News 01 Aug 14
Parliament on Thursday passed the first administrative territorial reform in decades, slashing the number of municipalities from 380 to 61 – but minority Greeks are deeply unhappy.
|Albania PM Edi Rama speaks during Thursday’s parliamentary session|
Albania has changed the face of local government after MPs on Thursday adopted a reorganisation bill, radically reducing the number of town halls.
Some 88 of the 140 MPs votes in favour, one voted against and one abstained, following heated debates between Prime Minister Edi Rama and the junior party in government, the Union for Human Rights, PBDNJ, which represents Albania’s Greek minority.
The bill required a qualified majority of 84 votes out of 140 to pass through parliament.
The opposition Democratic Party boycotted the vote, calling the new administrative division “unconstitutional”.
Of the 61 new, larger municipalities, three have been designated as minority municipalities, drawn along ethnic minority lines.
The PBDNJ was angry about the decision not to designate the southern municipality of Himara as a minority municipality as well.
The area has a large Greek-speaking population and the head of PBDNJ, Vangjel Dule, accused the government of breaching minority rights by not designing it a minority municipality.
“Albania is an EU candidate country and respect for the rights of minorities is one of the aspects of the accession negotiations,” Dule said.
“If the bill passes in the version proposed by the government it will become an impediment to the accession negotiations,” he predicted.
In his reply to Dule, Prime Minister Rama, said that the area of Himara would be treated like any other.
“There is no effort to undermine the rights of the Greek minority in Himara,” Rama said. “We have recognized its presence there and will always respect it,” he added.
The Prime Minister defended the reform, saying it would make it easier for the government to provide better services to local communities, in health, education and security.