The European Parliament has called on Albania to make sure the rights of all minorities – and specifically ethnic Bulgarians – are safeguarded and legally enshrined. In its 2016 report on Albania, formally adopted on Wednesday, the EP “notes that further efforts are needed to protect the rights of all minorities in Albania, through the full implementation of the relevant legislation.”
The Parliament also “recommends that the rights of people with Bulgarian ethnicity in the Prespa, Golo Brdo and Gora regions be enshrined in law and ensured in practice.”
There are different estimates about how many Albanian nationals are of Bulgarian descent, but various sources put the number between 50 000 and 100 000. Albania now recognizes Greek, Macedonian, and Montenegrin minorities.
In the Gora region in particular, some historians have referred to the cross-border Slavic-speaking groups living there as “Gorani”, whose identity is a matter of disputes between Albanians, Kosovars, Macedonians and Bulgarians – but also among the Gorani themselves.
Bobi Bobev, a former Bulgarian Ambassador to Tirana, has told the Bulgarian National Radio that there are between 30 000 and 40 000 ethnic Bulgarians in the areas in question, according to the latest estimates.
But he has also pointed to the fact that “this population is torn in its feelings between Bulgaria and Macedonia.” “In the comments that followed, I see the erroneous claim that everything depends on our position, on our policy. The problem is domestic for the Republic of Albania, it is up to them to decide.”
Macedonian media have reacted to the EP’s claims. Other recommendations for Albania include the passing of a “wide-ranging judicial reform”, eliminating “selective justice”, corruption and political interference in investigations and court cases.
A reference is also made on another project of cross-border importance, namely Corridor VIII, with the EP urging authorities “to speed up construction of major infrastructure projects as the rail link and modern highway between Tirana and Skopje” as part of the project.
Corridor VIII was designed to link Durrës in Albania to Varna in Bulgaria. Work on the project, however, has been stalled for years.