Macedonians in Albania Do Not Want to Study Macedonian as a Foreign Language

In February this year, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers has passed a resolution under which the members of the Macedonian national minority are able to receive schooling in their mother tongue since the earliest age on the entire territory of Albania, Dnevnik daily reads.

The same decision applies to the members of the other minorities, such as the Greek and the Serbian-Montenegrin. Whether Albania, which recently received the EU candidate status, will abide to Strasbourg’s law, remains uncertain for the time being, but if we judge the sentiment with the minorities, the atmosphere is not optimistic.

"There was a complete silence about the resolution in Albania. It was not published by the institutions nor have the media reported it. Only one newspaper, published in English language, informed about it. Tirana has not changed its policy in terms of the minorities, meaning for us Macedonians as well."

They recognize the Macedonian minority only in Prespa, which means that courses in Macedonian language could be held only there, while in other places, it could be learned as a second foreign language, together with English and French. We will not accept that," said Vasil Sterjovski, member of the Macedonian Alliance for European Integration leadership.

Yesterday, Dnevnik was not able to get an answer from the office of the Council of Europe in Tirana about the current application of the resolution, because "the two diplomats who are authorized to give statements on such matters are on their annual vacation." The diplomatic sources the Macedonian newspaper managed get in touch with, say that Strasbourg is "particularly interested in the implementation of the resolution" and that for that purpose, they are holding meetings with the minorities’ representatives.

"Minority rights is one of the five priorities stated by the European Commission. That means that except the key reforms in the judiciary system, or for instance, the fight against organized crime and political dialogue, one of the most important issues is the respect of the minority rights, meaning wide use of the language," the diplomatic source said.

At the same time, there are several practical problems related to the resolution’s application, but the key difficulty was, as he singled out, the "unrealistic census", which was rejected by the minorities and the Orthodox Church, who also asked for its revision. The census conducted in 2011 which was precisely designed to show that Macedonians (and other minority groups) were living only in Prespa but not in the other areas or municipalities across Albania. Another problem is that Albania has not signed the European charter on regional and minority languages.

"It is known that Golo Brdo and Gora are almost entirely ethnically clean environments and that the population there speaks Macedonian. But the legal obstacles inherited from the Enver Hoxha era do not allow introduction of Macedonian language courses in the primary schools, nor the Macedonians there are recognized as Macedonians. Two years ago MAEI and the "Most" Association launched the initiative of studying Macedonian, after which it was promised that as of September the Macedonian language could be studied since the 7th grade, but that was an empty promise, therefore last year in October, we renewed our initiative," Sterjovski added.

Minority members hope the situation will improve with the new law on minorities drafted by the Ombudsman. Details about its content have not been made public, but according to Sterjovski, they will be summoned at the Ombudsman office to present their proposals which would enter in the law.

"There is one intergovernmental committee chaired by the Chief of Diplomacy Bushati, which addresses minority issues and we were told that we would be called to participate in the next session. The committee is expected to draw conclusions by the end of the year," Sterjovski said.

Meanwhile, Macedonian activists have been mobilized and have been working on ground to record the places where Macedonians live and their interest of learning the Macedonian language, i.e. its introduction in the education process.

In accordance with the Albanian law, it has been determined that in Prespa 60% of the subjects in the education process should be taught in Macedonian, but Tirana does not agree with this, complaining that it lacks resources and of other technical problems. Vasil Sterjovski says the Macedonian minority is ready to answer to Tirana-stated problems immediately, i.e. that it is capable to organize the education process independently. 

"We can organize the entire education process on Macedonian language. Since 1990 until now, some 500-600 Macedonian Albanians have graduated in Macedonia. Those are excellent resources," Strejovski said.

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