You are on page 1of 8

THE PICTURE OF ALBANIA’S ROMA STATEMENTS

YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW
If we do research on google writing "minorities in Albania", in Wikipedia among other minorities'
notice the Albanian stereotypes phrases regarding Roma. This shows “why Roma still remain
under the pressure of prejudice and stereotypes”. What should be noted, taking initiative by this,
is that the term Roma is set in the First World Romani Congress held in London in 1971, and I
must emphasize that until now, despite literature or references that may be found in various
publications, Roma legally still not recognized as minorities, but ethno-linguistic minority. So, in
the European context they are recognized as a minority, but in our country, legally, as ethnolinguistic minority.
The first registration of Roma can be found in the Census of 1922, which resulted that in Albania
were 1.270 Roma. In 1930, based on a popular assessment, there were about 20.000 Roma in the
whole country. (Hasluck, 1938:50)
In 1980, French documentation numbered about 62.000 Roma. (Courthiades, 1990s:30)
In the 1989’s census, Roma was included in number along with other smaller minorities, like the
Greek, Macedonian, Vlach, etc. (ERRC Report, 1997:7)
In 1995, International Minority Rights Group defined the number of Roma in Albania between 90
to 100 thousand. Also in 1995, the University of Maryland announced that were up to 120 thousand
Roma living in Albania. From a 2002 study, there were about 80 to 120 thousand Roma people.
(De Soto, Gordon, Gedeshi, & Sinoimeri 2002)
UNICEF study in 2011, the Roma appear approximately 15.000 (Gedeshi & Miluka, 2011)
No less discussed and bankrupt, in my opinion, was the Census of 2011, which counted 8.301
Roma and still now the Albanian Institute of Statistics continues to support it even though they do
not know maybe that in this way they have influenced policy consideration for Roma. For the exact
number of Roma in Albania there are no complete and accurate statistics, however, according to
representatives of Roma civil society and the studies conducted by independent institutions, the
numbers vary.
Albania's membership in international organizations such as the OSCE, Council of Europe, etc.,
and the approval or signature of almost all conventions of human rights, treatment of minorities
gave a new dimension to Albania after 90s.
The Constitution of the Republic of Albania find guarantee the equality of all before the law and
prohibition of discrimination on grounds of sex, race, religion, ethnicity, language, religious,
political, philosophical or parental bonding. In addition, the Constitution allows the
implementation of positive discrimination in specific measures conducive to giving special or
protective opportunities for those individuals or special category when there is an objective and
reasonable justification. All this with the ultimate goal of ensuring equal protection of the law for
all.
Albanian National Strategy for Improving the Living Conditions of the Roma Community (20032015) was adopted in 2003 by the Council of Ministers. A strategy based on a study conducted by
the World Bank on poverty. This study, conducted at the request of the Albanian Government, as
a first step in addressing the problems of Roma, within the context of the National Strategy for
Socio-Economic Development. This study and other studies have identified as the main problems
that this community has: a low level of education with low enrollment in schools; poverty and
unemployment, where most Roma families live below the poverty line and the unemployment rate
among them is very high compared to the rest of the population; living conditions in a very low
level, where many Roma families prominence, where lack of safe housing, sanitation or drinking
water supply and electricity; and health services, as some areas inhabited by Roma do not have
1|P age

access to health service and most of them cannot pay for medical services or drugs, although some
initiatives taken by civil society are equipped almost all the cards health.

