Albania: New report on protection of national minorities

The Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) has published its fifth opinion on Albania (see the Albanian version of the summary of the opinion and the comments of the Albanian authorities)

The report praises the prevailing atmosphere of mutual respect and intercultural dialogue in Albania, especially in terms of inter-religious tolerance. However, the lack of reliable, disaggregated data related to national minorities, ranging from census figures to monitoring hate speech and hate crime, poses significant challenges in assessing their situation and designing targeted policies, particularly given the thresholds contained in the Law on National Minorities.

The legal framework in place is generally sound but lacks specificity, says the FCNM Advisory Committee, adding that Albania faces several challenges, including emigration to Western Europe and internal migration towards the capital. The issue of human trafficking also affects national minorities disproportionately. These phenomena impact rural areas particularly, where poverty rates are especially high. Additionally, rapid growth in the tourism industry is transforming parts of the country, affecting the ability of national minorities to maintain their cultures and participate in economic and social life.

The bylaw relating to data collection for the formal identification of national minorities has not been adopted. The report finds that the proposed draft relies on what are considered objective criteria based on unreliable historical data. It recommends that authorities prioritise the subjective choice of individuals to identify with a national minority rather than relying exclusively on objective criteria.

The report notes that the census taking place in October 2023 is crucial. Amendments have removed administrative fines for incorrect answers, which is a positive development. However, the report stresses the need for the census to be participatory and for national minorities to be well-informed and have confidence in the process.

It is further noted that Roma and Egyptian minorities are recognised as separate national minorities in law, but authorities often conflate the two in policy documents. Disaggregated data is crucial to assess and address their distinct needs. Housing conditions for Roma and Egyptian minorities are also concerning, including segregation and discrimination in the private rental market, irregular property status, and the threat of forced evictions. The FCNM Advisory Committee finds that school segregation is a systemic problem across Albania, particularly affecting Roma and Egyptian minorities, as found also by the European Court of Human Rights. .

Linguistic rights remain only accessible in a few areas of the country and only for the Macedonian and Greek minorities. The Committee therefore recommends that thresholds for accessing such rights are reviewed, and that the authorities take an active approach to raising awareness about accessing linguistic rights protected under the Framework Convention. National minorities have limited opportunities for political participation, particularly at the national level, and the report notes that the Committee on National Minorities, which is meant to serve as the voice of minorities within the government, is often perceived by minority individuals to have not achieved very much. The Advisory Committee therefore recommends reviewing its procedures to ensure it has the tools to effectively stand up for minorities’ rights.

The Advisory Committee encourages the Albanian authorities to organise a follow-up event to review the observations and recommendations in this report. The Committee stands ready to support the authorities in implementing these recommendations.