Letter from the Council of Albanian Ambassadors to the Chairman of the American Helsinki Commission


Tirana, May 2nd, 2023

Representative Joe Wilson
Chairman of the US Helsinki Commission.
Attention to: Senator Ben Cardin Co-Chair.
234 Ford House Office Building 3rd and D Street SW,
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Wilson,

I would like to start this letter by respectfully quoting you: “Advocating on behalf of democracies living by the rule of law versus authoritarian regimes living under the rule of gun illustrates the goal of the Helsinki Commission and the work being done to support this objective globally. The commission has always united Republicans and Democrats in an unparalleled manner as it has defended some of the most important global issues from the Cold War and beyond.”

Only a few weeks ago, a delegation from the Council of Albanian Ambassadors, had a working and fact gathering visit in the Preshevo Valley, Southern Serbia, in Medvegja, Preshevo and Bujanovc.

The delegation met and held talks with Mr. Shaip Kamberi, member of the Serbian Parliament, as well as with the political representatives and leaders of the local institutions of the Valley, Ms. Ardita Sinani, Mr. Shqiperim Arifi, Mr. Ragmi Mustafa, the Chairman of the Albanian National Council of the Preshevo Valley, Mr. Ragmi Mustafi, Mr. Arben Ferhati, etc.
As you may have heard from several media reports, as well as, from the European Commission report of 20211, from the most recent report of the US Department of State2, from the reports of the Helsinki Commission of Serbia on human rights3, the situation of the Albanians of the Preshevo Valley is critical. Our visit there fully confirmed this situation.

A Modern Ethnic Cleansing is rightly called the passivation of addresses, which is accomplished through a law that enables the Serbian state authorities to deregister from the civil register the inhabitants of the Valley, who are not found in their homes at certain times.

The verification process is one-sided and discriminatory, while the implementation of the law itself is extremely discriminatory only to the detriment of the Albanian minority in Serbia. The passivation of addresses has direct negative consequences for the daily life of Albanians. Further, it brings about the depopulation of the Valley by Albanians and the removal of the right to vote. There are thousands of Albanians from the Valley, whose right to vote and residence have already been removed from the state civil registers of Serbia.

From the meetings held with the political personalities of the Preshevo Valley, but also with ordinary citizens, we learned about the gloomy situation in the Valley, about the lack of public investments, discrimination against Albanians of employment in the local and state administration, for closing the court that forces Albanians to go to the distance Vranje city for every legal need, etc.

All of the above have led to a modern ethnic cleansing, ethnic discrimination and violence, especially against the Albanian minority living in their own lands, unprecedented even for Serbia itself, as evidenced by the latest report of the US Department of the State and in the reports and studies of the Helsinki Committee of Serbia.

The goal is to remove the Albanian population from their ethnic lands in this area.

The representatives of the Valley presented a series of requests and remarks for the governments of the Republic of Albania and Kosovo. They asked for more attention, awareness of their situation, reciprocal treatment of their rights with those of the Serbs in Kosovo, the inclusion of the issue of the Albanians of the Valley in the Kosovo-Serbia talks, the creation of a national solidarity fund of the governments of Albania and Kosovo for investments in the Valley, etc.

Fully understanding the concerns and the description of the situation by the interlocutors, and confirming them on the ground, the Council of Albanian Ambassadors would like to bring to your kind attention the need to increase the pressure on the Government of Serbia to respect of human rights and the rights of the Albanians of the Preshevo Valley, to stop the absurd passivation of addresses, to increase the well-deserved employment of Albanians in state institutions, as well as for the increase of investments that would stop the bleeding of the well planned departure of Albanians from the Valley, or as US State Department has assessed the “modern ethnic cleansing” of the Preshevo Valley by Albanians .

The Council of Albanian Ambassadors along with this one, will prepare and send letters, based on its findings from the field visit, to various international organizations and institutions that deal with human and national minorities’ rights, with the aim of exerting pressure to ensure the rights of Albanians living in Serbia.

Besnik Mustafaj
President, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Albania