Let 's go back for a little history of Roma in Albania not more than 70 years
ago.
In the history of Roma, the socialist era occupies an important place due to the fact that has left a
legacy that led to their current situation. Also, it represented a small positive difference for Roma
from several perspectives such as employment and housing.
The period was characterized by a strong desire for integration of the Roma, but the policies
undertaken dealt with the forced assimilation of Roma and complete, minimizing and erasing
ethnic differences. Albanian Communist Party adopted almost the same policies of other
communist parties of Communist States, policies that anticipate the inclusion of Roma in the
working world in the provision of housing and housing for them. Work became mandatory
provided by law and Roma were employed in the work of state structures. Choosing not to work,
to work independently or part-time system punished criminally. Nomadism was discouraged and
in some cases prohibited, giving Roma housing flats usually around workplaces such as factories
or close to agricultural cooperatives.
Socialist measures have changed from one place to another. In this period, they were registered by
an educational viewpoint changes. It increases the percentage of Roma children enrolled and those
who finished school. Also, it recorded a higher level of education among Roma adults.
In general, measures implemented by the communist regime aimed at integrating the Roma and
improving their living conditions. However, in reality it was a mixture of "good and evil". Besides
the repressive nature of cultural and ethnic identity, they created inequality between Roma and the
majority population majority. The segregation of Roma pupils in classes for the mentally disabled,
job assignment less qualified and apartment housing in poor condition contributed to the widening
gap between Roma and non-Roma. In addition, paternalistic system had provided jobs, housing
and other benefits for Roma put a position of dependency on the state.
The period of transition from socialism to a market economy has "shaken" the situation of Roma,
by their deteriorating living conditions. Initially, Roma have experienced a sense of abandonment
as a result of addiction that were created by states and socialist policies. The loss of jobs very
quickly produced a high degree of unemployment in them and at the same time the lack of
educational and vocational training not allowed to compete for the job positions offered by the
market economy. Communist regimes had offered them jobs in factories, mines and agricultural
cooperatives that provided the Roma a professional background and thus the transition took jobs
unsecured pay in black or left already under the social assistance system.
The issue of housing was a dramatic way, since the privatization policies have had a strong impact
in terms of bringing Roma housing flats loss of many families. In addition, not being owners of
land historically not benefited from the policies of privatization, restitution or compensation.
Additionally, the scarce resources allocated in the state budget, could not be kept sheltered in social
homes were scheduled to Roma.
Political transformation, in addition to those above-mentioned problems, brought a deterioration
in education and health of Roma, and all this accompanied by a significant increase in
discrimination and racism against members of this ethnic group. In these circumstances, the
impoverishment of Roma, so far has reached alarming proportions.

2|P age

The situation of education
Roma in Albania generally have a lower education level compared to the rest of the population.
The enrollment rate of Roma children in preschool is very low when compared with other children
of non-Roma, as well as those enrolled in grades first drop after some time for various reasons.
A research conducted by UNDP showed that the level of education of Roma is much lower than
the national average. Roma women have the education level lower than that of Roma men. Number
of Roma students at all levels of the education system is significantly lower than the number of
students from all other communities. There are significant indications that show that a large
number of Roma children do not attend school at all or drop it in the third or fourth, or even drop
since the early months of first grade in elementary school, a phenomenon that turns out to be even
more pronounced for Roma girls.

Causes of the low level of education
The causes of the low level of education in the Roma community are many, but the most notable
is extreme poverty. Per capita monthly income of Roma is lower than those of non - Roma and
Roma families live in more trouble. (De Soto, Beddies & Gedeshi, 2005:55) Due to extreme
poverty, Roma families cannot cope with the costs of purchasing school materials, or feed their
children properly or may buy them clothing go to school. (UNDP, 2006: 8) If not enough extreme
poverty, Roma children to assist their families and school attendance drop to enter the labor
market.
Other factors that affect the rate of enrollment or dropout of Roma children are migration and
emigration, as well as others drop out of school because their families migrate during the school
year, and their return, in such cases, it becomes very difficult, and so fail to complete grade school
at the end of the year.
A major obstacle to enrollment in school has been the fact difficulties with the device identification
documents, or other causes of divorce. Low level of education of Roma parents and consequently
lower their expectations, are one of the reasons that prevent children from going to school, or to
abandon it because eventually recorded. A part of the claim that Roma children have not received
and could not receive education, because of the ban by their parents." (UNDP, 2006: 25-26)
Another part due to not possessing the Albanian language it difficult to adapt to the school system.
This difficulty depended on the lack of pre-school classes in Albanian language learning for these
children and the lack of Roma teachers who can assist children in their studies. Because of the
language difficulties they face difficulty in school, we have great apostasy due to the school. Also,
according to a study that the World Bank has resulted in 53 percent of Roma over 6 years they
have not finished the first grade and 62 per cent of Roma between 7 and 20 years have never
attended school. (De Soto, Beddies, & Gedeshi, 2005: 55)

