Montenegro Albanians demand own municipality

On April 6th, about a hundred ethnic Albanians staged a protest in Tuzi, a suburb of the capital Podgorica where this group forms the majority. During the gathering, the group pressed demands for Tuzi to become a separate municipality.

The protest
The protest was organised by two Albanian opposition parties: the Democratic Forum for Integration and the Democratic Alliance. These parties claim that the government “has been abusing and discriminating against local Albanians in Tuzi.” The two parties therefore demand Tuzi to become a separate community. They further called on ethnic Albanian politicians to quit their positions in state institutions until the moment that Tuzi is granted the status of a municipality.

Next to a protest in Tuzi, a second one is expected in the United States tomorrow. Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic (Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS) is currently visiting the US, mainly to discuss Montenegro ambitions to join NATO. In the US are some Albanian Diaspora groups, who announced a protest because of “unfulfilled promises” regarding the status of Albanians in Montenegro, on April 8th.

Promises to Montenegro Albanians
In 2006 Montenegro became independent. After the independence wars of the 1990s in Yugoslavia the Union of Serbia and Montenegro was established. In 2006 a referendum was held in Montenegro, where 55.5% voted pro-independence. It was a close call: the EU determined that 55% was necessary to gain independence. Former Serbian President Boris Tadic accepted the results. The majority of Albanians voted pro-independence; partly due to their dislike against Serbia and partly because the ruling party, DPS, promised more positions in state institutions and more independence for Albanians. According to the Albanian opposition parties this did not happen: “The state has done nothing for the decentralization of Montenegro and for 24 years has ignored the demands of the Albanian parties”, said Besnik Donaj from the Democratic Forum for Integration party.

Political context
It could be a good time to start protesting now due to political changes. On the national level DPS rules together with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the Liberal Party (LP). DPS and SDP have ruled together since 1998. However, there are some instabilities. DPS blocked the adoption of a new electoral law. In response the main opposition party, Democratic Front Party (DFP), left the parliament. They accused DPS for obstructing the Assembly and claimed that DPS needs to take responsibility for a possible political crisis. The blockade has deepened the distrust between the opposition and the government at the national level.

At the local level changes occur as well. During the scheduled 2014 local elections, the SDP decided to work together with an opposition party instead of with the DPS, with whom they have been cooperated for fifteen years. Due to these changes it is possible that the dominance of the DPS will decline, which could encourage the opposition to take action.

By Laura Ritter

Sources: Balkan Insight, Government of Montenegro, BBC, European Forum for Democracy and Solidarity, Independent Balkan News Agency, Balkan Inside

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