Drowning the future in PPPs and swift-walking into the crisis of tomorrow

Drowning the future in PPPs and swift-walking into the crisis of tomorrow

By Alba Çela From the pulpit of the Assembly this week, Economy Minister Arben Ahmetaj called the public private partnership contracts, the infamous PPPs, the ultimate good option for the citizens: a way to deliver swiftly public services that cannot

Read Full Article
Editorial: Albania and Greece:  where do we go from here

Editorial: Albania and Greece: where do we go from here

It is almost a modern cliché nowadays that one should never waste a crisis or that a crisis is in fact an opportunity in disguise. There is some truth to these sayings because grave situations can bring out important truths

Read Full Article
Editorial: Zero sum games and a country left with no guardian of the Constitution

Editorial: Zero sum games and a country left with no guardian of the Constitution

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL The saga of the appointment of a new Minister of Interior Affairs expanded in the last days and evolved into a showdown between the executive majority and the President who refused to issue a confirmation decree citing

Read Full Article
Understanding Albanian-Greek relations: Deconstructing paradoxes and myths

Understanding Albanian-Greek relations: Deconstructing paradoxes and myths

By Albert  Rakipi, PhD For more than a century – a period coinciding with the history of the modern Albanian state – Albanian-Greek relations have been dominated by two fundamental issues: the issue of territorial or border disagreements and the

Read Full Article
Stopping irresponsible nationalistic sentiments from poisoning bilateral relations

Stopping irresponsible nationalistic sentiments from poisoning bilateral relations

By Alba Cela  On October 28 the village of Bularat in Dropull, a southern region with a significant Greek minority was preparing to hold its annual remembrance day for the fallen of the Greek-Italian war. A young man from this

Read Full Article
Editorial: The inexplicable departure of a minister- unanswered questions warrant any interpretation

Editorial: The inexplicable departure of a minister- unanswered questions warrant any interpretation

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL When Fatmir Xhafajwas made Minister of the Interior the opposition and others cried foul and said he had been an attorney during communism. He did not care. He did not resign when the accusations about his brother

Read Full Article
‘Turkey has no hidden agenda in Albania, region,’ Ambassador says

‘Turkey has no hidden agenda in Albania, region,’ Ambassador says

By Murat Ahmet Yörük* I would like to extend my gratitude to all of you for being with us tonight as we celebrate the 95th anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey. I welcome you all with sincere

Read Full Article
Editorial: Public diplomacy cannot be done in the dark

Editorial: Public diplomacy cannot be done in the dark

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL The news that the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs had used an undisclosed fund to pay several news outlets, media actors and online portals in Albania and in Macedonia rattled the public opinion this week and generated

Read Full Article
Editorial: Against slander, libel and defamation: why truth needs to be rescued even if by means of justice

Editorial: Against slander, libel and defamation: why truth needs to be rescued even if by means of justice

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL A hurricane of false statements, fake news and irresponsible accusations can do much more damage to the truth that any other form. Currently there are two elements in Albania that need to be addressed for the sake

Read Full Article
Greek-Albanian Relations in Greek and Albanian Historiography of the 2000s

Greek-Albanian Relations in Greek and Albanian Historiography of the 2000s

By Konstantinos Giakoumis* … I am glad to report that our project proposal was finally accepted by the General Assembly of … I presented the project on the first day and was badly attacked by the … [a national] delegate… The

Read Full Article
WP_Query Object
(
    [query_vars] => Array
        (
            [cat] => 30
            [paged] => 1
            [error] => 
            [m] => 
            [p] => 0
            [post_parent] => 
            [subpost] => 
            [subpost_id] => 
            [attachment] => 
            [attachment_id] => 0
            [name] => 
            [static] => 
            [pagename] => 
            [page_id] => 0
            [second] => 
            [minute] => 
            [hour] => 
            [day] => 0
            [monthnum] => 0
            [year] => 0
            [w] => 0
            [category_name] => op-ed
            [tag] => 
            [tag_id] => 
            [author] => 
            [author_name] => 
            [feed] => 
            [tb] => 
            [comments_popup] => 
            [meta_key] => 
            [meta_value] => 
            [preview] => 
            [s] => 
            [sentence] => 
            [fields] => 
            [menu_order] => 
            [category__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [ignore_sticky_posts] => 
            [suppress_filters] => 
            [cache_results] => 1
            [update_post_term_cache] => 1
            [update_post_meta_cache] => 1
            [post_type] => 
            [posts_per_page] => 10
            [nopaging] => 
            [comments_per_page] => 50
            [no_found_rows] => 
            [order] => DESC
        )

    [tax_query] => WP_Tax_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                    [0] => Array
                        (
                            [taxonomy] => category
                            [terms] => Array
                                (
                                    [0] => 30
                                )

                            [include_children] => 1
                            [field] => term_id
                            [operator] => IN
                        )

                )

            [relation] => AND
        )

    [meta_query] => WP_Meta_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                )

            [relation] => 
        )

    [date_query] => 
    [post_count] => 10
    [current_post] => -1
    [in_the_loop] => 
    [comment_count] => 0
    [current_comment] => -1
    [found_posts] => 795
    [max_num_pages] => 80
    [max_num_comment_pages] => 0
    [is_single] => 
    [is_preview] => 
    [is_page] => 
    [is_archive] => 1
    [is_date] => 
    [is_year] => 
    [is_month] => 
    [is_day] => 
    [is_time] => 
    [is_author] => 
    [is_category] => 1
    [is_tag] => 
    [is_tax] => 
    [is_search] => 
    [is_feed] => 
    [is_comment_feed] => 
    [is_trackback] => 
    [is_home] => 
    [is_404] => 
    [is_comments_popup] => 
    [is_paged] => 
    [is_admin] => 
    [is_attachment] => 
    [is_singular] => 
    [is_robots] => 
    [is_posts_page] => 
    [is_post_type_archive] => 
    [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 0c91aead3365b2deb733510283d4c0bc
    [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 
    [thumbnails_cached] => 1
    [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => 
    [query] => Array
        (
            [cat] => 30
            [paged] => 1
        )

    [request] => SELECT SQL_CALC_FOUND_ROWS  wp_posts.ID FROM wp_posts  INNER JOIN wp_term_relationships ON (wp_posts.ID = wp_term_relationships.object_id) WHERE 1=1  AND ( wp_term_relationships.term_taxonomy_id IN (30) ) AND wp_posts.post_type = 'post' AND (wp_posts.post_status = 'publish') GROUP BY wp_posts.ID ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC LIMIT 0, 10
    [posts] => Array
        (
            [0] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 139304
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2018-11-16 10:27:15
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-16 09:27:15
                    [post_content] => By Alba Çela

From the pulpit of the Assembly this week, Economy Minister Arben Ahmetaj called the public private partnership contracts, the infamous PPPs, the ultimate good option for the citizens: a way to deliver swiftly public services that cannot be covered by the budget alone. Indeed this government has already acquired the dangerous PPP addiction and spends a lot of time and effort dressing the PR around it. In the next 10-15 years the state budget will have to deal with a cost of around 2 billion euros due to its engagement with PPP contracts about classic public services such as infrastructure, education and healthcare.

This figure alone is an indicator of swift walking into a next financial rut rather than swift deliverance of public goods. There is no good way that the Albanian government can afford this price: it will either cut substantially from its public investment planned for the next years which hurt the citizens or tax them directly. The Albanian economy experts predict that it is more likely it will chose the second way, by increasing taxes to Albanian households by no less than 200 euro per year. It might not look much, however this is a medium size pension for an Albanian elderly and it is half of the average wage for a lower middle class household member.

This heavy reliance on the future, robbing the citizens in advance, has proven to be very deficient in other countries and very problematic in the existing contracts in Albania such as dialysis and checkup services. Therefore it is not clear why the government keeps defending it other than for dark corruption related reasons. The average cost of securing a service through PPP rather than usual other procedures (tenders, state owned companies, etc.), is about double. This is due to several factors related to capital costs (companies get loans by banks at commercial rates rather than favorable rates which are offered to governments), construction fees and the ultimate profit motive. There are additional hidden costs related to the lack of competition involved in this process.

Another aspect is related to the supposed government principles of a left majority in power. Indeed with such a rightist approach to governing most Albanian voters have forgotten that this is the Socialist Party who is in charge. All these concessions are burdening simple consumers with fees and tolls that weigh heavily on their modest pockets. Let’s take the example of the newly proposed fee for the Durres-Tirana highway. This is the heart of the country’s infrastructure. The secondary roads connecting the two largest cities of the country are not fully accessible. Once again just like in the example of the Nation’s highway, citizens are presented with no choice.

The PPPs are working only for the few people benefiting from them. They are enriching the already rich and large business entities that are doing minimum investment and are not really accountable to anyone.  Companies face no costs or any other type of negative consequences when the promised services don’t happen in a timely or effective manner. It is again the state who takes this burden if at all.