Initiatives undertaken
Efforts to reform the education system focused on the design of a comprehensive legislative
framework for ensuring the right to education of those persons belonging to ethnic minorities, and
the development of new school programs in order to ensure education right which is in line with
European standards. In line with this, they adopted the necessary legal acts and contemporary
educational programs.
Albania has drafted a National Strategy for the Development of Education 2004-2015 which
focuses on pre-university education. The main aim of this strategy is to improve the quality of
3|P age

teaching and learning process as well as increased school enrollment by groups with low incomes.
The strategy identifies four main areas, with appropriate goals, indicators to measure achievement
and timelines for their implementation. Four main areas include: governance, reforming and
strengthening management capacity; improving the quality of teaching and learning; financing of
pre-university education and capacity-building and human resource development.
In cooperation with UNICEF and "Save the Children", the Ministry of Education completed a
study to identify the situation of Roma education in Albania in the framework of the National
Strategy "On Improving the Living Conditions of the Roma Community" and is following the
completion of many projects for preschool.
In 2004-2008, the Ministry of Education, also launched legislative initiatives and special programs
to minimize some of the difficulties in the field of education and to improve the access of Roma
children at all levels of compulsory education. Also, he issued an instruction that allowed the
registration of Roma children in school, even if they did not have a valid certificate. This move
has led to the elimination of the barrier facing Roma children are not enrolled in the registry.
The "Second Chance", was launched to help those young Roma who have dropped out of school
and who have not had the chance to finish it. In the framework of this project it was created 61
classes with a total number of 469 students, more than half of the pupils were Roma. Ministry of
Education and Sports, with the advent of the new government to power, praised the project should
not have continuity, which would deprive the possibility of educating a significant number of
young Roma and Egyptians to have the opportunity to continue studies university.
In the context of education reform in recent years, the teaching of human rights is part of
compulsory education program in all schools of compulsory education and secondary education.
Civics books provide general information about the cultural traditions of minorities in Albania,
aiming to nurture feelings of acceptance and appreciation of different cultures, as well as
recognition of the contribution that minorities have in the Albanian society.
Children of poor families can buy books with ten percent of their market value, and in cases
provided by law, the total cost may be refunded, however, parents have to pay the full cost and
then apply for reimbursement, which in most cases cannot be afforded by poor Roma families.
New policies accession university education system made the students Roma and Egyptians be
reserved scholarships, but their number is low and the requirements for continued studies it goes
the fastest growing, and in addition the number of these scholarships must halve the Egyptian
community, which compared with Roma students are more likely to pursue higher studies without
the help of these scholarships.
Special attention was paid to educational activities outside the school, where they had intended to
promote the integration of Roma children and the cultural exchange between communities. Several
international organizations and national, in cooperation with Roma NGOs, have developed and
implemented several projects to improve the situation of Roma in the education system, where
some of these programs have become an integral part of programs accredited by the Ministry of
Education and Science.

Education of Roma in Albania. Personal thoughts.
Through better education of Roma children would have equal opportunities and with the rest of
the population. Education will serve to open better employment opportunities, and have a
commitment to full civil and political life of the country. School attendance of Roma children
together with other students, should be in charge of an integrated position to help the development
of this community. Dropping out of school by Roma children should be eliminated through
4|P age

programs taking example from the best practices of other countries and to protect the educational
rights.
We need full implementation of the National Strategy for improving the living conditions of the
Roma minority. More efficient commitment of Albania in the framework of the Decade of Roma,
and should further develop existing mechanisms, including government initiatives to equip Roma
children with free books.
It should become like that Roma parents to be aware of the importance and value of education and
the benefits that they bring it to their children and to have awareness campaigns to education, since
it is the only way to ensure the best chance of life in future for their children.
On the other hand, lists of quotas for students Roma have increased and this is a difference between
Roma and Egyptian, as the two communities really can have the same problems finals, but did not
have the same degree of deterioration with it Roma community. Branches of study offered in
Bachelor be varied and in cohesion with the requirements of the labor market.

