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Return of the Balkans: Challenges to European Integration and U.S. Disengagement

Return of the Balkans: Challenges to European Integration and U.S. Disengagement

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For the first time in modern history, the entire Balkan Peninsula has the opportunity to be included under one security and developmental umbrella combining NATO and the European Union. Unfortunately, this historic vision is being undermined by a plethora of political, social, economic, ethnic, and national disputes and the shortcomings of Western institutions in eliminating potential security challenges.
For the first time in modern history, the entire Balkan Peninsula has the opportunity to be included under one security and developmental umbrella combining NATO and the European Union. Unfortunately, this historic vision is being undermined by a plethora of political, social, economic, ethnic, and national disputes and the shortcomings of Western institutions in eliminating potential security challenges.

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03/24/2015

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According to the Montenegrin census of 2011,
Albanians account for 4.9 percent of the country’s
population of 620,000, or approximately 30,000 inhab-
itants.140

They are concentrated close to the Albanian
border and form a majority of 70.66 percent in the
municipality of Ulcinj and just over 50 percent in the
municipality of Tuzi. Although most Montenegrin Al-
banians are Muslims, there is a substantial minority of
Catholics, similar to northern Albania.

90

The Montenegrin government honors several pro-
visions to protect minority rights. For instance, Alba-

nians have access to the minority-specifc broadcasting

media, while a set number of parliamentary seats are
allocated to Albanians and other minorities. In 2005, a
total of 11 members of ethnic minorities were elected
to the 75-seat parliament and three minority members
appointed to cabinet positions. By 2006, the number
of minority members in the 81-seat assembly reached
14, although their number in the cabinet dropped to
two. In 2007, their political representation improved,
with 16 minority members in the assembly and two in
the cabinet.

Despite these positive indicators, Albanian lead-
ers complain that their community continues to suf-
fer from discrimination and neglect.141

For example,
although Podgorica funds Albanian-language educa-
tion in local primary and secondary schools, together
with some university-level courses, Albanians still
campaign for equal rights to use their own language
and develop their education systems in areas where
they predominate. They claim that text books ignore
Albanian history and the physical condition of schools
is appalling.

Many Albanians voice disappointment that de-
spite supporting Montenegrin independence, their
situation has not improved, and their population has
dropped through emigration. Economic conditions
have stagnated, and the country’s privatization pro-
cess has contributed to social dislocation, economic

hardship, and offcial corruption. All these factors,

together with the weakening economy, have exacer-
bated inter-ethnic tensions, as each community fears
it will lose access to scarce resources.

91

Albanian leaders campaign vigorously for admin-
istrative decentralization, especially in Ulcinj munici-
pality. They complain that government measures have
stripped the municipalities of their authority over jus-
tice, education, health, and local police. Among other
grievances are the lack of funding for cultural activi-
ties; the absence of national institutions to develop
folklore and ethnography; and no national theater, arts
gallery, publishing houses, media centers, or national
institute devoted to preserving the Albanian language
and culture. Additionally, Albanians complain about
a lack of access to government jobs. Whereas over 20
percent of Slavic Montenegrins are employed by the
state, the total is under 10 percent for Albanians, and
they are particularly under-represented in justice and
internal security.
Although Montenegrin Albanians have not voiced
any secessionist demands, their extensive list of griev-
ances could contribute to breeding dissatisfaction and
radicalize the political scene. It will also feed into the
pan-Albanian arguments and aspirations of rising po-
litical leaders in neighboring Albania and Kosova.

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