Ultimately these contracts have high risks for the public finances once the state budget starts to hand out the payments foreseen in the agreements. For a government that takes pride in lowering the public debt and in fiscal discipline this is at least ironic. These contracts are a pure form of increasing public debt in a masked way just to avoid incorporating it in the calculation of the debt to GDP ratio. However just because they are good at hiding it, the debt won’t go away. This is tomorrow’s crisis in the making.

 
                    [post_title] => Drowning the future in PPPs and swift-walking into the crisis of tomorrow  
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => drowning-the-future-in-ppps-and-swift-walking-into-the-crisis-of-tomorrow
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-11-16 10:27:15
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-11-16 09:27:15
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139304
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [1] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 139301
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2018-11-16 10:20:53
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-16 09:20:53
                    [post_content] => It is almost a modern cliché nowadays that one should never waste a crisis or that a crisis is in fact an opportunity in disguise. There is some truth to these sayings because grave situations can bring out important truths and reveal a lot about decision makers by analyzing their reactions. Starting from this background, the official reactions of the Albanian and Greek governments to the follow up of the Bularat incident, when an armed man lost his life after attacking the state police and the Special Forces, can be seen as institutional and well-constrained. The Albanian government did not lose its temper to the many extremists who joined the funeral of the troubled young man. It arrested only those who took specific criminal action such as blocking the streets and calling for occupation. It did weather a lot of reactions from citizens who were rightfully offended by people chanting against Albanian identity, territory and people. The tolerance with which Albanian authorities met the funeral dynamics and the cool headed approach following them is in fact the best testimony of the lengths that this state goes to avoid any form of social conflict based on ethnicity.

After the tensions of the day dissipated, the government took the necessary reaction measures, declaring 53 foreign citizens non grata including the Cypriot Member of the European Parliament, Eleni Theocharous, who had issued some aggressive declarations against Albania.

The Greek government urged its citizen to show maturity. Greek politicians went on public media to denounce the actions of the victim. Of course there were exceptions. Most notably the Greek Parliament kept a minute of silence for a man who attacked the police. A few Albanian politicians boasted and gloated online that Greeks will think twice before stepping into Albania again.  However the restraint prevailed and that is a positive sign.

It is also laudable that the European Parliament did not accept the request of some Greek MPs to make this an issue and by dedicating a hearing. In fact the Parliament has been often forced by similar request to discuss Greek minority issues for Albania when in fact all international reports have testified over and over again that Albania goes beyond the necessary to guarantee implementation of rights and protection from discrimination. Time has come for minorities not to be instrumentalized in hampering the European integration process when there are indeed no substantial issues.

It is important that both sides don’t lose the opportunity element in these unfortunate events and think hard on the questions where do the relations go from here. The formal negotiations might have stopped due to Albania’s justice reform complexities that have rendered the Constitutional Court dysfunctional. However the process of dialogue needs to continue now more than ever.

The moderate voices that protect the relation between our two countries need to be empowered and multiplied beyond the political realm. Collaboration between social segments such as youth, civil society and media is crucial. We know that the relation suffers from pending bilateral issues that are often skilfully and quickly manipulated by nationalist platforms and actors. It is time to invest strongly in the counter platforms that highlight our common future.
                    [post_title] => Editorial: Albania and Greece:  where do we go from here
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => editorial-albania-and-greece-where-do-we-go-from-here
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-11-16 10:20:53
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-11-16 09:20:53
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139301
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [2] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 139205
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-11-09 10:46:17
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-09 09:46:17
                    [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL

The saga of the appointment of a new Minister of Interior Affairs expanded in the last days and evolved into a showdown between the executive majority and the President who refused to issue a confirmation decree citing reasons that could not be made fully public. The majority of the experts and commentators on Tirana cried constitutional foul. After all the mandate to compose the cabinet is in the hands of the Prime Minister and the role of the President is supposed to be ceremonial. However if the President of the Republic is not convinced by a proposal, there are serious motives to require transparency over these kind of political reasoning.

After meeting the President, PM Rama stood his ground and appointed former General Lleshi as deputy Minister of Interior Affairs with powers to actually run the Ministry. He gave President Meta some time to change his mind and confirm the appointment before he chooses to become, according to Rama ‘a self-made problem’ for the majority. Continuing the time honored tradition to never miss a chance to take a hit at the president, Rama went as far as to say that the reasons given were not sound and would make the president look ‘ridiculous’. Apparently to protect the public from this ridicule the lack of transparency goes on.

This latest development, which is likely to be just the most recent episode of personal and political infighting, reveals once again the open wound that is the lack of the Constitutional court in Albania. Cases are piling up. The deal with Greece will go nowhere without it. The case of the demolition the National Theater could not be examined by it. Now there is this instance of institutional clash over an appointment at Ministry level. The lack of an independent, juridical body that acts as the guardian of the elementary document of this state is a glaring deficiency that beckons swift action.

On the other side experts believe that the Court has a long way to go until functionality. The most optimistic estimates point at spring of 2019.  It is worth debating whether political action needs to be taken soon over this issue. After all the justifications that the justice reform has set up an intricate design of entities and checking mechanisms that would need to be complete before the new appointment of Constitutional Judges is just that, a justification. It is a surmountable obstacle.

However both political sides seem to be strangely comfortable with this situation. For one side it’s a permanent standing excuse and for the other one major hurdle out of their way to act as they wish. Publicly they lament the fact that the Constitutional Court is not there to expose how constitutionally wrong the other side is. However their behavior speaks in a different vernacular.

This lack of will to address the crisis at the heart of the institutional setup of the Albanian state is the best testimony of the sad cost of zero sum games, the favorite sport of Albanian politics. They always loved a game with no referee.
                    [post_title] => Editorial: Zero sum games and a country left with no guardian of the Constitution 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => editorial-zero-sum-games-and-a-country-left-with-no-guardian-of-the-constitution
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-11-09 10:46:17
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-11-09 09:46:17
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139205
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [3] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 139178
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2018-11-07 12:37:03
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-07 11:37:03
                    [post_content] => rakipiBy Albert  Rakipi, PhD

For more than a century - a period coinciding with the history of the modern Albanian state - Albanian-Greek relations have been dominated by two fundamental issues: the issue of territorial or border disagreements and the issue of minorities; typical phenomena for two neighbouring nation-states.

Disagreements over territory, the border and minorities have been historically and remain the principal sources of tension in bilateral relations. They have fed a cyclical relationship of crises with frequent ebbs and flows, interspersed with periods of co-operation, which always revert to a state of tension without ever reaching all-out conflict in the classic meaning of the word.

At first glance, disagreements over territory and borders and minorities seem like a mundane history for two neighbours, states founded in the vacuum left by the contraction or collapse of an empire, as was the case with the shrinking of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans.

This essay will analyse how and why historical disagreements over territory, borders and minority issues, which date back to the beginning of the twentieth century and about which – especially the border question – neither Albania nor Greece substantially disputes the status quo, have continued over the last twenty-five years to be the main sources of tension and cyclical crisis.

 

A brief excursion into history

Three historical periods have defined the nature and the problem of Albanian-Greek relations over the last hundred years.

Firstly, the period of national movements in the Balkans and the withdrawal of the Ottoman Empire at the close of the nineteenth century and the dawn of the twentieth. These movements brought the founding of new states in the Balkans, whose territories and borders did not necessarily conform to ethnic boundaries. In a special way, the case of Albania was more significant, more critical. The creation of an Albanian state and her recognition by the European Powers saw the division of Albanian lands among her neighbours, including Greece. The Balkan political map was thereby completed, but the territories that according to this map would be recognized as states, and the borders between them, would be the principal sources of future conflicts and tensions. The two Balkan Wars and the First World War brought into dispute lands in the north of Albania and, thanks to Greek claims, the south; at their most extreme they called into question the very existence of the Albanian state.

Secondly, the Second World War, at the outbreak of which Greece and Albania in fact accidentally found themselves on different sides, because of the actions of third parties. Italy attacked Greece in October 1940, using Albanian territory which she had occupied since April 1939. At this time two of the most important elements of Albanian-Greek relations became linked, elements which are still on the table seventy years later and still linked to each other: the War Law, which paradoxically remains in force, and the issue of the Chams. By a royal decree of 10th November 1940, Albania was declared an enemy together with Italy. As strange as it may seem, this act remains in force even today. Likewise, although the trajectory of the Cham issue was initiated in 1913[2], with the end of the Balkan Wars and the placing of the Chams under the jurisdiction of the Greek state, it was the dramatic developments of the Second World War that made the Cham issue relevant even today, and one of the historical problems on the negotiating table. In this way, Albania’s involvement in the Greek Civil War, during and immediately after the Second World War, not only created a tension in bilateral relations but also jeopardized Albania’s territorial integrity and affected her relations for a prolonged period.

