Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Greek Minority Leader Disappointed With Albania Govt

The Greek minority party leader Vangjel Dule says Edi Rama is letting ties with Greece deteriorate while running the country through ‘a closed circle’.

Fatjona Mejdini

The leader of PBDNJ, Vangjel Dule [in the center] talking with Prime Minister, Edi Rama | Photo: LSA

The relationship between Albania and Greece, two neighbours with a long history of both friendship and disputes, are not in their best phase today.

Greece remains the biggest foreign investor in Albania but when it comes to political ties, relations have deteriorated again lately.

One indicator of that is the poor relationship of the Party for Unity for Human Rights Party, PBDNJ, the main Greek minority party in Albania, with the government of Edi Rama.

The party headed by Vangjel Dule has been active on the political scene for almost two decades, and in recent years formed part of then then-opposition coalition led by Rama’s Socialists, a coalition that took power in 2013.

As well as being political partners, Dule and Rama seemed to share a personal friendship. At election rallies in 2013 Rama called him “a friend, a decent and hardworking person”, but since he took power, the relationship has deteriorated


Albania minorities object to territorial division
January 29, 2015
Albania's civil society is calling on officials to diffuse tensions and protect minorities from discrimination and potential violence as a result of the decision to scrap the existing municipalities and create a new territorial administration.

The government reduced the 384 local government units to 65, effectively creating entirely Albanian-majority municipalities.

Greek, Macedonian and other minority representatives said the government's move violates their rights and international norms.

"The territorial reform runs contrary to the spirit of the Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, and it constitutes a flagrant violation of the accepted European standards," Vangjel Dule, leader of the Union for Human Rights Party in Tirana, told SETimes.

The new territorial division creates dangerous conditions that may result in social conflicts and ethnic confrontations, said Stavri Marko, representative of the Komuniteti Himarjot in the formerly Greek-majority Himara municipality.

"It harms the wealth and the properties of Himara municipality," Marko told SETimes.

Minority representatives said the move is in violation of the constitution, as public schools in minority languages will be closed and they will lose other fundamental rights, even the right to self-identify.

"These are rights guaranteed by the constitution and the latter must be implemented," Marko said.

The minorities said their voice was not considered at the meetings with Prime Minister Edi Rama or in parliament.

"This is an issue that belongs to the community. The people must decide for themselves, people know better the balance of co-existence," Enio Theodhori, a law student in Tirana from Dropull village, told SETimes.

The Macedonian minority has requested that it is represented in three municipalities, but the new territorial arrangement brought two -- Golo brdo and Gora -- into the third Pustec municipality.

"The will of the Macedonian community in Albania was not respected. We Macedonians are concentrated into three areas, but our demands were only partially considered," Edmond Themelko, head of the Pustec municipality, told SETimes.

Officials said the new territorial organisation will be applied in Albania's local election in June.

But civil society representatives said the new municipal map should be revised to factor in the minorities and then approved again by the parliament.

The Association of Communes and Municipalities in Albania lodged a request with the Central Elections Commission (CEC) for a popular referendum to annul the new reorganisation.

"We already have the needed signatures, will present them to the Central Elections Commission, and hopefully we will begin as soon as possible," Vasfi Apostoli of the Macedonian Alliance Party for European Integration told SETimes.

As many as 20,000 signatures per municipality must be collected to enact a referendum.

Albanian law stipulates no referendum can be held three months before or after elections. The local elections are scheduled for June 21 and all referendum-related procedures must end in March.

However, five votes are needed in the CEC to approve a referendum. The CEC has long operated with four members because the other three resigned.

"The territorial reform took place within a short time. This surely has harmed the ethnic minorities. There are minority regions, parcelled into various local units. This has created problems in maintaining the language and customs as well as the publications and radio-television for which they have their own rights," Fatos Baxhaku, an analyst at Shqip in Tirana, told SETimes.

Baxhaku said the issue should be resolved quickly because it stirs local tensions, but also to ensure regional security.

The government maintains that by the new territorial map, it has not violated the ethnic minorities but favoured them instead.

"The territorial division has respected the minority rights by making tolerations on the general criteria. When we drafted the new territorial map, we set a number of exceptional criteria exactly to favour the minority and not to violate the ethnic proportions," Minister of Local Issues Bledi Cuci said.

Ethnic tensions rose last month when the UHRP requested in parliament that the Greek minority obtain its own representative in the national council for public radio and television, but parliament declined.

Albania's minorities did not recognise the results of the 2011 census because census forms did not include an ethnicity item, but instead gave citizens the option to mark "other." Minority advocates say the procedure significantly understated the numbers of minority citizens.

"Territorial issues are always a delicate matter. They need to be studied in depth and cannot be left in the hands of the parliamentary majorities, whenever they change," said Hasan Celibashi, an expert at the Centre for Security and Commitment in Tirana.

"The territorial division is something that goes beyond political forces, and affects not only political parties, but the entire population. Governments come and go and administrative divisions cannot change on a whim. They should operate with caution because it can trigger violence, social clashes and ethnic conflicts in minority areas. In these zones, the situation is fragile and new administrative maps can throw fuel to the fire," Celibashi told SETimes.


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