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  • Main languages: Albanian, Greek, Romani, Aromanian (Vlach), Macedonian

    Main religions: Islam (mainly Sunni), Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Roman Catholicism

    Minority groups include Greeks (59,000), Macedonians (4,700), Roma, Vlachs/Aromanians, Macedonians, Egyptians, Serbs and Montenegrins. These figures draw on the 1989 census. The 2001 census had no question concerning ethnicity, and the 2011 census results remain queried. A new census was conducted during the autumn of 2023.

    Law no. 96/2017 on Protection of National Minorities in the Republic of Albania was approved by the National Assembly in October 2017 and entered into force in November 2017. It eliminated previous differences between national and linguistic minorities and acknowledges the following groups as national minorities in Albania: Aromanians, Bosniaks, Bulgarians, Egyptians, Greeks, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Roma and Serbs.

  • Environment

    Albania is situated in the western Balkans. It is bordered by Greece to the south, North Macedonia to the east and Kosovo and Montenegro to the north. To the west, there is a 420 km coastline along the Adriatic Sea. More than three-quarters of Albania is mountainous and about a third is wooded.


    Albanians are most probably the descendants of the ancient Illyrians who were colonized after the seventh century BCE by the Greeks and subsequently by the Romans. During the Middle Ages, modern-day Albania formed successively parts of the Byzantine, Bulgarian, Serbian and Angevin-Norman empires. The Albanian lands lay at the meeting point of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Following the schism between the two churches, the northern population generally adhered to Roman Catholicism and the southern to Eastern Orthodoxy. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Albanian lands were overrun by the Ottomans. Most Albanians subsequently embraced Islam.

    Under circumstances which are disputed, Albanians spread eastwards into Kosovo, western Macedonia and Greece. The Albanian national movement which developed in the late nineteenth century sought to unite Albanians in a single state. The independent Albania established on the eve of the First World War did not, however, include Kosovo and western Macedonia, which then had a combined population of about 800,000 Albanians. Aspirations for a state which united the Albanian people were briefly realized under the aegis of the Italians and Germans during the Second World War. After 1945, however, Albania returned to its former borders. It is presently estimated that two-thirds as many Albanians live in neighbouring states as in Albania itself.

    In 1944, the communists led by Enver Hoxha imposed a strict Stalinist regime on Albania. In 1967, Albania was proclaimed ‘the first atheist state’, and all religious practices were banned. Churches and mosques were demolished or converted to secular use, and in the mid-1970s personal names of a Christian religious character were prohibited. Hoxha died in 1985, and a moderate reform programme was introduced which accelerated with the collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989.

    In 1990, the ban on religious practice was lifted, and the establishment of political parties was permitted. Multi-party elections held in March 1991 resulted in a victory for the communists, who subsequently renamed themselves the Socialist Party of Albania. New elections held in spring 1992 led to the formation of a coalition government headed by the opposition Democratic Party. In 1996 the Democratic Party recorded a landslide victory in a general election which was widely reported as unfair. Albania descended into anarchy during the spring of 1997 following the collapse of widespread pyramid saving schemes, and the country remained unstable for some years until the early 2000s.

    Today’s Albania is a transitional democracy. Since 2009, the country is a NATO member. It seeks to become an EU member state and currently enjoys candidate status.

    Minorities and history

    A number of Albania’s smaller minorities face issues that are rooted in the country’s history. For example, there is a significant Bektashi Sufi community in Albania. The Bektashi order was founded in the Ottoman Empire during the thirteenth century. Their presence in Albania dates to the seventeenth century. By the nineteenth century, Bektashis were found among many leading figures of the Albanian national movement. During the communist regime, the community’s activities were sharply curtailed, but it witnessed a revival in the 1990s. According to the 2011 census, 2.09 per cent of the population identify themselves as Bektashi. The Albanian authorities have signed an agreement with the community, and a 2009 law directs the government to provide funding to it, along with other officially recognized faith groups. The Bektashi community has faced lengthy delays in numerous property restitution cases.

    The substantial Egyptian community (sometimes known as Jevgs) see themselves as distinct from the Roma community. According to some narratives, the Egyptians were descendants of Coptic migrants who came from Egypt in the fourth century. Other accounts say they are descended from Egyptian slaves who arrived in Albania in the nineteenth century. Egyptians had long expressed their wish to be recognized as persons belonging to a national minority and benefit from the provisions of the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention on National Minorities. The Egyptian minority was not officially considered as such, falling neither in the national nor the ethno-linguistic categorization of minorities in Albania. This changed with the 2017 Law on Protection of National Minorities which accorded the community official recognition. Egyptians face similar challenges to the country’s Roma minority, including systemic discrimination and segregation. Many members of the Egyptian community are unaware of their rights. Indeed, although Roma and Egyptians are officially recognized as separate minorities, Egyptians are often conflated with the larger Roma minority by the authorities, hampering targeted initiatives to address the specific concerns of respective communities.

