Wednesday, November 02, 2011
Montenegro Proclaims, "No Municipality for Malësia"
Earlier today the Montenegrin Parliament adopted the Law on Territorial Organization, but no concessions were made to opposition parties and minority groups who were awaiting the formation of new municipalities in Montenegro.
Proposals of the opposition parties, which included pleas from ethnic Albanians to grant a municipal status to Tuzi, was turned away when it did not receive the necessary majority in the Montenegrin parliament.
The ruling coalition, which ironically includes the DPS and its appointed mayor of Tuzi, Nikollë Gegaj, argued that the initiative for the establishment of new municipalities was “unjustified and irrational at this time.”
The Law on Territorial Organization stipulates that the Government of Montenegro has the final say in the formation of new municipalities.
As one of the main obstacles to the independence of some municipalities, the Montenegrin government insists that those areas seeking independent municipalities must strengthen their economic capacity.
The Government of Montenegro considers that territorial changes cannot jeopardize economic development in a region, or the capacity of the existing municipalities to successfully perform its function.
The news came as a blow to the Albanian community in Malësia and the Diaspora. Back in 2005, then Prime Minister Milo Dukanovic assured a visiting Albanian delegation (who was accompanied by U.S. Congressman Elliot Engel) that “Tuzi would be granted a full and legal municipality in four years.” That would have been 2008.
With a population in steady decline, ethnic Albanians in Malësia are running out of time.
In 2003, the late Congressman from California, Tom Lantos, declared that what was happening to Albanians in Montenegro could be labeled as “quiet ethnic cleansing.” What Lantos might not have known is that this has been progressively happening since 1957, when Malësia was stripped of her legal municipality. And 55 years later, the aftermaths has been horrific.
There are less Albanians in Montenegro today than ever before in history.
When you ask a young adult what his dreams are, he responds, “to leave this place and go to America.”
There are no jobs, no opportunities, and no efforts for integrating Albanians, but instead a policy of assimilation and forced emigration.
What is happening with Albanians in Montenegro?
It should be no surprise why the population in Malësia has been steadily declining; over 55 years without democratic institutions (Municipality) have led to virtually no resources to: (1) identify administrative borders, (2) combat sluggish cultural development, (3) fill libraries that do not have books in the mother tongue, (4) support public fairs/festivals, (5) setting national holidays and/or street names, (6) contest the dissipating infrastructure – no adequate and safe water supply / sewage disposal / waste treatment facilities, no facilities for primary health care, public transportation is nonexistent, and maintenance of parks is absent, (7) reverse weak political participation – that has led to no municipal offices to handle the most basic needs of the local population, election offices /Register of Deeds centered in Podgorica, language barriers hindering development, government is centralized and very intimidating.
What has been the result?
The 2011 Montenegrin National Census reports the lowest Albanian population in the history of the region at 4.9%;
Assimilation & Emigration at unprecedented rates;
Albanians alienated from political process;
Latest election turnout the lowest ever, thus allowing opposition parties to take power;
All decision-making authority rests in the capital city – Podgorica;
More Albanians in Michigan & NY than ever before;
More Albanians in Detroit than in Montenegro;
Diaspora Albanians reluctant to return;
Widening cleavages between ethnic groups in Montenegro;
While 93% of the citizens in Tuz voted in favor of Montenegro’s independence in 2006, today less than 1% of Albanians are employed in the public sphere.
Democracy is an idea in Montenegro, Assimilation is their domestic policy.
The battle from abroad
A call for Municipality was recently forwarded to the U.S. Government by the distribution of a comprehensive Feasibility Study performed by a group of socio-political and economic experts from Montenegro and the U.S.
The study compared the sociopolitical and economic elements in the region of Malësia with those of the other established (21) municipalities. The results were well-defined: Malësia is much richer (via natural resources, business enterprises and investment from abroad) and more economically sustainable than seven existing municipalities in Montenegro today. In other words, one-third of Montenegro’s municipalities are in worse economic shape than Malësia.
And what has been Montenegro’s position on Malesia’s municipal status? There are insufficient financial resources and poor economic capacity to grant her a sovereign commune. The 2009 feasibility study unambiguously proves otherwise.
Decentralization has been a key component in appeasing ethnic minorities in Kosova and Macedonia; minorities now have increased power in areas they occupy as a majority, much like Malësia. The Diaspora has followed these trends closely, and has maintained that, in Malësia, Albanians should be allowed to manage their own affairs at the local level.
The United States Congress has agrees with this position.
In 2003, a Congressional Hearing on the “Repression of Albanians in Montenegro”, chaired by Rep Tom Lantos, discussed that the solution to the continued discrimination against Albanians was the creation of a municipality.
In 2005, Lantos petitioned (on several occasions) former Montenegrin PM Dukanovic to establish a municipality for Malësia.
In 2006, members of “Citizens Initiative” from Tuz joined the Albanian-American Association “Malësia e Madhe” from Detroit and appealed to the State Department, and Senator Carl Levin’s office in Washington, on the growing ethnic bigotry in Malësia. In turn, Levin petitioned the State Department to pay close attention to these issues abroad.
The Albanian-American community has also been restless.
In 2008, Students for Tolerance and Albanian Rights (S.T.A.R.) petitioned Congressman Engel at the campus of Oakland University for the recognition of a Malësia Municipality.
Since early 2005, eight demonstrations from Detroit to Washington to NY have taken place to object to the ill-treatment of Albanians in Montenegro
In 2010, the Albanian-American Diaspora (four Albanian NGOs) joined together to petition the State Department, Albanian Embassy, Kosova Embassy, and Montenegrin Embassy.
In a letter forwarded to Secretary Hillary Clinton, Senator Levin and congressmen Peters and Sandy Levin firmly requested that the State Department: “ensure the equitable treatment of Albanians in Montenegro,” while at the same time expressing support in “granting a full municipality status of the Tuzi district of Podgorica,” which would alleviate the continuing problems associated with “the rights of Albanians who are subject to discrimination in their native lands…”
And in 2011, from Tuz, the desk officer of the “Commission for Human Rights and the Protection of National Minorities” requested a meeting with Members of Congress to discuss the threats to the entire Albanian ethnic minority in Montenegro.
So many pleas, petitions, and demands, but yet so little productivity.
What will it take?
What will it take for Montenegro to realize that it is violating international laws, treaties, charters, statutes, and its very own constitution by holding back an entire ethnic minority? What will it take for the European Union to realize that membership into the EU bloc requires respect, recognition and protection of your national minorities first, and thereafter Montenegro can scramble to fix her criminal empire called “Parliament”? What will it take for the United States to realize that continued aid and support to Montenegro should be contingent upon its observance of equal rights and defense of its Albanian minorities? And what will it take for Albanians in Montenegro to realize that they are becoming extinct, and for those that will somehow survive, what will it take for them to realize they are turning into Slavs?
Posted by Conference Organizer at 10:25 PM