IBNA Special Report
Tirana, December 16, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Edison Kurani
Another debate has been sparked in Albania about the administrative and territorial reform, following yesterday decision of the Constitutional Court to quash the motion of the opposition for the abrogation of the law passed with the votes of the majority.
Head of the opposition, Lulzim Basha, said that he will never accept the new territorial map of the country, adding that this is “the map of dirty bargaining of Rama and Meta”.
Basha doesn’t comment the ruling of the Constitutional Court, but he says that Rama-Meta territorial map was drafted without the consensus of the opposition, without asking the citizens and against the spirit of cooperation recommended by international institutions and which has been part of good practices during the past 23 years.
“The new map was drafted against the recommendations of domestic and foreign specialized institutions”, Basha says. According to him, this has one objective, “because it’s not a reform map, but it’s the pie of Albania’s electoral division”.
The Democratic Party says that the opposition will not give up.
“We will undertake all the necessary political and institutional steps in order to restore the sovereignty of the citizens in this vital process, such as the territorial division of the country. This country is not owned by the government people, but by the citizens”, Basha says.
And in fact, Plan A for the abrogation of the reform at the Constitutional Court, was accompanied by Plan B, that of the referendum.
Municipalities and communes controlled by the opposition have started to work on this.
This is confirmed by Mr. Basha: “70 thousand signatures have been deposited today for local referendums that represent hundreds of thousands of citizens across the country for which this map is unacceptable, because it goes against their interests. The opposition will be beside them, represent their interests and it will lead their fair and legitimate protest against this masquerade”.
Meta: Basha benefits from the reform
Speaker of parliament, Ilir Meta has expressed his disappointment about the positioning of the head of the opposition. Meta says that Basha is going against his constant demands that the decisions issued by the Constitutional Court must be respected. He says that Basha must not go against the decisions of the courts.
According to Mr. Meta, the opposition needs to be more responsible and not accuse the majority for double standards.
Meta considered the claim of the opposition that the reform has been made in order to determine the result of the election, as ridiculous: “June elections are local elections and not political elections. As far as parliamentary elections are concerned, there are no changes, because the division based on 12 districts remains in force”.
According to the speaker of parliament, if there’s someone who is favored by the new territorial division, then this is Mr. Basha, the mayor of the largest municipality of the country.
“The municipality of Tirana has doubled in size and this allows mayor Basha to be reelected”, Mr. Meta suggests.
Kume: Reform is also needed in the local government
Experts believe that the next local government elections will be difficult from an administrative point of view, because the reformed local government and the new electoral administration must be strengthened.
Kristaq Kume, head of the Albanian Institute for the Development of Electoral Systems, says that the territorial reform was necessary in order to offer better services to communities. He says that along with the new territorial division, there must also be a reform in the local government.
“After the administrative map, bills must be drafted to regulate the local government”, expert Kume says.
Dule: The new division is the most serious act against the minority in 24 years
Leader of the Unity for Human Rights Party, Vangjel Dule says that the reform is a serious act that breaches the rights of minorities.
“We’re in front of the most anti-European act of the last 24 years in relation to the rights of the members of ethnic minorities in general and those of the Greek minority in particular. This is a serious and classic breach of international conventions, of the European law and European practices”, Mr. Dule says.
Mr. Dule says that the unification of Himara, known for a large presence of minorities, with Lukova in Saranda is unacceptable. “The current municipality of Himara is joined by Lukova and the commune of Vranisht, which can only be linked to Himara through a helicopter route. In an unacceptable and ridiculous way, communes in Saranda and Deliva where a Greek ethnic group has traditionally lived, are stripped from quarters and villages in order to guarantee votes”, Mr. Dule accuses the heads of the majority that he’s part of.
Mr. Dule says that a local referendum will be demanded for the issue of Himara, where its citizens will be able to have their say.
The government says that it has done a lot about minorities
Minister of Local Government, Bledi Cuci says that Himara has been treated like all other areas of Albania. According to him, Himara cannot be considered as a minority area, although it’s inhabited by members of the Greek minority.
Meanwhile, he says that in contrast to other countries, Albania has determined special municipalities for the minorities: “We have approved a special criterion for the protection of areas that are dominated by minorities. We have gone through all the reforms undertaken in Europe in the past 20 years and no country has had such criterion”.
This is enforced by PM Edi Rama, according to whom, the reform guarantees three minority municipalities. Two are inhabited by the Greek minority and one by the Macedonian minority.
The new administrative and territorial division requires 3/5 of the votes in parliament. The reform was approved in the July 31 parliamentary session with 88 votes in favor, one against by Mr. Dule and one abstain. Thanks to the participation of the Party for Justice, Integrity and Unity, an opposition party, the reform received 88 votes. The presence of this party that protects the rights of the Tcham population, was more of a vote against the refusal of UHRP on Himara. The rest of the opposition was absent.
According to the reform, 385 municipalities and communes are reduced to only 61 municipalities throughout the country. But during the discussions about this reform, the opposition declared that the Constitution had been violated, as the borders of the communes cannot be changed without first asking the residents that live in them. According to the opposition, the fusion of local government units was also anti-constitutional. The next local government elections of 2015 will be based on this new division.
The administrative-territorial reform was one of the main promises of the left.
PM Edi Rama says that this reform gives way to building a modern Albania. “This reform releases new and powerful energies for the country, it attacks electoral corruption in a capillary manner and it remedies the discrimination made to residents”, says the PM.
Meanwhile, minister Cuci says that the approval of the new law puts an end to a mess in the division of Albania. According to him, this reform has many positive effects: “Larger local government units create a stronger economy. Larger local government units will have more assets and more incomes and as a result there will be more disposable financial resources and more capacities in order to exert a wide range of functions. They will also be more effective for public investments”, Mr. Cuci says. /ibna/