Tirana, September 7, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Olijana Ifti, Deputy Environment Minister of Albania
Ethnic affiliation, language and place of birth have been generally used to express the identity and cultural affiliation of individuals in a society, these are the characteristics investigated during the census process. Migratory movements and combined marriages are two social phenomena that have caused difficulties in the measurement of ethnic affiliation. As a result of these demographic trends, composite identities have increased, as well as the opportunities for their reporting, adding to the complexity of ethnic data (Waters, 2000).
For this reason, in 2000 in the U.S.A., during the process of population and housing census, it was allowed to choose between the many ethnic identities. In the following censuses it is given the possibility of an open question that allowed more than one categorization, giving the respondents the possibility of one or two responses. In Europe only Hungary allowed the alternative of choosing up to 3 nationalities (ethnicity), as a result of the requests of some minority representatives. In “2001 census”, Hungary was the first to offer the option of giving multiple answers regarding affiliation. Appreciating the fact that multiethnic identities are increasing, the need to adjust the census’ questions is raised in order for such phenomena to be reflected in the results. The Russian Federation, for instance, due to the growing demands to include identities with multiple nationalities, will include recognition of multi ethnic in the 2012 census, such as Russian Jews or Russians Tatars, who are not currently included in the census results. (Tishkov 2001).
But why self-disclosure in Albania, i.e. the right to choose the ethnicity, is seen as taboo by the public opinion? Why “2011 census” is considered as an inefficient process, with valid results, but not reliable? Given the assessments of different researchers and analysts of this field a question arises naturally: Was this a preannouced failure? Since 1948, the United Nations has distributed social demographic data through a Demographic Yearbook, which is published annually and is a unique source of information, including data on ethnicity. In 1956 Demographic Yearbook included for the first time statistics of 5 different types of data in order to identify the ethnic composition of the population. These were: Country of birth, citizenship, language, ethnic group and religion, thus giving the minority representatives the opportunity to enjoy their rights. I would like to stop on the “ethnic group” and “religion”.
Different representatives of the public or political opinion in Albania appealed publicly to not complete this part of the form, which from global standards’ perspective was obligatory, i.e. the right to declare whether or not you have Albanian nationality and whether you belong to a certain religion.
Another drawback of the census relates to the reliability of the data. Self-disclosure that is considered very important by all recommendations of recent studies on the census, – must be clear and well defined, in cases such as: indigenous groups (domestic), which have existed for many generations, or cases that are not always clearly defined, since it can lead us to affiliation of more than one ethnic group, which often leads to confusion. That is why it is necessary to self-disclose.
Now arises the need for reliability of ethnicity data obtained during registration, but only if the answer is given by: 1) a family member, or is determined by the census enumerator on the basis of observation, 2) legal rights or earned benefits may be affected by the given answer, or 3) if changes of the ethnic models have occurred during the time.
Despite the number of minorities in Albania, what needs to be estimated in making a decision is the right of these minorities to enjoy their own culture, preach and practice their religion, or to use their own language. And in this case, I would like to draw the attention particularly for the protection and integration of the Roma minority, the community for which, due to their characteristic of mobility, there is no accurate data in the register of civil status. Whereas religion, as a system of values, beliefs, symbols and rituals, the language and culture of a particular community lead to “cultural assimilation”, being acquired by the dominant group in society. This results in unequal access to resources of society.
There is a postulate that says “conflicts do not arise from the features of the people, but by efforts to control each other and society”. This is why in Albania was born the need of a census, which would bring us a detailed information on the number of minorities. Denial of the right to respond to the question of ethnicity, according to the plea that some political and social actors made in Albania, and as it seems was followed to some extend from a part of the population, provides a blankness, which turns “2011 Census” in a formal process and ineffective in this regard.
Philosopher John Rawls uses a phrase about civil disobedience and the racial, ethnic and religious rights: “Civil disobedience is a public act. Not only it refers to public principles, but also it appears publicly. Applied openly and with fair warning; Nor is it covered or hidden. You can also compare with a public speech and, by being a means of communication, an expression of deep and conscious political persuasion, it takes place in a public forum”.
Therefore, in the case of the census in Albania, only a strong and the politically adaptable would exhilarate the promised goals of the leaders. Motivation that apparently was absent!