4. Minority groups: To what extent are minority groups in this country disadvantaged by their language?
Updated (August 2002)
According to the Council’s of Europe 2001 Country Report members of the national minorities use their languages freely in their daily life, in communication with one another, in public meetings, in their associations, in electoral campaigns, in the publication of documents and periodicals as well as in religious ceremonies. In the pre-schools and kindergartens, in the areas where both the Greek national minority and the Macedonian minority lives, children are taught, communicate with one another and with their educators in their mother tongue. The studying of their languages is also guaranteed in the elementary system and in the high schools, and it is applied in the schools functioning in national minority areas or in the areas with a considerable number of minority people.
Although all the documentation in the central government organs and in the administrative unit bodies of the local government are drafted in the official language, the verbal communication between national minority people and the authorities of the local government administration in the areas inhabited by national minorities may be realized, according to their free choice, in their mother tongue, because in most of the cases these authorities are members of national minorities themselves.
The members of national minorities living in Albania are free to decide and use their names and surnames according to the traditions in their mother tongue and have the right to their official recognition. The national minority persons register their names in the Civil Registry Offices in the municipalities or communes where they live. According to the law, the registration in the Civil Registry Office is made according to their phonetic pronunciation, but always on the basis of the Latin alphabet orthography. This rule also applies to the members of three national minorities using the Cyrillic alphabet. Consequently, the registration of the names and surnames of their members on the basis of the Cyrillic orthography would cause numerous problems and confusion in the public administration and with other different institutions in Albania.
In all the communes or villages inhabited by people belonging to national minorities, as well as in cities such as Delvina, Gjirokastra or Saranda, mostly inhabited by Greek national minority, a good part of the inscriptions and the names of the shops, restaurants, bars or hotels, owned by national minority people, are written in their native languages.
All the toponyms and names of the villages in the national minorities’ areas are the original ones traditionally used by the minority people. Even a few changes of the names of some villages, particularly those with religious content, made under the communist regime in Albania, have been replaced following the 1990s.