A scheduled population census in Albania should have been used as a tool to improve the way public administration operates in its transactions with citizens and, at the same time, consolidate and defend the rights of the minorities that live in the neighbouring country, foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said on Thursday.

Responding to a relevant press question during a regular briefing in Athens, he added that “the representatives of the most important minority groups - the ethnic Greek minority included - have decided to call on their members to abstain, in a show of protest because their right to free self-determination is not being guaranteed. This is proof of serious deficit in confidence toward the Albanian state on behalf of the minorities, which calls for the (Albanian) government’s urgent response.”

Delavekouras underlined that respect of minority rights is a fundamental criterion in the EU accession process. “Greece has always invested in building good relations with Albania, regarding as self-evident the respect and protection of the ethnic Greek minority, the bridge of friendship between the two countries,” the foreign ministry spokesman concluded.