Rama says Albanians "won't be assimilated"
Albanian PM Edi Rama said in Preševo that ethnic Albanians who live in municipalities in southern Serbia have less rights than Serbs in Kosovo.Source: B92, Beta
"Albania will give its support to the solving of the problems in the Preševo valley being an essential question on Serbia's path towards the EU and will not allow the assimilation of Albanians in this area," said Rama.
Outside of Kosovo, the area of the municipalities of Bujanovac, Medveđa, and Preševo is home to the largest ethnic Albanian community in Serbia.
Several thousand people welcomed Rama today, while some were also able to attend his speech at the local culture center, where, according to reports, "neither the national insignia of Serbia nor Albania was on display."
According to Rama, the future of the whole region is in the EU, while "Albania and Kosovo represent a guarantee of stability and democracy." He also told those present that the Albanian people "are not dreaming about creating a Greater Albania but a Greater Europe that will include all Albanian territories."
Rama then added that "the historical moment had come to overcome the past filled with hatred and shortsightedness and open a wide road of cooperation of Serbia and Albania."
Rama said that he and Prime Minister of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić in Belgrade on Monday discussed "real problems faced by Albanians in Preševo and Bujanovac," adding that Albania "supports and pushes for a dialogue of Albanians from the region with the Serbian government about solving life problems primarily in areas of infrastructure and education."
He added to the University of Tirana had doubled enrollment quotas for students from the three municipalities in southern Serbia.
Rama earlier in the day held a meeting with political leaders of ethnic Albanians from Preševo and Bujanovac in the municipal building in Preševo, where he, during a joint session of all Albanian councilors from the three municipalities, received the title of honorary citizen of Preševo.
He was welcomed by presidents of the municipalities of Preševo and Bujanovac, Mustafa Fahmi and Nagip Arifi, leaders of Albanian political parties as well as two Albanian deputies in the Serbian parliament, Riza Halimi and Sajip Kamberi.
No representative of the Serbian authorities was present during Rama's visit to Preševo, nor was any of his speech translated to Serbian or English.
The joint session with Albanian politicians from Preševo and Bujanovac was closed to the public, and there were no statements for the media afterwards.
About 1,000 people welcomed Rama in Preševo with Albanian flags, standing ovations, applause and loud music.
Billboards were also put up in Preševo reading, in Albanian, "Welcome prime minister", while reports said that one of them was this morning hit with a sack of black paint.
Unprecedented security measures were also in place in the town, with police presence on all streets.