Montenegro doesn’t recognize the Albanian population living in the Diaspora as its citizens, but the Diaspora consists on 2/3 of the Albanian population of Montenegro. Thus, they are forbidden to vote and to be voted, but also to participate in the economic and social developments of their country
Albanians in Montenegro are facing the most flagrant violation of political, social and economic rights and also the phenomenon of the colonization and collective departures. This has been mainly noticed in Malesi e Madhe which is still administered by the Commune of Podgorica.
The collective departures are mainly taking place amongst the young generation, which leave their homes due to the economic circumstances and the lack of attention by state institutions.
In spite of all the efforts that have been made, Malesi e Madhe still doesn’t enjoy the status of the Commune. Although many arguments have been shown for economic, juridical and political stability of the Commune, the Montenegrin government still insists on not granting the status of commune to Malesi e Madhe.
Following these efforts, the proposal by Montenegrin authorities to hold a Referendum to decide whether to make Malesi e Madhe a commune or not, in circumstances when the demographic composition is being transformed day by day not in favor of the Albanian population, acts as another factor of discrimination.
No commune of Montenegro has been founded through a referendum. Under the pretext of the democratic right for referendum, Albanians are being deprived of the right to self government on a local level.
As a result of Albanians not having their own commune, they cannot administer their natural resources and economically develop with these resources. The same thing also applies with properties, cultural heritage, educational institutions and issues of employment.
Malesi e Madhe currently faces the problem of properties, given that collective properties are not recognized to them, although property is sanctioned by international Conventions. The government is making every attempt to alienate these properties and to appropriate them. Such cases have been encountered in Vuksanlekaj, Milesh, Karabushko Pole, Dinoshë and also in Valdanosin of Ulcinj, which is known to be one of the largest lands in Montenegro for the cultivation of olives.
A landfill is being planned to be built in the village of Martinaj in the area of Plavë and Guci, 350 meters away from Albanian residential areas and under the castle of the Illyrian Queen Jerina. This would damage one of the greatest beauties of Plavë and Guci, it would destroy the potential for local tourism and above all, it would force residents to leave the area.
In response to this, Albanian residents have drafted a petition in April this year and have held protests.
A check point has been installed before entering the village of Vuthaj. In order to enter that area, a tax should be paid with the pretext that the area is a protected one. This makes it very difficult and almost impossible to the Albanians of the surrounding areas to visit the village and to exploit the pastures, given that the majority of them earn their living through farming.
In the village of Martinaj, at the property of Prelvukaj family, 50 civil Serbs and 50 police officers, provoked the Albanian population on May 15, 2013, attempting to start the works in the foundations of a church dating back to the ‘30s, the foundations of which are situated on a land that was taken by force to the owners at that time.
Currently, the percentage of Albanian employees in the public administration occupies less than 1%. According to this formula of the electoral code in Montenegro, Albanians are not given any chance to win a seat in parliament.
Montenegro doesn’t recognize the Albanian population living in the Diaspora as its citizens, but the Diaspora consists on 2/3 of the Albanian population of Montenegro. Thus, they are forbidden to vote and to be voted, but also to participate in the economic and social developments of their country.
The act for law and order forbids the use of national symbols in the institutions where Albanians are a majority.
Elementary and high school students are also forbidden to use text books coming from Tirana or Pristina in their learning process with the pretext that they are not compatible with the teaching programs drafted by the Ministry of Education and Science in Montenegro.
Under these circumstances, Albanian political parties in Montenegro must coordinate efforts and voice their concerns about what’s happening with Albanians and address their demands to the institutions of Kosovo and Albania.
Meanwhile, the government and several institutions in Kosovo have recently recognized the Montenegrin minority in Kosovo as a national minority. This means that this minority enjoys privileges in the central, local government and beyond, but before being so kind hearted with any demand made by Montenegrin authorities, the latter must engage for the rights of Albanians in Montenegro.
Meanwhile, diplomatic visits from institutions of the Republic of Albania are not leading to any improvement of the state of Albanians in Montenegro.
Governments of Pristina and Tirana must report to the EU and other international institutions about the difficult situation of the Albanians in Montenegro, in order for the institutions of this country to be conditioned in regional and EU forums for as long that it doesn’t respect the legitimate rights of the Albanians.
Diplomatic efforts alone are not sufficient.
*The author is columnist and the secretary for Foreign Relations at Self Determination Movement