Third, the Cold War and the East-West division left these two ancient Balkan neighbours in opposing camps. Albanian-Greek relations in this extended phase were deeply affected by the Cold War climate and, at least until 1970, the unchanging reality between the two was a state of perpetual hostility.

Although Greece was one of the few western countries with which Albania’s communist regime managed to establish at least diplomatic relations, and to a very modest extent economic co-operation, the two would remain generally isolated from one another for decades more. Communication between the peoples, the oldest neighbours in the region, was interrupted immediately after the Second World War. Inter-state relations were particularly tense until the beginning of the seventies. Besides the ideological division affiliating the two with rival blocs, the enduring political tensions between the two countries were fuelled chiefly by a historical legacy of conflict and fundamental historical disagreements, which had bloomed during the founding and the independence of the two, and more especially with the creation of an independent Albanian state at the beginning of the twentieth century.

With the end of the Cold War and the fall of the communist regime in Albania, another factor began and would continue to affect the nature of Albanian-Greek relations - Albanian emigrants, and the continued emigration of Albanians, to Greece.[3] The wholesale emigration of Albanians to Greece has served as a kind of living, intensive engagement between the two societies. This massive Albanian presence in Greece has revolutionized political, economic and social relations between the populations, previously long separated because of the Cold War and Albania’s extreme self-isolation under communism.

The emigration of more than a sixth of the Albanian population into Greece at once created other problems, related to the integration of these new arrivals, their economic and social status, and human rights.

The nature of the international system, and the nature of the regimes governing the two states throughout this hundred-year period, were both important factors which influenced the particular dynamics of Albanian-Greek relations, but in any case it was at no point possible for the two states to move decisively towards a final resolution of the points of dispute.

Lastly, but not the least important, the populist approaches adopted by the two administrations diminished the possibility of resolving the disagreements created principally during the first half of the twentieth century.

 

The grand paradox: two NATO members in a state of war

The paradoxes and myths of Albanian-Greek relations, as in the histories of other peoples, are bound up with war and more generally with the past; but in the case of Albania and Greece, the scale of the influence of the past is extraordinary. In 1996 Albania and Greece signed a treaty of friendship and co-operation, the fullest diplomatic instrument possible, the formalization of an atmosphere of peace and collaboration between the two. But in the most surprising way, there remains in force between them a ‘War Law’, approved in 1940 by the Greek parliament.

Since 2009 both Albania and Greece have belonged to NATO. But despite their common membership of an alliance whose member states have agreed to engage in joint defence in the case of attack by a third party,[4] Greece maintains the royal decree of 1940 by which Albania is an enemy for her.

Beyond this is the paradox of paradoxes: in 1949 Greece abrogated the equivalent law by which Italy was declared an enemy, but left in place that referring to Albania, thereby declaring Albania her enemy despite the fact that it was Italy who had attacked her, from Albanian territory itself occupied by the Italians.

After almost two centuries the narrative of Northern Epirus – which in geographic terms refers to fully half of modern Albania, has become a myth - like the Megali Idea itself. Meanwhile the Cham question, which 70 percent of Albanians perceive as the principal problem in relations between Albania and Greece[5], continues to nourish the narratives of parties, media, and certain other elements in Albania - without daring to unpack the myth itself and ‘look within’.

The paradoxes and myths are more than historical: Greece is Albania’s leading economic partner and, continuously ever since the collapse of communism more than 25 years ago, at least 700,000 Albanians have emigrated and now live and work in Greece. Meanwhile, the majority of those Albanians who believe that their country is endangered and that national security is at risk believe that the threat comes from Greece.[6]

Albania and Greece, though NATO members, also differ when it comes to certain foreign policy orientations and activities in the Balkans. Greece’s traditional alliances in the region have historically been regarded with suspicion by Albania. This was particularly so after the redrawing of the Balkan political map by the creation and recognition of a new state: Kosovo. Greece remains one of two Balkan states, and one of five EU members, that have not recognized Kosovo as an independent state. The question of how much Greece’s non-recognition of Kosovo has affected Albanian-Greek bilateral relations is arguable; but in the end it is a factor that, if it does not influence the practical sphere of relations, does undoubtedly influence the virtual sphere - which remains hostage to those paradoxes and myths.

 

Disagreements over territory and borders

When the student Eleftherios Venizelos gathered his friends around a large map and defined the borders of Greece, he aspired to half of present-day Albania and almost all of modern Turkey.[7] Albania at that time did not exist as an independent state. But only a few decades later, in 1919, the one-time brilliant law student Venizelos had been named Prime Minister of Greece, and in the name of the Greek delegation to the Peace Conference he set out the arguments as to why she should be given half of Albania - or ‘Northern Epirus’, as it pleased him to call it.[8]

Although the Paris Peace Conference had not accepted Greece’s pretensions to the so-called Northern Epirus, in 1946 the Foreign Ministers of four remaining great powers - the USA, the USSR, Great Britain and France recognized the Greek arguments and claims to southern Albania.

Throughout the Cold War these territorial claims were a factor of tension between the two countries, and an unspoken obstacle to the establishment of diplomatic relations for at least a few decades after the end of the Second World War. The reasons why the two states did not actually come to blows should be sought in the Cold War, in the rivalry of the great powers, as well as in Balkan rivalries of long historical standing as far as the recognition of an independent Albanian state and her territories was concerned.

The establishment of diplomatic relations, in 1971, marked a positive step towards the elimination of one of the sources of tension between the two countries - Greece’s territorial claims according to the Northern Epirus manifesto. From that time a gradual stepping back by Greece was perceptible, as well as an official effort in Tirana not to identify Greek national policy with the Northern Epirus thesis, still supported in reactionary circles in Greece, including also the Orthodox Church, which sought in chauvinist fashion to obstruct the rapprochement of Greece with Albania.[9]

It can with confidence be asserted that, with the end of the Cold War and the fall of the communist regime, the territorial claims of the Northern Epirus manifesto and ideology were finally consigned to the past. Further progress - the signing of the treaty of friendship between the two countries and Albania’s accession to NATO[10] - definitively terminated any territorial pretension created and sustained by history.

Despite this new reality, marginal elements within Greece and particularly in the Greek diaspora continue to nurture the still-born doctrine of  Northern Epirus, and to sustain a virtual arena of discourse fed by populists.

In parallel with territorial disagreements, questions of the definition of borders between the two states - international borders originally recognized by the Great Powers - have been a source of tension between the two.

In 2010 Albania’s Constitutional Court rejected an agreement on the continental shelf. After several years of negotiations and the acceptance of a deal on the maritime border - the only undefined boundary - by 2009 it had seemed that Albania and Greece were at last closing the chapter of disagreements over their borders. However, the Constitutional Court’s decision annulled the agreement, because it found ‘an abuse of constitutional principles and a lack of respect for the principles of international law on the definition of maritime borders’.[11]

The failure to approve an accord on the sea boundary, negotiations for which had begun immediately after the end of the Second World War, demonstrated another persistent characteristic of Albanian-Greek relations: border issues and disagreements remain a source of political tension, regardless of democratic change, membership of the Atlantic Alliance, and the support which Greece has given and continues to give for Albania’s accession to the EU. The question of delineating the border between Albania and Greece arose the moment that the European powers began to move towards recognition of the Albanian state. The disagreements pre-dated the birth and recognition of Albania. From the outset more than a matter of border definition between two states, the issue was bound up with territorial claims on southern Albania – termed Northern Epirus .

Although the conference of European Ambassadors in 1913 did not acknowledge Greek aspirations for the territory which would be included within the Albanian state, these aspirations were sustained into the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.[12] In 1921, the Conference of Ambassadors which had followed immediately on the Peace Conference recognized the borders of 1913. For several decades during the Cold War, the question of border definition was one of the obstacles to the establishment of diplomatic relations.[13] Even after the establishment of diplomatic ties, intermittent tensions arose in connection with the undefined borders and with Greek hesitancy to delineate the land boundary.

Similarly, issues related to the Greek minority in Albania have historically also been a source of tension. It is however important to stress that, more than the minority itself, the way that the two countries’ governments have adopted and behaved towards the Greek minority has been an aspect of tension. From the start, the presence of this community and disputes over its numbers served to feed territorial and subsequently border claims; but over time the policies pursued by Tirana and Athens towards the minority became almost independently a factor for tension. Throughout the Cold War, including the period when diplomatic relations had been established between the two states, questions about the Greek community in Albania were a persistent source of strain, even after the fall of the communist regime.

 

The Cham Question: a populist approach – “don’t open the box”

One of the most controversial elements of relations between Albania and Greece, bound up in fact with other historical disputes, is the Cham question. After the Balkan wars, the Cham population was placed under Greek jurisdiction; and by the Florence Protocol of 1913, lands to the north-west of Greece occupied by the Chams remained outside the borders of Albania. However, the issue became more significant in early 1923, when Greece and Turkey began negotiations for a population exchange. Greece declared that there was no intention to include the Cham population within the convention for a people swap with Turkey. However, although the exchange programme would incorporate the Muslim population of the region with the Chams as the only exception, at least 500,000 of them were included.[14] The Albanian did not perceive the non-inclusion of the Chams in the programme as a privilege.

