Council of Europe resolution to foster minority rights, languages in Albania

07/05/2014

A law on nationalities would help clarify Albania's policy, and other steps also are needed to address remaining discriminatory practices against minorities.

By Marina Stojanovska for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 07/05/14

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A new Council of Europe resolution requires Albania to provide education to minorities in their native languages. [AFP]

Albania should better define and improve its treatment of minorities, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe said.

The council (CoE) adopted a resolution calling on Albania to implement the Framework Agreement for Protection of Minority Languages and provide education in these native tongues throughout the country.

It stated a climate of respect and tolerance of ethnic minorities generally prevails in Albania -- including Greeks, Macedonians, Serbs, Montenegrins, Vlachs (Arumans) and Roma -- but there are significant shortcomings and no sufficient opportunities exist to learn their native languages.

It noted this is the case of the Greek and Macedonian minorities beyond the areas where they are highly concentrated, and noted no education is provided in the Serbian, Montenegrin, Vlach (Aruman) or Roma languages.

The Albanian government had allowed education in Macedonian in the Pustec municipality where Macedonians form a majority.

CoE council of ministers' resolutions are legally binding for the council member states and their implementation is closely followed in countries subject to monitoring, as is the case with Albania, said Aleksandar Nikolovski, vice president of the monitoring commission of CoE's parliamentary assembly.

"This right can be practiced beginning in September of this year with the start of the new school year. It concerns pupils of early age, primary school," Nikolovski told SETimes.

Minority representatives in Albania welcomed CoE's engagement, but expressed doubt that the resolution will be implemented.

"The problem here is lack of political will, not legislation," Edmond Temelko, mayor of Pustec, told SETimes.

Temelko said 60 percent of the textbooks in Pustec should be in Macedonian to accommodate the minority population there, but only 10 percent of children learn in their native language and even that group lacks the required number of textbooks.

The education ministry in Albania did not return calls from SETimes seeking comment.

Temelko said one problem in fulfilling the resolution is the 2011 census, which he said undercounted minority populations. Minorities boycotted the census because the authorities did not allow the heading "ethnicity" on the census forms.

Moreover, the resolution said there has been no progress in adopting legislation within the framework of implementing the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU, and called on Albania to take action to pass such legislation to clarify its policy toward minorities.

"Problems should be addressed in a number of areas, such as the legal criteria required for recognition as a national minority, the institutional framework for addressing minority issues and structuring the dialogue with representatives of national minorities, the use of minority languages in relations with the administrative authorities and the use of minority languages for the display of traditional local names, street names and other topographical indications, in particular in areas inhabited by persons belonging to national minorities traditionally or in substantial numbers," it said.

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The intention of this and other similar resolutions by CoE is far-reaching, said Mirjana Malevska, a professor at the University of South-Eastern Europe in Tetovo.

"It is to avoid discrimination against minorities, but also remove one important reason for ethnic conflicts," Malevska told SETimes.

Correspondent Erl Murati in Tirana contributed to this report.

What else can Albania do to ensure the linguistic and human rights of its minorities? Share your thoughts below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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