Trebisht in northeastern Albania looks like a ghost village, emptied of its residents by a rush to get Bulgarian passports that open the door to the European Union, AFP reported.
Arman Kadriu has an Albanian name, but the 12-year-old boy says he considers himself Bulgarian.
“I don’t want to stay here taking care of cows. I want to be a football player,” he said, covered in sweat, as he juggled a ball with his feet on a dusty road in the village in the Golo Brdo region.
“In England, with a Bulgarian passport, it’s possible,” he said, switching languages to say “Dovizhdane!” — goodbye in Bulgarian.
Bulgaria and Albania do not share a border.
And non-EU member Albania, where a law on minorities is under consideration, does not count Bulgarians among its recognised ethnic communities, unlike the Greeks, Macedonians or Serb-Montenegrins.
The ethnicity of historically Slavic-speaking communities in parts of Albania‘s east has long been fluid and disputed — neighbouring Macedonia claims they are ethnic Macedonians.
But according to the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, which helps in obtaining a passport, Bulgarian families have been settled in Albania since the 5th century and their descendants are part of its diaspora.
No statistics are available, but Bulgarian organisations in Albania estimate that there are around 100,000 of these descendants.
The European Parliament seems to agree: in February, it requested of Tirana “that the rights of people with Bulgarian ethnicity in the Prespa, Golo Brdo and Gora regions be enshrined in law and ensured in practice”.
The recommendation “has given renewed hope. Every day at least seven or eight people come to ask about obtaining Bulgarian citizenship,” said Haxhi Pirushi.
He heads the Prosperity Goloborda association, which provides certificates of Bulgarian origin to Albanians and is recognized by the government in Sofia./ Sofia News Agency