In any case, the larger part of the Cham population remained outside the 1923 Greek-Turkish convention of Lausanne on population exchange, and were thus supposed to enjoy the same status as Greeks.

But regardless of official policy as declared by the Greek government, the Cham population between the wars did not enjoy equal rights as Greek citizens. The economic and social status that they had inherited from the Ottoman period began to be undermined by means of central and local policies pursued by the government, and in an ever more hostile political and social environment clashes broke out between the Cham and Greek communities. Conditions for the Cham population started to worsen with the installation of the Metaxas dictatorship in 1936. As well as extreme policies and the arbitrary use of force, the Metaxas government stopped the use of Albanian in the public and private spheres, and the publication of Albanian books and newspapers.

But developments during the Second World War would be decisive for the future of the Cham population. Italy, and after her capitulation Germany, declared the national union of Albanians, incorporating among others the Chams of Greece. The Chams seemed to be regaining their social and economic status, and indeed their future, through co-operation firstly with the Italians and subsequently with the Germans. During the fascist occupation the communities were caught up in a cycle of violence, which assumed greater proportions after Germany’s withdrawal from Greece in 1944. In particular, Greek resistance forces under General Zervas undertook bloody operations against the Cham population, killing many.[15]

Communal violence and massacres continued, with the mass deportation of the Cham population into Albania.[16] In 1940, some 25,000 Chams were concentrated in the Cham region and more particularly south of the Greek-Albanian border.[17] A decade later, in the Greek population registration of 1951, only 127 Albanian-speaking muslims were recorded in the whole country.[18]

The Cham question, about which the two states have differing interpretations, was their first clash and their first disagreement.

The most crucial question is how the historical trajectory of the Chams - which, in the words of Stathis N. Kalyvas ‘couldn’t be more emblematic of the dark continent - the European 20th century’ - has influenced and continues to influence relations between Albania and Greece.

The Cham issue was a source of tension between the two countries from immediately after the conclusion of the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1926.

As well as in its direct official demarches to Athens, the Albanian government set out its disquiet concerning the community’s situation in the League of Nations. At the same time, Athens was observing the establishment of relations between Italy and Albania, among other things in the context of the Cham minority within its territory, worried that the Albanians might secure the support of a power such as Italy for their demands and potential actions on behalf of their brothers in Greece.[19]

In one way or another, Albania was engaged in the matter of the Cham population until the beginning of the Second World War. Developments during the war were dramatic for the Chams in Greece. First Italy and then Germany declared the establishment of a Greater Albania, incorporating as well as Albania with her 1913 borders other territories to the north, in Kosova, and in the south, including the Chameria region.

After the liberation of Albania and the establishment of the communist regime, Hoxha’s government initially proved attentive to the Cham problem. Hoxha raised the issue in the Conference of Peace in Paris in 1946. The communist government sought the repatriation of the Chams deported from Greece to Albania and the return of their assets.[20] It was another occasion when relations between the two states worsened because of official Greek demands for a territorial reconsideration of so-called Northern Epirus.[21] The atmosphere of the relationship between the two, meanwhile, was greatly influenced by their ideological alignment and the split between the great powers, the Soviet Union on one side and the USA and her allies, such as Great Britain, on the other. To a considerable degree, the clashes between the two superpowers at the global level had their impact on the contests within inter-state relations in the Balkans.

Thus the communist regime, though not in a direct and open fashion, supported the struggles of the Cham population settled in Albania to internationalize their issue. In 1945 and 1947 two Cham congresses were organized in Albania, and a series of attempts and interventions were made with the European powers and the United Nations. Sporadically, and more as a reaction against the territorial pretensions of Greece, the Cham question was raised in the UN General Assembly.

It arose again during the Greek Civil War: the Greek communists saw the Chams settled in Albania as a good means of reinforcing the Democratic Army. The communist leadership requested the help of Tirana - the Communist leadership of Albania - in recruiting Chams into their ranks.[22]

This was the last time that the Albanian government got involved in the Cham issue, and it was in a wholly ideological context: assisting the Greek communists in the civil war that had broken out.

It appears that the communist regime intended to close the Cham question at last in 1953, when in a special decree it accorded the Cham population Albanian citizenship. Throughout the Cold War, until the fall of the communist regime, the issue featured in not one single episode of the generally troubled and tense relationship. The argument that the Chams did not come to the government’s attention because of the Cold War and the division into two blocs is not sufficient. Irrespective of Albania’s isolation, the closure of the border with Greece, the absence of diplomatic relations for three decades and the two countries’ memberships of ideologically- and militarily-opposed camps, there was a tense relationship between Albania and Greece but in no case was the Cham question the source of tension. The Hoxha government abandoned the request laid out in the Peace Conference of 1946, and remained wholly silent on the issue until the end of the Cold War and the fall of the regime. Even when negotiations for the restoration of diplomatic relations began early in the nineteen-seventies, the Cham issue was not part of them.[23] This total silence about the Chams on the part of the communist regime for almost 50 years becomes even more incomprehensible if we compare its attitude towards the Greek minority in Albania. Significantly, the government worked to give the impression that this community, a people ‘wise, hard-working and patriotic’[24] ‘enjoy all the rights of any citizen of the republic’. The government ensured and made propaganda of the fact that the Greek minority had their own newspaper, an energetic combative platform for the working members of the community. The Constitution of the People’s Republic secured for them all the rights enjoyed by its other citizens.[25]

The only comparison drawn between the Cham question and the Greek minority in Albania was that of 1945, when Enver Hoxha himself tried to emphasize the great difference between the reactionary, chauvinist Greeks and his own regime: ‘We do not treat minorities’, he wrote, ‘as do the bands of Zervas and Plastiras with the Cham population, whom they have massacred and slaughtered in the most brutal manner. Our attitude towards minorities is the attitude of a more advanced people. The Greek minority enjoys full rights, it has its schools, its teachers, its press, its people in power and in the army.’[26]

The end of the Cold War and the fall of communism in Albania marked the re-emergence of the Cham question. As early as 1991, the Cham community created its own political organization and subsequently a political party, which managed to secure representation in parliament. Initially the organization made public its objectives, which in fact were not so different from those directed to the UN, foreign missions in Albania and the Greek government half a century earlier. Much the same as the memorandum from after the Second World War, the organization sought the return of lands and assets, compensation of income and respect for basic human rights. The Chameria organization - the second political group founded in 1991, after Albania’s first opposition party - likewise expressed the hope that they would have the support of the post-communist government for the resolution of their issues, and declared that the Cham issue should be put on the agenda of Albanian-Greek relations. The Cham population in Albania and their political organization invested a great deal of hope in the Democratic Party and the first non-communist government in Albania. Under the communist regime, the Cham population were regarded with mistrust, and were not permitted any form of organization, and there was a widespread idea that the communists had betrayed the Cham issue. This explains not only the great hopes of the Chams after the fall of communism, but also a kind of mistrust of the Socialist Party (and of its allied parties), which for at least the first decade was seen as the inheritor of the Party of Labour, responsible for the prolonged silence regarding the Cham question. From 1991 and continuously the question would be a persistent element of Albanian-Greek relations. From 1992 the demands from the Albanian side had to do with financial compensation for confiscated property and the return of the scattered Chams to their lands. It seems that the Greek government accepted the return of the issue to the agenda of bilateral relations between the two states.[27] Despite this, the subsequent attitude of Greek governments varied from total refusal to acknowledge the existence of the Cham problem to refusal to discuss even the request for compensation for confiscated property - with the justification of collaboration with the occupier or being declared a war criminal by judicial verdict[28] - a request they had accepted in principle in 1992. At the same time, the attitude of Albanian governments following the revival of the Cham question in 1991 was marked by ebbs and flows. The 1994-4 crisis in Albanian-Greek relations radicalized the position of the Albanian government towards the issue. But during the crisis of 1997, when the country fell into anarchy, the issue was left more or less unmentioned in bilateral exchanges. The explanation for this dramatic change has to do with the weak condition and near collapse of the state because of the crisis, but also with the fact that the Socialists came to power, and there remained a perception that they ‘supported the Albanian national question little or not at all’, and especially in their relations with Greece reflected a weak policy and demonstrated a kind of dependence on Athens.[29] Meanwhile, within Albania the ‘Cham issue’ started to become more and more part of the domestic political battle between the parties.[30] The slide towards a totalitarian narrative became apparent at the end of the nineties, and a kind of myth about the Cham issue started to emerge. There was no more talk of concrete demands, including the Cham issue, of the kind that had been clearly articulated after the end of the Second World War and after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of communism. The Cham question was discussed more and more, but not its constituent elements and how they might be resolved; instead, in the narrative of the parties and other political and non-political groups, it was spoken of general terms, as if it were a myth. The narrative of the ‘Cham issue’, at least from the 1997 crisis onwards, resembles the narratives of myths. No small part in the narrative of the issue and the development of its myth was played by the initial establishment of the Party for Justice and Unity (PDU) and, after its dissolution, the establishment of the Party for Justice, Integration and Unity (PDIU) - which marked, in fact, another kind of privatization, not only of the Cham issue but of its myth.