But how has been the development of Roma leaders in Albania???
If assessed retrospectively: In 2016 there was significant infrastructural reconstructions taking
place in Tirana in which only Roma neighborhoods were largely affected by forced evictions.
There were number of manipulations in which Roma housing rights were violated. This was a test
for the Roma NGO leaders to protect the rights and show community interest in which they all
failed. Roma leaders remained silent and powerless against the injustice as there was neither an
initiative for advocacy nor support to the families.
2015 was Local Election year in Albania in which number of Roma NGO leaders were deceptively
co-opted to get one employment or financial means in exchange of hundreds of community votes.
Leadership for personal interest came on surface on the day before elections when Roma NGO
leaders visited neighborhoods and asked Roma to vote for a given political party because this is
the only way to protect their social welfare, protect their collection of garbage small business and
probably to get some employment in the cleaning services.
There was Egyptian Political Party established largely calling for Roma votes. Roma NGO leaders
did not support this political party neither they openly supported other options. There were
community gatherings to organize votes for some political parties in exchange of one employment
place. A threshold of 30 to 35 votes was brought by many local Roma leaders but employment
was granted to only 5-10% of the leaders.
In 2014 and 2013 we register attempt to organize Roma leadership platform under the name of
Federation of Roma NGOs. This attempt also failed due to powerful non-Roma politician
promising employment to the Federation leader in exchange for closing down the platform. Again,
individual interests prevailed in this leadership attempt in the period of the 2013 Parliamentary
elections as well as fear mainly due to lack of power. During these elections a lot of promises were
given to the Roma community which raised additional expectations but in vain, as the wining party
– Party of Socialists organized only number of populistic speeches after the elections but not really
kept promises related to the Roma. If there was organized and powerful platform as partners of the
wining party – there could have been organized accountability campaigns and lobby efforts.
Before 2012 there were more sporadic leadership actions mostly in humanitarian actions but
nothing significant in the political field.

5|P age

In general: The Roma electorate is educationally very weak in understanding the power of their
vote and same time manipulated throughout the years as there is no any community organizing
efforts undertaken by the Roma themselves. At the same time Albanian Roma never approached
learning mobilizing power to make change although is widely known that their votes are decisive
on local elections in the capital Tirana, Elbasan, Korca, Durres and Fier, but also very important
on Parliamentary elections considering the fact that the difference between the governing
coalitions and opposition equals nearly to the votes of the Roma. In 2015 there was new
geographical dissection of municipalities and administration which additionally increases the
values of the Roma in the cities of Pogradec, Delvina, Gjirokastra, Berat, Lushnja, Maliq, Peqin
and Rrogozhina.
Albania is facing a phase of voiceless work of the all 14 Roma civil society leaders and
astonishingly weak impact on the community living conditions and policy influencing perspective.
There is an increased frustration among Roma Youth on the alleged corruptive and self-oriented
work of the Roma NGOs instead of transparent and community-oriented work. The intergenerational cooperation remains fragile. The worrying fact is that the media is never used
appropriately for raising concerns and advocating on given challenge although knowing that this
is the first advocacy tool in the Albanian society. There are number of articles and celebrations
shared for April 8, but never a well-designed and professional public communication with the
media.
Albania joined the Decade of Roma Inclusion in 2008 with action plans prepared by internationals.
There is a 2016 – 2020 National Action Plan on Roma and Egyptians adopted by the government
of Albania prepared by the UNDP with insufficient participation of Roma civil society. What is
worrying is there was almost no policy influencing by Roma on the implementation neither on any
other political development in the country related to the Roma community.
Two fellowships in the Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth were supported by the Roma
Initiatives Office in March 2014 with amending the original one-year agreement for another year
and expected commitment from the Ministry to officially employ the two fellows. Neither
employment happened nor adequate involvement of the fellows in the Roma related policy making
processes. On the contrary, very recently, the Ministry employed a non-Roma with no
understanding of social inclusion in the position expected to be secured for one Roma employee.
Considering that there is no public policy making knowledge and no understanding among Roma
at all, it was expected to miss a reaction on this and similar developments in Albania.

