Thursday, March 11, 2010

State Department 2009 Annual Report on Human Rights Albania

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Bollanos Issue

There were reports of societal discrimination. As visible minorities, members of the Romani and Balkan Egyptian communities suffered significant societal abuse and discrimination.

The law permits official minority status for national groups and separately for ethnolinguistic groups. The government defined Greeks, Macedonians, and Montenegrins as national groups; Greeks constituted the largest of these. The law defined Aromanians (Vlachs) and Roma as ethnolinguistic minority groups.

In October the Council of Ministers approved the National Action Plan for the Roma and Egyptian Involvement Decade for the 2010-15 period. The total budget for implementing the five-year plan was expected to be nearly 2.5 billion lek ($25 million).

The ethnic Greek minority pursued grievances with the government regarding electoral zones, Greek-language education, property rights, and government documents. Minority leaders cited the government's unwillingness to recognize ethnic Greek towns outside Communist-era "minority zones"; to utilize Greek in official documents and on public signs in ethnic Greek areas; to ascertain the size of the ethnic Greek population; or to include a higher number of ethnic Greeks in public administration.

In April, Vasil Bollano, the ethnic Greek mayor of Himara was found guilty of abuse of office. He was sentenced to six months in prison, fined an estimated $5,000, and prohibited from holding public office for three years. The case was under appeal at year's end. The case originated in 2008, when Bollano was charged with destruction of government property after he ordered the removal of several new road signs in the Himara district because they were written in Albanian and English but not Greek.

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