The PDIU declares itself ‘The Party of national causes, of the Cham question, of the inclusion of patriotism in the direction of the country’[31] claiming exclusivity in the national issue. The Cham issue ‘is simply one part of the unresolved national issue’.[32]

 

Liberating oneself from paradoxes and myths

Albanian-Greek relations after the end of the Cold War, the fall of communism and the opening of Albania to the West developed in two different spheres: one is the sphere of peace, within which practical relations have been established in the sectors of economy, trade and investment, together with exchanges at the societal level, communication between the two societies in the fields of culture and art; the other is the sphere of conflict, which is in fact virtual, involving political discourse, the elites of politics and the media and other groupings. Within this turbulent sphere, the narrative is almost totalitarian and it chiefly exploits issues of dispute springing from history, such as the Chams, and the so-called Northern Epirus  and alike.

While these two spheres appear to evolve and function in parallel at the same time, they have a measure of inter-dependence and mutual influence. The more or less cyclical crises in Albanian-Greek relations following the end of the Cold War have been marked by the inter-relationship of the spheres. The first is a real world, which has to do with economic interests, communication, and the collaboration of the societies; the second is built and thrives on paradoxes and myths, establishing indeed its own paradox, a great one, which in the best case maintains the status quo in relations, without allowing their development or reinforcement, and in the worst case produces cyclical crises which damage, or have the potential to damage, the future of the relationship.

The understanding, the explanation, of Albanian-Greek relations in the post-Cold War environment is not possible without an understanding and an explanation of the paradoxes and myths created by history. Undoubtedly, the future of these relations is not possible without escaping the paradoxes and myths.

[1] This paper is part of the study “Understanding Albanian Greek relations: Deconstructing paradoxes and myths”

[2] For a detailed understanding of the Cham issue, see Eleftheria K.Manta, Muslim Albanians in Greece, The Cham Epirus (1923- 2000), Institute for Balkan Studies, Thessaloniki 2008.

[3] Only since 1991, several hundred thousand Albanians have emigrated to and settled in Greece. The great wave of emigration immediately following the opening of borders was to Greece. Though exact data are wanting, comparable to the case of Italy were 540,000 Albanian emigrants were registered, it is reckoned that at least 700,000 Albanias have settled in Greece in the last 25 years.

[4] Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.

[5] See Albania and Greece, Albanian Institute for International Studies, Tirana, 2013.

[6] See European perspective for Albania, Albanian Institute for International Studies, Tirana, 2016. See also Twenty Years After: People on State and Democracy, Albanian Institute for International Studies, Tirana 2014.

[7] Margaret Macmillan, Paris 1919 - six months that changed the world, Random House, p 348.

[8] Ibid. p. 351.

[9] Enver Hoxha, Dy Popuj Miq, 8 Nёntori, Publishing House ,Tirana 1985, p. 415.

[10] Albania secured her invitation to join NATO at the Bucharest Summit in 2008, and became a member of the Alliance with full rights in 2009.

[11] See the decision of the Constitutional Court of 15th April 2010.

[12] See The Albanian Problem in the Paris Peace Conference, AIIS Tirana 2018.

[13] See Enver Hoxha, Dy popuj miq.

[14] The League of Nations Committee, struggling to define the origins of the Muslims of Chameria, decided to apply a compromise and take into account the wishes of Cham Muslims about whether or not to go to Turkey. According to the Greek government, of 10,000 who expressed the desire to emigrate only 5,000 were accepted by Turkey. See Eleftheria K. Manta, Muslim Albanians in Greece, the Chams of Epirus (1923-2000), Institute of Balkan Studies, Thessaloniki 2008.

[15] The most brutal massacre of Albanian muslims was carried out by Greek soldiers no longer part of military formations, on June 27th 1944 in Paramithi, when troops of the Greek Republican League (EDES) of General Zerva entered the town and killed some 600 men, women and children - many of them raped and tortured before death. According to eye-witnesses, the next day another EDES battalion entered Parga and killed 52 more Albanians. On September 23rd 1944 the town of Spatar was pillaged and 157 people killed. Young women and girls were raped, and those men who survived were rounded up and deported to the Aegean Islands.

[16] For a balanced description of the Cham question, see Miranda Vickers & James Pettifer, The Cham issue - the next stage, Naimi publishing house, 2014.

[17] Within the Cham issue, which is always controversial for the two countries, the question of numbers is likewise debatable.

[18] Stathis N.Kalyvas and Eleftheria K. Manta, Muslim Albanians in Greece, The Cham Epirus (1923- 2000), Institute for Ballkan Studies, Thessaloniki 2008.

[19] Miranda Vickers.

[20] See Beqir Meta, Greek Albanian Tension, 1939-1949, The Cham Tragedy, Academy of Science of Albania, Tirana 2006, pp 111-167. See also Miranda Vickers.

[21] Ibid. Meta.

[22] Of 2,000 communist Chams settled in Greece whom the Greek leadership expected recruit, only 150 were won over.

[23] One more plausible explanation is the fact that the Cold War and East-West ideological rivalry served among things as a kind of cage keeping national issues and nationalist ideals around the world locked up and frozen, including in the Balkans.

[24] See Enver Hoxha, Dy popuj miq.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] During a visit to Albania in 1991, Foreign Minister Karolos Papulias said that requests for the return of Cham property and financial compensation ‘should be resolved by means of a bilateral commission’. See Miranda Vickers. Likewise, in the first meeting of the two Prime Ministers, Simitis and Berisha, in 1992, of the two requests presented by the Albanian side regarding the Cham issue - financial compensation for confiscated property and the return of the Chams to their lands - the Greeks expressed themselves inclined towards a kind of willingness regarding financial compensation ‘for property confiscated in cases of those Chams who in the end were not convicted as collaborators of the Axis occupation forces but who had out of fear moved away from their property at that time’. See Eleftheria K. Manta, Muslim Albanians in Greece, The Cham Epirus (1923- 2000), Institute for Ballkan Studies, Thessaloniki 2008; Toena (Tirana) 2015, p. 236.

[28] Ibid. p. 232.

[29] In October 1997 Prime Minister Fatos Nano met Milošević in Crete, offering to play the role of intermediary with Prishtina in the resolution of the Kosova problem, whereas the Cham issue had vanished, no longer part of the bilateral agenda under Socialist administration.

[30] The usual exchanges when an Albanian minister visits Greece or a Greek Minister visits Albania conclude with the question ‘Was the Cham issue mentioned in the discussions?’ And, by extension, ‘Why was Cham issue left out of the discussions? Who is betraying the Chams and why?’

[31] See: PDIU, ‘Misioni Yne’, at PDIU.al.

[32] See the speech by Idrizi on the 27th anniversary of the founding of the Chameria society, in January 2018.
                    [post_title] => Understanding Albanian-Greek relations: Deconstructing paradoxes and myths
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => understanding-albanian-greek-relations-deconstructing-paradoxes-and-myths
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-11-07 12:37:39
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-11-07 11:37:39
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139178
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [4] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 139100
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-11-01 19:27:56
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-01 18:27:56
                    [post_content] => By Alba Cela 

On October 28 the village of Bularat in Dropull, a southern region with a significant Greek minority was preparing to hold its annual remembrance day for the fallen of the Greek-Italian war. A young man from this minority, potentially with mental health issues which remain to be confirmed, suddenly attacked the police units that had come to accompany the event in a routine way. He shot at them with an automatic rifle and then escaped away. The reasons are unclear. He might have misinterpreted the situation and believed the police was there to remove some Greek flags. They weren’t. Earlier that day, they had stopped some young Albanians who wanted to disturb the same Remembrance Day in Kelcyre. They were there to make sure everything went smoothly.

Given the gravity of the situation, an attack on the police is very alarming all over the world, the special RENEA forces arrived and searched for the young man. He attacked them too with his assault weapon. He got shot. Like hundreds of criminals do when they face the police. All over the world.

However the cascade reactions that this sad development brought about from both sides were even more alarming and opened once again a Pandora box of poisonous nationalistic feelings and actions. Soccer fans in Albania showcased a banderole during a big match so offensive it does not deserve to be mentioned. Social media exploded with hate speech.

The reaction from the Greek side was no better of course. Protest in Athens, backed mostly by the infamous Nazi party Golden Dawn, left some people injured and Greek ultra-nationalists set on fire a store operated by Albanians living in Athens.  Others are using the site where the man was shot as a pilgrimage spot. Some Greek media go so as far as to call him a hero. On this side as well social and online media saw an upsurge of hate speech and additionally threats of repercussions.

