By Ariola Imeri
Greek minority is the largest national minority that lives in Albania. As part of the Albanian society, this minority is a measuring unit for international organizations as to what extent human rights are respected in Albania. Besides being larger than other minorities, Greek minority also appears to be more organized as far as political representation is concerned. During the communist regime, the Greek minority was mainly identified by the area of Dropull. The leader of that time, Enver Hoxha used to show his regards from time to time for the Greek minority.
1991, when the democratic changes began, saw the birth of OMONIA organization, whose mission was to defend the rights of the Greek minority. It was also represented in the Albanian pluralist parliament.
Given that the law prevented associations to have MPs, the Unity for Human Rights Party was founded a few years after and up until today, it remains the main political force of the Greek minority. But, during these years, this party has weakened, given that other parties have been founded. In the current elections, the parties of the Greek minority have ranked themselves in the two rival camps, majority and the opposition.
According to the official data of the 2011 Census, Greek minority is the largest national minority living in the territory of Albania. Based on the Census, this minority consists of 0.87% of the population, or 24 243 people. This figure has not been accepted by UHRP and OMONIA. During the Census, they appealed for the Greek minority not to participate in the registration. According to the property survey carried out in 1989, the majority part of the Greek minority is situated in around 40 villages of Gjirokaster, 35 villages of Saranda, 16 villages of Delvine and 3 villages of Permet. Meanwhile, the latest Census doesn’t have information as to the movements of Greek population within the territory of the country.
Participation in politics
The Greek minority in Albania is represented by two main political forces, Unity for Human Rights Party (UHRP) with its leader Vangjel Dule, Greek Ethnic Minority Party (M.E.G.A) with its leader Kristo Kico. Equally important is also OMONIA with its leader Vasil Bollano. In the past general elections, UHRP won 18 070 votes, whereas MEGA was founded in the recent years as a result of fractions being born in the representation of the minority.
Currently, the Greek minority has three MPs in the Albanian Assembly. Vangjel Dule from UHRP, Kosta Barka who was elected as part of the lists of the Democratic Party and Vangjel Tavo, who was elected as an MP for the Socialist Party, but who has now joined the Socialist Movement for Integration. In the local government elections, UHRP has won in 8 communes.
In this year’s June 23 elections, UHRP has joined the coalition of the Socialist Party, while MEGA has joined the coalition of the Democratic Party. UHRP appears to be the political force with the largest political representation in central and local government.
Political positioning toward the minority
During its 8 years in government, the Democratic Party led by Prime Minister Berisha has paid special attention to the minority. In every cabinet, representatives of the minority have held a ministerial post.
As far as the fulfillment of the rights of the minority is concerned, Prime Minister Berisha has promised that their demands will be met according to the standards of the European Union. “I will do everything for the rights of the Greek minority to be materialized”, said Berisha.
Berisha also talks about the work done so far: “We approved the decision for the Greek text books. These text books will be covered by the government, no matter the cost”, said Prime Minister Berisha a few days after his visit in the area of Dropull in Argirocastro.
Meanwhile, the leader of the SP, Edi Rama says that the political cooperation with the Greek minority “is part of the long-term objectives of the vision for a common Albania, a European Albania integrated in the EU”.
The issue of minorities is mentioned only once in the program of the Socialist Party, whereby their rights will be respected according to EU standards.
On the other hand, representatives of Greek minority have not spared their criticism for the issues that relate to their rights. The leader of UHRP, Vangjel Dule and the head of OMONIA, Vasil Bollano have criticized the holding of the Census and its results for the Greek minority. “2011 marked steps backward for the minorities in our country. The process of the Census failed, it caused other problems and complicated the existing ones”, says Dule for the results of the Census.
0.87% or 24 243 people
UHRP, Vangjel Dule
MEGA, Kristo Kico
OMONIA, Vasil Bollano