CoE – Albania Should Combat Minority Discrimination

Albania needs to strengthen the protection of minorities’ rights, according to a report from a Council of Europe Advisory Committee.

The Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCN) has urged the Albanian government to enforce the existing laws on the protection of minorities, whilst adopting further legislation. The report noted that there were regrettable issues regarding the representation of minorities in local government units (LGUs).

In October 2017, the Law on the Protection of National Minorities was adopted and it was seen as a positive step towards respecting and protecting minorities in the country. Unfortunately the FCN note that it is too general and relies heavily on documentation from the civil registry with regards to ethnic affiliation. This results in a situation where citizens are denied the right to self-identification and are unable to access special rights as provided for by law.

It was also observed that the civil registry data is incomplete and in the cases of former “ethno-linguistic” minorities and newly recognised national minorities, no records were kept at all. In addition to this, a provision in the law which makes it illegal to give an “incorrect” answer to a question on ethnic affiliation in the census, is still in force. This means that anyone choosing to self-identify, or who does not have documents to support their claim faces a fine.

The Committee observe that there are schools in Gjirokaster, Saranda, Delvina and Korce where the Greek language is taught, and schools in Korce where Macedonian is taught. In addition to this, teaching of the Romani language is limited and teaching of other national languages is non-existent. According to FCN, the new law on national minorities should have opened up the possibility of teaching classes the languages of all national minorities, but this has not happened.

Furthermore, it states that the situation of Roma and Egyptians remains an “unresolved and urgent problem” as both groups are continually excluded from participation in social and economic life with both suffering high levels of unemployment. Factors that contribute to this issue include discrimination and general impoverishment due to serious underdevelopment of regions inhabited by Roma.

Whilst money has been designated to resolve the issue, most of this money comes from foreign donors rather than the state itself, giving a further example of the authorities’ unwillingness to resolve matters.

The Committee recommend without any further delay that additional legislation is developed to make the existing law on the protection of minorities effective and in conformity with international human rights standards. The government has also been asked to strictly respect the principle of self-identification, remove the law on “incorrect” answers to ethnicity questions, decrease discrimination and inequality, and ensure the right of access to education and minority languages of minorities.

– Alice Elizabeth Taylor