The worst part is that even the political sides which are supposed to be more restrained, institutional and serious in their approach did not fare much better in handling this situation. Both Greek and Albanian officials did not resist the temptation to showcase emotion and try to win political credit. In doing so they put already fragile difficult process of negotiating bilateral issues at risk once again.

The young man shot that day in Bularat is no hero, he is a person who put the lives of policemen and his fellow village peers in serious and grave danger. He used a weapon with the aim of taking lives. This does not make him any different from criminals. The incident and the suitability of the response can be investigated from the Albanian authorities and should be shared with full transparency and no hesitations from the Greek side. The Greek authorities have no reason to put in question the legitimacy of this official procedures.

However, the excitement of Albanians about this event and their shower of praise towards the special force police is equally unwarranted. The special force themselves wished they had not been forced to claim a life. They are not celebrating.

Albania and Greece, particularly their political class and media establishment, should wake up to the real need of protecting their fragile and strategically important relationship from incidents and their unfortunate aggressive manipulation. They should take serious ownership of the process of rapprochement and shelter it with care. This is important not only for Albania and its European integration process but also for Greece, for its stability and well-being.

Both sides should never forget, even for one second how much we have in common, how much we can achieve together and how many factors connect us. The young man could have been one more member of the minority that is and feels exceptionally well integrated here. The fact that he chose not to be is just sad. It should not make one side angry and one side festive. It should make both sides reflect and learn.
                    [post_title] => Stopping irresponsible nationalistic sentiments from poisoning bilateral relations 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => stopping-irresponsible-nationalistic-sentiments-from-poisoning-bilateral-relations
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-11-02 10:12:05
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-11-02 09:12:05
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139100
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [5] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 139097
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-11-01 19:20:07
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-01 18:20:07
                    [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL 

When Fatmir Xhafajwas made Minister of the Interior the opposition and others cried foul and said he had been an attorney during communism. He did not care.

He did not resign when the accusations about his brother being sentenced in Italy for drugs trafficking and participation in an organized crime entity surfaced. He weathered through the storm of political allegations, the media’s 24 hour cycle of attention, scrutiny and speculation. He set aside the multiple voices saying that criminality was on the rise. And then right in the middle of some successful police actions that resulted in high profile arrests, Fatmir Xhafaj resigned. Xhafaj did not share any real reasons for his departure. He did not bother to offer even the same old fake claim of health or personal motive. He mentioned something vague about principles and values. The fact that his resignation remains an unanswered big mystery has given way to all sorts of interpretations.

With his departure, the Rama cabinet loses the one single remaining voice who had its own identity. The rest is a monochrome unified front of the nouveau-Socialists of the “Rilindje” (Renaissance) – a political brand established by and for the Prime Minister. Although he had no issues with the new brand, Xhafaj was the last one standing from the traditional Socialist Party.

Xhafaj departure is furthermore the second from the key Ministry of Interior Affairs, generally recognized as the most important one in the entire cabinet, the one where the mandate is clearly political and whose performance can make or break an entire majority. For all these reasons the public opinion, made up not just by party militants chewing any political reasoning, but mostly from law abiding tax paying citizens deserves and has the right to claim a transparent and coherent reason. His resignation needs to be motivated.

When the responsible sides refuse to clarify this key development, they legitimize all the interpretations – whether speculative or not. The key dominant interpretation right now is related to the fact that the former minister resigned the same night the scandal of the Durres mayor was in full swing. Vangjush Dako, whose reputation if nothing else is at subzero temperatures, figures in phone intercepts taking to a plethora of local gangs, thanking them for their help during elections. So Xhafaj might have wanted to arrest the mayor or he might have refused orders to do so. It’s the public’s pick. Both reasons are alarming.  If it sounds like conspiracy then it’s because of the lack of transparency around it. If the majority, which includes first and foremost the former minister himself, keeps Xhafaj’s resignation obscure then they are endowing this interpretation with truth. They should be aware of this.

The mystery is only compounded by his replacement, which stands to be decreed by the President.

Without disputing any of the credits that former general has, Mr. Lleshi is not part of the majority in the political sense. His current profile as an advisor to the Prime Minister seems to serve the purpose of subduing the political infighting within the SP. However it does not seem to serve any other purpose. The key position of the Interior Ministry with all the gravitas it compels, deserves the high profile political mandate that the electorate has bestowed.

In politics the rules can change. However in a democratic system the voters need to know how and why. The latest developments in the political arena in Albania and furthermore the darkness they are shrouded within, do not serve the stability and wellbeing of its citizens.  Those responsible about it should know better.
                    [post_title] => Editorial: The inexplicable departure of a minister- unanswered questions warrant any interpretation 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => editorial-the-inexplicable-departure-of-a-minister-unanswered-questions-warrant-any-interpretation
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-11-02 10:20:13
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-11-02 09:20:13
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139097
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [6] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 139072
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2018-10-31 10:06:08
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-10-31 09:06:08
                    [post_content] => By Murat Ahmet Yörük*

I would like to extend my gratitude to all of you for being with us tonight as we celebrate the 95th anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey. I welcome you all with sincere regards and deep respect.

The Republic of Turkey is the legendary achievement of a nation that prefer to die instead of losing its independence. Proclamation of the Republic signifies the rebirth of a nation from the ashes of an Empire following a national struggle for liberation.

Under the leadership of Ghazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his comrades-in-arms, our nation has shown a great courage, strong will, wisdom and determination in this struggle, which defined our character. This character is still very much alive today.

We respectfully bow in front of the dear memories of the founder of our Republic and the victorious commander of the War of Liberation Ghazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, his comrades-in-arms and all our veterans.

We commemorate once again with gratefulness our citizens, our daughters and sons who made the ultimate sacrifice to make the lands of our Republic our motherland, during public service, while fighting against terror groups and resisting the treacherous coup attempt of 15 July.

Since its foundation, the Republic of Turkey is rising prosperously by further developing its democracy, the principle of rule of law and individual rights and freedoms of its citizens.

The Republic of Turkey is a respected member of the international community. With its young and dynamic population of 81 million, it is the 6th biggest economy in Europe and 17th biggest economy in the world.

Turkey has been transforming its economy while strengthening its physical infrastructure. Today, we have focused on a transformation to technology-intensive and innovative economy. Subsequently, we have made achievements in recent years especially in the defence industry sector.

Turkey has reached to the point of producing drones and tanks with local and national capabilities. In addition to this, we have progressed on projects to build aeroplanes and electric cars with national capabilities

A stronger Turkey means more investments, more employment and more cooperation. A stronger Turkey means more prosperous, more stable and a safer environment in the Balkans and an increased leading power for Europe.

 

‘Peace at home, peace in the world’

Turkey conducts its foreign policy guided by the principle of “Peace at Home, Peace in the World” as set out by Ghazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Under the visionary and experienced political leadership of H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of the Republic of Turkey, and because of the requirements of our age, we pursue an enterprising and humanitarian foreign policy.

We take concrete initiatives to promote security, stability, sustainable development and prosperity in the Balkans region and beyond.

Because of the humanitarian aspect of our foreign policy, we take principled, responsible and conscientious positions regarding the issues on our agenda.

Turkey stands together with all the oppressed countries and nations in the world from Palestine to Myanmar, from Somalia to Bosnia-Hercegovina. As a result of the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Turkey is hosting the largest number of refugees worldwide for the fourth year in row.

Thus, Turkey became the biggest contributor in international humanitarian assistance in 2017.

On the other hand, Turkey plays a crucial role in the fight against terrorism within NATO and international coalitions. Turkey has immensely suffered and lived great losses by the terror attacks of DAESH, Al-Qaeda, PKK, PYD and FETO. We will continue our fight against terror with resolution.

Since 2002, Turkey has ever-increased democratic rights, freedoms, and implemented big scale reforms for the administration of the country. Turkey has been strengthening its financial structure and economy while implementing big-scale infrastructure investments.

In this regard, we have a distinct pride, honour and pleasure to inaugurate the Istanbul New Airport on this day as we celebrate our Republic Day. When completed in 2021 it will be the largest of its kind in the world with a capacity of 200 million passengers per year.

The visit of H.E. Ilir Meta, President of the Republic of Albania and H.E. Damian Gjiknuri to Turkey for the opening ceremony of the Istanbul New Airport upon the invitation of our President H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has a special importance for our relations with Albania.

 

‘Friendly and fraternal relations with Albania’

We have a deep-rooted history of friendly and fraternal relations with Albania.

Although we do not share geographical borders, Albania is one of the countries, which has always been close to our hearts. We consider Albania as a neighbour by heart. Millions of Turkish citizens of Albanian origin are concrete examples of these bonds. It is an undeniable fact that our nations are inseparably connected with family bonds.

