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Macedonians in Albania Face Discriminatory Census Law

A representative of the Macedonian minority in Albania and member of parliament has decried that country’s population census law as discriminatory to Macedonians and other ethnic minorities, writes the Macedonian Newspaper Ilinden – Tirana. Vasil Sterjovski comes from the political party Macedonian Alliance for European Integration (MAEI) whose members and supporters are Macedonians who live in the regions Golo Brdo and Mala Prespa, and other parts of Albania. 

Ethnic minorities can enjoy certain rights in Albania, but only in the municipalities that are recognized by the state as “Minority Municipalities”. Individuals can appear in government books as members of their respective minority, however this status can be easily lost when people move to a “non-minority” region.

Mr Sterjovski made his remarks from the Albanian parliament about the controversial Article 22 of the recently-updated Draft Law on Census of Population and Housing. The Article proposes severe fines (up to 820 euro) for individuals who make an “incorrect” entry in the graph for ethnic background. 

The problem with the “Minority Municipalities” and with Article 22 of the Law for population census is that if a Macedonian person or a family relocates outside their municipality, they are automatically re-registered as “Albanians” in the registry of citizens, which eschews the actual number of the ethnic minority group to which they belong. 

Mr Sterjovski points out that the article in question is an instrument for exerting pressure against the free expression of one’s ethnic origin, adding this is against international instruments that guarantee individuals the right to self-determination and to belong to an ethnic group.

According to the law, entering an “incorrect” answer in the “ethnic origin” field can result in a monetary penalty of 50,000 to 100,000 Albanian leks or between 410 and 820 euro, in a country where the official state average is 210 euro. 

The 2011 national census in Albania was boycotted by ethic minorities and religious communities. 14.07 per cent of the people had refused to state their ethnic background, fearing repercussion. 

In the Albania Country Report from 2013, the European Commission concluded “Data collected through the Census should not constitute the exclusive source of information for the development of the legal and policy framework on minorities.”

Mr Sterjovski points out that the article in question and other articles in the Population Census Law are instruments for exerting pressure against the free expression of one’s ethnic belonging. In Albania, ethnic minorities can enjoy certain rights only in the municipalities that belong to the list of “Minority Municipalities” according to Albanian law.

For Macedonians these areas are Mala Prespa, Vrbnik and the surroundings of Devoli. Members of ethnic minority groups who leave these territories and move to another location are automatically registered as ethnic Albanians in the national registry of citizens.  

Source: Association of Macedonians in Albania – Ilinden

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