6|P age

How can be described Roma leadership, about their role, quality and
impact?
Unfortunately, we have to start from a very first observation that the prevalence of the Traditional
and Autocratic leadership styles becomes routine in the work within the Roma communities and
consciously limits the opportunities for new generations but at the same time does not reach the
necessary changes. We understand that it creates fixed roles with no flexibility in case when
changes are needed and still with no progress or impact on the community.
Furthermore, one cannot use traditional before autocratic as the very traditional Roma leadership
which supported the survival of the Roma tribes for thousand years does not have to do much with
the current entrepreneurial approach or more precisely project-based approach to all challenges.
The intergenerational gap additionally complicates to the complexity of inter-personal relations of
leaders of Roma organizations. There are about five vocal and well-known young Roma NGO
leaders and intellectuals, about six elder well known influential Roma NGO leaders as well as 34 non-Roma NGO representatives well penetrated into the Roma Inclusion processes in Albania.
In terms of qualities a student team of five conveyed survey in two neighborhoods in Tirana and
one neighborhood in Korca asking the opinion of total nine (9) Roma families about the quality of
leadership and if the changes they need were/are brought by the current NGO leaders. Almost all
of them identify the personal help like calling the police station for some document and/or received
information about some changes in the social welfare as the only but important help they receive
from the NGO leaders. Some of them say that Roma leaders should do more to employ the
youngsters and push the institutions to give more opportunities to Roma. Many of them are not
satisfied at all with the support they receive from the Roma leaders. Education and politics is
identified as the lacking skills and capabilities of traditional leaders while experience is lacking at
younger leaders but they would be more prepared than their elder peers.
Roma Leadership in Albania is re-shaping mainly due to political interests of leaders not the
community itself and due to foreign donors and international organizations suggested directions.
There was never a single attempt to organize the power from within by the Roma for the Roma.

What kind of leadership is needed to further?
Albanian Roma community needs comprehensive shift in the leadership attitudes and behavior in
order to start reaching minimal changes for the collective groups on local and regional level.
Scenario A: Building new cohort of leaders who will be able to respond to community needs and
same time become eloquent partners of the decision makers in the first phase. This process should
follow-up with building platforms consisted of new generation of leaders and traditional leaders
by synergizing powers for greater and sustainable impact after 7 to 8 years.
Scenario B: Building new cohort of leaders who will be able to respond to community needs and
same time become eloquent partners of the decision makers in the first phase. In the second phase
the new cohort should work on replacing traditional leaders and powerfully gallop towards the
anticipated changes in a contemporary manner - following the real-time needs and power of the
community and pro-active policy influence.
Taking into consideration that attempts for establishing similar formal and informal platforms
failed in the past, our team believes that we need to invest in Scenario B and focus in bringing new
generation of Roma leaders to take over responsibility with integrity but same time secure support
of recognized community leaders.
7|P age

The architecture of leadership Albanian Roma needs in the upcoming decade needs to be
combination of leaders with the following leadership styles:
A Strategist: We are aware that these people are good at dealing with developments in the
organization’s environment. They provide vision, strategic direction and outside-the-box thinking
to create new organizational forms and generate future growth.
Change-catalyst: leadership as a turnaround activity. It is known that these leaders can be the
masters at re-engineering and creating new organizational “blueprints”.
Transactors: leadership as deal making. These leaders are great dealmakers. Skilled at identifying
and tackling new opportunities, they thrive on negotiations. It is very much needed as survival and
gradual development in the Albanian political sphere is a matter of political negotiation.
Innovator: These people are focused on the new. They possess a great capacity to solve extremely
difficult problems. We need to equip Roma leaders with such and similar skills so they can
influence policies in creative ways.
Processor: leadership as an exercise in efficiency. These executives like organizations to be
smoothly running, well-oiled machines. They are very effective at setting up the structures and
systems needed to support an organization’s objectives.
Coach: leadership as a form of people development. These executives know how to get the best
out of people, thus creating high performance cultures.
Communicator: leadership as stage management. These executives are great influencers, and have
a considerable impact on their surroundings. The community organizers have to develop such
skills in order to secure recognition and followers.
Future Roma leaders in Albania have to have minimum university education, have to possess very
good knowledge on managing organizations or managing people. They should first of all be proud
of their Roma identity and able to eloquently present it to the non-Roma. Future Roma leaders in
Albania should be able to galvanize communities when and if needed. They should have very
closed ties with the communities, maintain good communication, be recognized and respected
same time. They should be on-time informed and aware with developments around Roma in
Albania and be open for communication and cooperation whenever the community needs this.
Future Roma leaders in Albania should be excellent advocates of the Roma needs to the authorities.
They should organize space for creation of future Roma leaders.

Emiliano Aliu
Tirana, August 4, 2016

8|P age