National minorities, the new bill on its way to becoming a law

National minorities, the new bill on its way to becoming a law

Representatives of national minorities have insisted on the right to open schools in their language, to be represented in the country’s institutions and so on. “Members of national minorities are entitled to create and participate in associations and political parties and other civil organizations pursuant to the law on political parties, with the scope of expressing and defending their interests. People who belong to national minorities are entitled to be elected in central and local government institutions, individually or by participating in associations and political parties, based on the Election Code”, states the new draft relating to this

The rights of people belonging to national minorities in Albania are expected to be regulated through a new bill and special work groups are holding talks on this new bill. Meanwhile, debates with stakeholders, who have submitted their concrete suggestions on the drafting of a final bill have already taken place.

Albanian Free Press learned this from sources at the State Committee of Minorities, according to which, the process in question is heading toward finalization and until March 15, the ministry of Foreign Affairs will send the final draft to the Council of Ministers. Meanwhile, the debates on the drafting of this bill for minorities have also included the participation of the representatives of these groups in them. These debates have also pointed out the discontent that they feel on the current treatment that they receive by Albanian state institutions.

For example, representatives of the Vlach community in our country say that during the debate in question, they have insisted on the idea that while the sponsors of the bill claim that it is the best in Europe, the bill doesn’t protect the rights of minorities, like it happens in other countries such as Romania, Macedonia, etc, where each national minority has its representatives in parliament. “We also want an MP in the Albanian Parliament”, say representatives of the Vlach community. Meanwhile, representatives of other minorities have raised their concern that the Census of the population, which was conducted by official Albanian authorities, cannot reflect the real level of the presence of a national minority in Albania.

According to them, during a Census, the information that people provide in relation to their ethnicity may not be true. They referred to article 6 of the bill, which makes it clear that “during a national Census of the population, nobody is obliged to reveal his or her ethnic, language or religious affiliation”, also adding the fact that “a person declares his ethnic affiliation during periodical censuses of the population of Albania, based on the right of self-identification”. Based on such fact, representatives of different national minorities believe that the Census cannot generate the real number of a minority in the country.

When will the language and symbols of the minority’s language be used?

 When there is a sufficient number of requests in local government units, where 20% of the population belong to national minorities, these units, streets and other topographic signs are also written in the language of the respective minority, alongside Albanian. This is only one of the provisions of the new bill, adding that in those local government units where the minority population constitutes no less than 20% of the general percentage of population, they are also entitled to receive information on the holding of an electoral process in the minority language. The bill also states that “any act that changes the composition of the population of local government units, where people of national minorities live and which aims at restricting the rights and liberties of these people, is prohibited”. Meanwhile, the bill also says that “people who belong to national minorities have the right of peaceful gatherings, freedom to organize themselves, freedom of opinions and the right to manifest their religion or creed”.