The words of Ghazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of our Republic and a natural born of this geography summarizes clearly how we should conduct our relations: “We love the Albanian nation, we consider them as brothers and sisters, and do not see them apart from ourselves. We seriously and definitely wish the strengthening of Albania as a country and as a nation and reach to its deserved level in the Balkans.”

Our President H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also has a well-known affection for Albania and for our Albanian brothers and sisters as embodied in the important support he has given to the development of Albania especially in the fields of civil aviation, health, education, tourism, energy, infrastructure and agriculture complemented with other strategic investments,

One of the first treaties of friendship we signed in 1923 after the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey was with Albania. The title of this treaty “Treaty of Eternal Friendship and Cooperation” defines the relation between our countries and our nations in the simplest form.

Therefore, in 2023 we will not only be celebrating the 100th Anniversary of our Republic, but also the 100th Anniversary of the establishment our diplomatic relations with Albania.

Turkey aims the strengthening of peace, prosperity and cooperation in the Balkans. In this vein, we attach a special importance to our relations with Albania. Our bilateral relations are based on the principles of respect to the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in the domestic policies.

We are cognizant of the key role that Albania has with respect to peace and stability in the Balkans. We support the integration process of Albania with all Euro-Atlantic institutions. We believe that economically and politically stronger Albania as a member of the EU, is in the interest of Turkey, the Balkans and Europe.

We shape our policies towards this end and with our sincere support for Albania. We do not have a hidden agenda towards Albania nor towards other countries in the region. It should not be thought otherwise.

We are pleased to be one of the biggest trading partners of Albania with a total of 480 Million Dollars of trade volume. Our investments in various sectors such as energy, finance, infrastructure, industry, civil aviation, education and telecommunication have reached to almost 3 billion Dollars. Turkish companies employ almost 15 thousand of our Albanian brothers and sisters which roughly corresponds to proving income to 60 thousand people in total.

We aim to further increase our trade and investments. This is a reflection of our trust in the bright future of Albania.

Our relations have clinched with the initialling of the “Joint Political Declaration For Establishing A High Level Cooperation Council” by the Foreign Ministers of our two countries during the visit of H.E. Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu two weeks ago. This document will raise our relations to a level of strategic partnership.

As the Ambassador of Turkey, I wholeheartedly believe in the bright future of relations between Turkey and Albania.

Turkey aims for new political, economic and commercial achievements on its 100th anniversary in 2023. I sincerely hope to celebrate these achievements in joint prosperity together with our friend and ally Albania on the 100th Anniversary of our “Treaty of Eternal Friendship and Cooperation.”

Eternal affection and friendship between Turkish and Albanian nations constitute a strong and unbreakable bridge between us.

*Speech of Turkey's Ambassador to Albania, Murat Ahmet Yörük, at the 29 October Republic Day of Turkey at a reception held in Tirana

 

 
                    [post_title] => 'Turkey has no hidden agenda in Albania, region,' Ambassador says  
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => turkey-supports-albanias-euro-atlantic-integration-has-no-hidden-agenda-ambassador-says
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-11-01 16:45:44
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-11-01 15:45:44
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139072
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [7] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 138990
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-10-26 08:46:01
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-10-26 06:46:01
                    [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL 

The news that the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs had used an undisclosed fund to pay several news outlets, media actors and online portals in Albania and in Macedonia rattled the public opinion this week and generated many reactions and questions. The gravity of this issue was enough to unseat the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs and the debris of the situation are not going away even days after.

These funds seem to have been used in a secret and unaccounted for way to finance various ambiguous objectives among which swinging the public opinion through use of selected media.

First of all this model of operating in secrecy and darkness seems like some obscure feature of the Byzantine world. It has nothing to do with the models of public diplomacy used by western democracies all over the world. Paying in dubious ways dubious actors for purposes which remain unclear is not a model that reflect the culture of values of the European Union or of the democratic western countries, a group that Greece has joined long ago. It would not be surprising coming from authoritarian and illiberal places. It is disappointing that it is part of Greek diplomacy.

Acquiring and exerting soft power is legitimate and frequent in diplomacy. It dates far back to the diplomatic means of the Roman Empire. It is best done by transparent funds, competitive processes and creative forms of open modern activities which encourage communication, exchange, cultural and linguistic knowledge as well as direct visits.

Hence it is a pity that the Greek taxpayers money are thrown to completely inefficient channels of mediation, to actors and platforms of so called media which are either ghost names or completely irrelevant and third rate names. This has the feeling of a corruptive scheme and should be cleared for the public interest of the neighboring country. We don’t have any reason to believe the lists published already but it is nevertheless obvious that the money has not gone to serious national media or well-known media actors.  The influential reporters, opinion writers and media channels in Albania are not many and their clout over the public opinion is very clear. Giving away money to nonexistent papers littering the sidewalks smells of fraud and abuse.

The allegation that these funds were to be sued to provide the supposed draft agreement between the two countries for the resolution of their bilateral disputes is even more ridiculous. Popular support for sensitive long standing issues of contention needs absolutely legitimate and credible information. Here transparency is key. Lack of it is sure to backfire and gives rise to all sort of conspiracies. In this case the damage was done and the crazy theories around this news are already hurting the negotiations.

Finally and most crucially, Albanian-Greek relations are key bilateral relations for the welfare, stability and European integration of Albania. The relations suffer a lot from misperceptions, stereotypes and mistakes that the media has perpetuated and even accentuated over the years. There is a serious need for intervention to raise the capacities of reporters, opinion writers and online media content generators, to put them in touch with organizations and think tanks that can provide them with well-researched materials and introduce them to the positive stories of collaboration. Furthermore there is a need to build up civil society communication and partnerships. If the Greek diplomacy has aside some funds for the bilateral relations the ideas to do so in transparent, efficient and constructive way are endless.

In order to mend the situation the first necessary step for both governments, which are NATO members and have a strategic relation, is to clarify the situation and issue official reactions. This will at least put aside a lot of frantic reactions that have been based on hearsay as well as give the right reassurances that this relation stands on solid institutional ground.

Some last words are necessary to address the conspiracy frenzy that was unleashed in Albania and the ease with which most of the public gobbled up made-up lists. Using this information for name-calling and mud-throwing reveals deep irresponsibility and even worse the lack of capacity to reflect and draw the right lesson. Albania needs also to invest its limited resources of public diplomacy in the right way. In that sense there is some serious soul searching to do.
                    [post_title] => Editorial: Public diplomacy cannot be done in the dark
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => editorial-public-diplomacy-cannot-be-done-in-the-dark
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-10-26 08:46:01
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-10-26 06:46:01
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=138990
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [8] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 138888
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-10-19 09:32:05
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-10-19 07:32:05
                    [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL

A hurricane of false statements, fake news and irresponsible accusations can do much more damage to the truth that any other form. Currently there are two elements in Albania that need to be addressed for the sake of safeguarding as much as possible truthful and responsible protection of a sane narrative:

First of all defamation by media is not a crime. Given the unregulated environment ripe with thousands of forms of media, anybody can make all sorts of statements hurting or promoting all kinds of causes and most importantly whomever they decide to make subject of their interest. That can be everyone else. Albania has much more traditional and online media that the market warranties. It is public knowledge that these media are financed by either politicians or business that are keen to promote their own agendas. The remaining few are owned by reckless lunatics who want to shock the public if they can.

The idea of regulating the online media scene by law requiring as a first step the registration of portals has been received with skepticism and cries of silencing free speech. However, the fact is that this scene is a daily and hourly generator of misinformation, fake news and shady political agendas. It is not serving free speech, it is serving irresponsible media actors who want to be in the spotlight or even worse political infighting. The public is not helped by it on the contrary. It is disoriented and pushed and pulled into a million directions, never offered hard facts to make up his mind.

Second, politicians are used to being able to say whatever they want without taking any responsibility about it. The deluge of accusations, offenses and claims that one side makes about the other, even providing details of alleged crimes, alleged collaboration with mafia gangs, etc. More often than not these are proved to be thin air. This has created a dangerous climate when any statement is not credible. Any accusation is seen as the product of polarization and not facts. There is simply no accountability. So much chaos is only weaving darkness and not transparency.

The other related proposal of the executive is to take to court every accusation made that they believe it is defamation. If done properly and judged by a responsible justice system this will set an important model of paying attention to the truth and really increasing accountability of elected officials. By clearing up the ocean of lies, all political actors will be forced to think twice and back up their words with evidence. If this happens then the courts can come up with the much sought after indictments of corruption and abuse of power much quicker than predicted by the actors of the justice reform.

The devil in the details for this issue is the seriousness with which they are proposed. A former analysis of libel cases in the past undertaken by the High Court reveals that the winning side is always the majority. The same people that are accused and punished when they are a minority turn into accusers and winners immediately once they come into power. That is why the success of the justice reform is decisive in this area as well. No matter what modification the laws undergo, if there is no independent professional juridical body to make the final decision they will always be seen as a one sided witch hunt.

