PODGORICA, 29. NOV. 2016 – Montenegro’s government will give a mainly Albanian-populated area long-sought municipal status among other concessions after ethnic Albanian politicians helped the ruling party gain a parliamentary majority, BIRN reported. Under an agreement with former Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic’s party to secure a majority in parliament to form a new government, the country’s ethnic Albanian coalition has succeeded in securing a number of political concessions it has been demanding over the past ten years and which the authorities have continuously avoided implementing. Ethnic Albanians will get independent municipality status for the small town of Tuzi near the capital Podgorica, which they have long been calling for, and was promised by the ruling coalition but never granted. The new government has told ethnic Albanian parties that it will grant independent municipality status to Tuzi no later than May next year. Under the deal, a bankrupt saline plant in the majority Albanian town of Ulcinj, which the government had envisaged as land on which to build a future five-star resort, will start operating again and become a protected area where construction is banned. Ethnic Albanians will also be guaranteed seats in parliament under a new electoral law to be prepared next year and be permitted to use Albanian national symbols in public as they wish. The agreement was signed by Djukanovic, as the leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, and a coalition of three Albanian parties ahead of the parliamentary vote to approve the new cabinet. Djukanovic’s DPS won 36 seats in the 81-seat assembly in the October 16 election and needed to form a coalition with minority Bosniak, Albanian and Croatan parties to secure a majority. Nik Gjeloshaj, a senior official with the Albanian Alternative, one of the parties that signed the deal, told BIRN that they were given “every possible guarantee” that their demands will be fulfilled. Asked if he was confident that Djukanovic’s DPS will stick to its word on the municipality status for Tuzi and the reopening of the salt plant, Gjeloshaj said that earlier promises were made at election rallies but now “it is all on paper”. “Now at the beginning of the [government’s] term, we have the promise that within six months it will be realised and I am sure that it will be respected,” he said. Gjeloshaj said that MPs from the Albanian coalition, alongside colleagues from the ruling majority, will file amendments to the law on local government at the beginning of parliament’s spring sessions which will enable Tuzi to get municipality status by May 31, 2017. He said that changes to the country’s electoral law were also agreed guaranteeing Albanians seats in parliament. “Free [public display of] Albanian national symbols without penalties was also on the table and agreed,” he added. He also said that Djukanovic’s party promised that more Albanians would be employed in the public administration. The Tuzi area, also known as Malesia, stretches up to the border with Albania, comprising more than 17 per cent of Podgorica’s territory. Historically, it was an independent municipality, but it lost this status in 1957. The demand for Tuzi to become a municipality again has been a priority issue for Albanians who make up about five per cent of the population of Montenegro. Djukanovic promised that a local consultative referendum on municipal status for Tuzi would be held before the October 2012 general election, but that never happened.