    Albania has long had a Jewish minority. According to one account, the first Jews arrived in Albania in 70 CE, after which the community was augmented in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries by an influx of Sephardic Jews from Portugal and Spain. The Jewish community remained small, with the 1930 census recording 204 individuals. In the years leading up to the Second World War, Jewish refugees arrived from Austria and Germany, later joined by Jews fleeing Croatia and Serbia. The numbers were not large; on the eve of the war, about 600 Jews, mainly refugees, lived in Albania. Albanians were known to have protected Jews, and the community grew as more refugees arrived. After Nazi Germany occupied the country in 1943, approximately 600 Albanian Jews were sent to concentration camps; only a hundred survived. Following the war and because of the curbs on religious practice introduced by the communist government, Jews were unable to maintain a communal life. In 1990–91, the remnants of the Albanian Jewish minority, numbering about 300 people, migrated en masse to Israel at the invitation of the Israeli government. Only 40 to 50 Jews are thought to remain in Albania.


    In 2006, Albania signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU. Theoretically, this is the first step towards membership of the EU. For the country, it crowned 16 years of sometimes rocky transition to democracy. Under this agreement, Albania is obliged to improve its treatment of minorities in order to bring it into line with EU-wide standards.

    Prior to this, the country had already undertaken some important reforms. In 1993, a charter of rights passed by the Albanian legislature assured ‘individuals belonging to minorities’ full protection and equality before the law and made provision for education in their mother tongue. In addition, the Albanian Constitution guarantees the rights of recognized national minorities, including the right to study and be taught in their mother tongue. Correspondingly, there is some provision of schools and classes for Greek and Macedonian national minorities, where education in the minority language is available, to varying degrees. However, other minorities do not fare so well. There is a lack of education in and of minority languages for the Aromanian/Vlach and the Roma minorities. The Committee on National Minorities is intended to serve as the channel for minority concerns to the government. However, given that the Chair and deputy are appointed by the Prime Minister, it is widely viewed by minorities as neither independent nor effective.

    The Greek minority participates politically through a number of national parties. For example, the Unity for Human Rights Party theoretically represents Albania’s minorities, even though in practice this applies predominantly to the Greek minority. During the elections of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, the party was winning 3 or 4 seats in parliament. In more recent years, it has been joining alliances with larger parties. It gained a single seat in the parliamentary elections of 2021. Other minorities, in particular Roma and Egyptians, appear to fall outside the electoral system. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, in its third report on Albania in December 2004, expressed its concern over the lack of effective participation of persons belonging to some minorities in the country’s decision-making processes at the national as well as local levels. It said that a lack of statistical information made it impossible to assess the extent of the problem but highlighted the marginalization of Roma and Egyptians in particular, saying that ‘numbers of Egyptians and Roma in state institutions seem particularly low, with those few persons that are employed in the public sector for the most part filling functions such as cleaning and maintenance’.

    In the July 2005 elections there were no Roma candidates for mayor for a single municipality or commune, although the main parties did include some Roma candidates in their lists for the local councils. In practice though, their exclusion continues to the present day. In the May 2023 local elections, few Roma candidates stood for office. Those that did were listed so low down on the party lists that they had no chance to succeed.

    A law on protection from discrimination was adopted in 2010. Its provisions were strengthened in 2020, including through protections from multiple, intersectional and structural discrimination. Serious forms of discrimination were identified with more severe punishments, while organizations could now file complaints on behalf of groups.

    In 2017, the Law on Protection of National Minorities in the Republic of Albania was adopted. Critically, it grants official recognition to a range of minorities, including smaller communities such as Egyptians. Despite improvements, it did not resolve many of the minority-specific issues in Albania. Greeks and Montenegrins continue to demand representation in state institutions to solve linguistic and property issues. There is also frustration with the implementation of the law, as some governmental institutions continue to provide outdated information regarding this legislation and, thus, still categorize Roma, Aromanians and Egyptians as ethno-linguistic communities. Moreover, as of 2019, bylaws for the implementation of the minority law were either delayed or unimplemented.

    The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgment in the case of X and others v. Albania (applications nos. 73548/17 and 45521/19) announced on 31 May 2022 will hopefully become a landmark with regard to the situation of Albania’s Roma and Egyptian communities. It deals with racial segregation at the Naim Frasheri School situated on the outskirts of the city of Korça and colloquially labelled the ‘Roma and Egyptian school’ because virtually all its students belong to either of these two groups. The trend towards segregation at the school started to be observed in 2012 and was characterized by an outflow of ethnic Albanian students from a formerly ethnically mixed institution. The ECtHR found a violation of Article 1, Protocol no.12 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Hence, Albania failed to implement sufficient measures aimed at desegregation of ethnic groups in school within a reasonable period of time.

  • General



Updated March 2024

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