New territorial reform in Albania passed with objections within the majority

New territorial reform in Albania passed with objections within the majority

IBNA Special Report

Tirana, August 1, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency

Yesterday, the voting for the new administrative and territorial division of the Republic of Albania was preceded by a heated debate between parties within the left wing majority.

The opposition has been absent because since the beginning, it objected this reform claiming that no consensus was being offered by the left wing.

The passage of the new division required 84 votes out of a total number of 140 in parliament. The majority managed to secure 88 votes, thus confirming its numbers in parliament.

But, this reform was strongly objected, especially by the Unity for Human Rights Party. Its leader, Vangjel Dule, who is vice speaker of parliament, warned that his party will leave the coalition if the reform passes without taking into account their complaints. Vangjel Dule MP considered the new administrative division as illegal, by declaring that it seriously threatens human rights of minorities. “This threatens European laws and European practices. But this act becomes even more serious when it’s not proposed by a single MP, but by the Council of Ministers and its initiator is Edi Rama. The commune of Vranisht, which is connected through a helicopter line, is attached to the current municipality of Himara. The areas where minorities live were detached from areas where Greek is spoken. Ethnic Greek minority in Delvina and Saranda were detached from villages and neighborhoods to satisfy political appetites”, said Mr. Dule.

Vice speaker of parliament has demanded for the issue of Himara to be solved “through a referendum, otherwise, this reform will fail the same as the census”, said he.

This demand triggered debates in parliament, part of which was also prime minister Edi Rama.

Addressing to Dule, Rama said that Himara is an Albanian land and as such, it must be treated like any other area of the country. “Himara is the same as Tropoja, Kavaja or any other area of Albania. The fact that it’s inhabited by a Greek minority shows that it must integrate. Himara has been and is an Albanian region. Residents of Himara, Dhermi and Palasa are Labs and they speak Albanian”, declared Rama.

Mr. Dule’s reaction was prompt. He said that the approval of the territorial reform threatens the rights of the Greek minority in Himara. “Members of the Greek minority live in Himara. You have clearly manifested what I denounced, tendentiousness. The rights of minority communities part of the Framework Convention are being threatened”, said Dule.

He also addressed a message to the prime minister when he said: “Those who make others part of the institutional life of a country must feel proud and not those who pass laws”.

Rama immediately reacted to this. He denied every possibility that the reform aims to deny rights of the minorities. The prime minister also addressed an appeal to the head of UHRP. “Do not insult my intelligence. There’s not even a single attempt to restrict the liberties and rights of the Greek minority in Himara. We have recognized the presence of this minority there and we will always respect it. The issue of Himara is a sensitive one, because it has to do with the 23 year efforts of many of those who have wanted to see Himara as something which in fact isn’t. We want the prosperity of people regardless of their ethnicity”.

The new division is said to bring a positive impact

Minister of State on Local Government Issues, Bledi Cuci says that the new Administrative and Territorial division of local government units in the Republic of Albania will benefit everyone. According to him, the cost of the administration of the territory will go down and investments will increase for the development of local government units. “The territorial reform is historical. This reform will benefit everyone, every citizen and every community. Citizens will have more say in decision making. Bigger units will be built for local government units which generate more revenues and they will have more financial sources. These units will have more capacities. The reform will enable the decentralization of many reforms. Large local government units promote local democracy. Analyses of independent experts suggest that bigger local government units will generate 3 billion to 6 billion ALL more. This reform was not conducted behind closed doors, but through discussions and by complying with the Constitution. During this whole time, the opposition has always been invited”, says Cuci.

Chairman of the Special Commission on the Administrative Reform, former prime minister Bashkim Fino says that all international reports have recommended the necessity of the administrative territorial reform. “This majority found the courage to face with this difficult reform, it found the political will to undertake this incentive”, said Mr. Fino.

Fino also comments the boycott of the opposition, declaring that the majority has taken all the necessary steps to make the opposition part of this reform. “This is why the opposition announced its boycott, by leaving parliament, although we offered to it a chance to be part of the reform”.

Prime minister Rama says that this is the most important reform of the Renaissance projects, imposed by 1 million Albanians on June 23. “This reform further democratizes local government and generates new and bigger transforming energies for the local government economy and it offers the conditions that have been missing in two decades for integrated urban development. The territorial reform also tackles corruption and systemic irresponsibility in the administration of financial sources in the territory of Albania”, says Rama.

The prime minister also talks about the advantages which according to him, the territorial reform will bring. “This reform includes many communities which have been currently left out of the educational system. This offers us an opportunity to transform the transport system, by enabling every child to go to school. The same things goes for the health system, social support and security”.

A survey conducted in the recent days suggests that 70% of people support the territorial reform. /ibna/