From: Alice Taylor
CoE: Albania Must Fulfil its Obligations to Roma and Egyptian Communities

The Head of the Council of Europe Office in Albania, Jutta Gutzkow, has reminded the Albanian government that they need to implement processes to foster more inclusion for Roma and Egyptian communities in the country, as this will also impact their EU “joining prospects.”

The rights of Roma, their integration, and non-discrimination are one of the obligations Albania is bound to as a member of the Council of Europe and are further enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, and the European Social Charter.

As the CoE notes, “they are also under the EU joining prospects of Albania and the commitments under the Declaration of Western Balkan Partners on Roma Integration within the EU Enlargement Process, and the National Action Plan on Equality, Inclusion, and Participation of Roma and Egyptians 2021-2025.”

Jutta Gützkow, Head of the Council of Europe Office in Tirana, said: 

“Albania sets a very positive example by being the first member state to adopt the Guidelines for Municipalities on Roma and Egyptian Responsive Budgeting at Local level in the secondary legislation during 2020. However, the Guidelines need to be translated in practice for the benefit of the local communities and I would wish to highlight that Roma Integration projects and priorities are considered in the mid-term and annual budgetary planning.”

Gutzkow held meetings with mayors and municipal officials in Elbasan, Permet, Fier, Korce, Pogradec, Roskovec, Vlore, Lushnje, Cerrik, and Gjirokaster earlier this month. They discussed the commitments Albania has and how they need to be implemented at the local level through the political engagement of mayors and local administrations.

Albania’s minority communities are consistently victims of hate speech and discrimination according to various international reports. They also face obstacles in accessing employment, healthcare, education, and even official documentation.

Issues have also be raised over the forced evictions of these communities from their homes, often without prior notice or adherence to proper procedure.

The pandemic caused significant problems for these communities as they struggled to work, gain access to information, and gt proper healthcare when required.

Last year, Prime Minister Edi Rama was called out for making derogatory comments about the Roma and Egyptian community. He called them “cannon fodder” and said they were being used for political games by political parties.

During the election campaign prior to the 25 April election, women and girls from the Roma community criticized politicals for ignoring them.

In an open letter, they explained how they are constantly discriminated against by society, institutions, and are in a constant battle to avoid the Municipal police. They said that as a community and as women they are full of potential and deserve recognition from policymakers.

A spokeswoman from the Center for Social Advocacy Romina Sefa told Citizens Channel that Albania’s burgeoning feminist movement isn’t complete without including women from marginalized backgrounds, such as Roma.

She continued that female candidates for MP have ignored Roma women and girls during the campaign prior to the April 25 election.