The first category includes the Greek, Macedonian and Serb-Montenegrin minorities. The new bill however recognizes Bosnian and Egyptian minorities as well. The census was opposed by minority groups on the grounds that it did not reflect the real presence of minorities in the country.
In the 2011 Census, the first official census held in decades, 83.2 percent of the respondents declared themselves ethnic Albanians, while 14.07 percent refused to answer questions on the basis of nationality, mostly, it is believed, to be Albanians that did not believe the question should not be asked in the first place, following calls of a nationalist party.
“People who belong to national minorities have the right of peaceful gatherings, freedom to organize, freedom of having an opinion and the right to manifest their religion,” the draft reads.
The bill provisions that in areas where minorities represent 20 percent of the population, street addresses and services provided will also be in the ethnic language of the minority. Furthermore, members of these minority groups that account for no less than 20 percent of the general percentage of population are entitled to receive electoral related information in their ethnic language.
Public hearings held in January revealed that minorities in Albania feel unrepresented in the country and unprotected from state institutions. Organizations representing Bulgarian ethnic minorities were not invited to the hearings, while Bulgarian MEPs have pushed hard for the rights of Bulgarians allegedly living in eastern Albania, a minority disputed by Albania. Bulgaria’s unofficial data show that about 50,000-100,000 people of Bulgarian ethnic origin live in Albania.
Albania has not listed those claiming Bulgarian ethnicity in any of the minority categories.