This paper deplores the idea that in today’s Albania everyone in front of a screen, or writing for a third rate paper can become an instant slanderer and destroy someone’s life, career or public service and get away with it. This has nothing to do with freedom of speech. Truthful, accountable political declaration alongside accurate fact-checked information and reporting are the best allies of truth and freedom of speech.
                    [post_title] => Editorial: Against slander, libel and defamation: why truth needs to be rescued even if by means of justice 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => editorial-against-slander-libel-and-defamation-why-truth-needs-to-be-rescued-even-if-by-means-of-justice
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-10-19 09:44:32
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-10-19 07:44:32
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=138888
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [9] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 138898
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2018-10-19 09:30:52
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-10-19 07:30:52
                    [post_content] => By Konstantinos Giakoumis*

… I am glad to report that our project proposal was finally accepted by the General Assembly of … I presented the project on the first day and was badly attacked by the … [a national] delegate… The Academy of [capital city of a Balkan state] does not accept the term “pre-modern” or any term different to the term “post-Byzantine,” although it is not willing to participate in the project. We had a discussion and I convinced the other delegates that the latter term is just an expression of a Balkan anachronistic nationalism, not a scholarly argument. The vote for the new projects was on the last day and … [the very national delegate] used that period to oppose me and to find people on his/her side. I kept answering indirect questions and made a lot of clarifications. Finally, at the time of vote, the ad hoc Committee presented the project in a positive way, and even [the very national delegate] voted us, but surprisingly the … delegate [of a western European state] voted against. So, the project was triumphally accepted and I was congratulated a lot by many colleagues from all over the world. The … delegate [of a Balkan state] refused to support me in the last day, because the … Academy [of the very Balkan state] is …

This anonymised report, whose extract is quoted above carefully edited with square brackets, could well have been an extract from the lobbying meetings at the side of negotiations ahead of the Treaty of Lausanne, had it not been for the terms “project,” “pre-modern” and “post-Byzantine” pointing to contemporary times. In reality, the text above was reported on the basis of a recent meeting of an international scientific event for the purpose of evaluating a number of research project proposals. As is implied, the outline negotiations involve a number of Balkan states, including Greece and Albania. This event is not the least isolated; to quote only one type of such events, many times international scientific events have fallen prey to Greek boycott on account of how the neighbouring state of FYR Macedonia is reported. Without entering into the essence of the name issue, the self-exclusion from events aimed at bringing together scientists who are potentially to drive the change of hostile public perception towards the Other is much telling. It is therefore understood that in some ways the past continues to haunt the Balkan present and its scientific circles, especially those employed at state institutions. In this context, the aim of this paper is to outline the evolution of the Greek and Albanian historiography in matters pertaining to Greek-Albanian relations in the course of the 2000s and how these are conditioned more by ideological proclivities than by the intensity and quality of contact of Albanian and Greek historians with each other or by the generation of historians.

Questions pertaining to the ideological orientation of Greek and Albanian historiography even after the 2000s remain highly controversial for a number of reasons. The scientific politics and ideologemes brought forward by both sides are more often than not based, originate or are attributed to early twentieth century inertial remnants (Tsitselikis & Christopoulos 2007, 9). In the course of the past century several generations of Albanians (including Albanian historians) were nationally nurtured with the image of the Greek as an enemy (Giakoumis and Kalemaj 2015 & 2017; Kalemaj and Giakoumis 2015) while the same generations of Greeks were raised with the morale of the irredentist political notion of “Northern Epirus,” popularized in nationalist songs, like “ I have a little sister, truly a doll; her name is Northern Epiros and I love her…” (Tsitselikis & Christopoulos 2007, 17). Hence, dealing with the multifaceted aspects of Greek-Albanian relations has inevitably borne the ideological charge and arsenal that such perceptions of the ethnic Other has inherited.

In the past, matters related to the ideological orientation of Greek and Albanian historiography were deceptively upheld as self-evident truths in the service of political agendas which were set out in advance of research on historical material. Blatsiotis has demonstrated how the principal ideologeme of Greek policy that Albanians constitute no nation, but rather a volatile ethnic group has transformed in various periods of time (2003, 46-50), also imparting scholarly works of quite some merit (e.g. Malkidis 2007, 1-80). Conversely, Greek irredentist claims over Northern Epiros, entangled, as they were, in the period they were raised, acquired a quasi-inherent trait of the Greeks as the ethnic Other and was consequently projected by the Albanian popular and scientific historiography into the ancient past to uphold the national myth of permanent victimization (e.g. Ministria 1959, 6).

In pre-war Balkan scholarship, but also thereafter, historical problems and phenomena were separated from their wider, international context and were studied from the narrow sight of national ideology in an attempt to construct their alleged ‘national’ character. For example, the long 19th century’s passage from the empire as a political entity to the nation-state was viewed in a linear fashion, thereby failing to distinguish processes of hybridization in the process of constructing national identities, whereby empires imagined they could transform to nation-states (Ottomanism) and nation-states envisaged their future as empires (the Greek ‘Great Idea’ and the Serbian ‘Nacertaniye;’ Stamatopoulos 2018, Introduction). I have elsewhere demonstrated how the instrumentalization of the Albanian language question in the process of constructing a national identity led to historical exaggerations and distortions with regards to the stance of the Orthodox Patriarchate towards Albanian language and its use in liturgical services (Giakoumis 2011). It is therefore evident that such ethno-centric constructs are profoundly both methodologically problematic and research-distorting.

Such biases in Greek and Albanian historiography could, in theory, provide partial answer to the question why education does not always lead to prejudices reduction in Albania, contrary to the conclusions of intergroup communication theory scholars. An increasing body of literature presents evidence that more education leads to less intergroup prejudices. However, as Peshkopia et al. has presented (2017), this conclusion, drawn on the basis of evidence from western countries applying multicultural education, does not apply to most Balkan countries which, alike Albania, set primary goal of their educational systems to instil a sense of national identity and belonging, in view that enduring notions of national identity are believed to form in the course of primary socialization years as also indicated by the US paradigm (cf. Giakoumis & Kalemaj 2017). In his survey, Peshkopia has found that, contrary to the expectation that more education leads to less intergroup biases, in the case of Albania, more education leads on the one hand to prejudice reduction towards homosexuals, but on the other hand to prejudice increase towards Greeks, i.e. a group targeted as the hostile Other by ethno-nationalist narratives (Peshkopia et al. 2017). While Peshkopia’s research has not been conducted in Greece to draw useful conclusions, Papakosta’s work (2009; 2013) certainly indicates similar prompts from the side of Greek historiography.

Not surprisingly, the subjects of historical research from both academic and non-academic milieus were dominated by subjects related to dominant national(ist) narratives, occasionally alternated with topics of political and diplomatic history. One also notes the parallel development of a non-academic literature on the same matters (e.g. Dalianis 2000 & 2008; Isufi 2002; Karkasinas 2014; Litsios 2008; Mandi & Jovani 2013), not bound by rigorous scientific methods and interpretative apparatus. Such literature more often than not promotes nationalist agendas. Especially after the turn of the 21st century, public history initiatives play an increasingly important role, on occasion leaving noteworthy traces (e.g. Tzimas 2010). The availability of archives has significantly facilitated research, although the declassification time of archives after 25 years, in the case of Albania, and 30 years in regard to Greece is only nominal as in reality fewer documents have been declassified and prepared for historical research to the official declassification time (cf. Skoulidas 2015). It should be noted, however, that the number of documentary evidence published or utilized from Albanian archives (Boçi 2008, 2009, 2010 & 2012; Dervishi 2009; Dushku 2012; Gurakuqi 2011; Meta 2009, 2010, 2012a, 2012b & 2013; Naska 1999; Puto 2011; Tritos 2003) is greater than the number of published Greek sources of the like (Baltsiotis 2009; Karakitsios 2010; Kollaros 2015; Koltsida 2008; Kondis 2004; Kouzas 2013; Manta 2004 & 2005; Margaritis 2005).

For the historical period from before Albania’s independence until World War II dominant topics in the Albanian and Greek post-2000 historiography relate to matters of territory, minority rights, the establishment of the Autocephalous Church of Albania and the so-called “Cham” issue. The delimitation of the new state’s borders was studied from a variety of perspectives. Most scholars include matters related to territory in wider studies pertaining to Greek-Albanian relations (e.g. Gurakuqi 2011; Dushku 2012; Meta 2013) and the subsequent claims of an unsolved “North-Epirotan” issue (Barkas 2016; Skoulidas 2015 & 2012; Baltsiotis & Skoulidas 2013; Triadafilopoulos 2010; Malkidis 2007; Baltsiotis 2003). Another preferred subject for the Greek historiography relates to the ethnic Greek minority in Albania and its rights, a topic that has been touched in political (e.g. Baltsiotis 2009; Barkas 2016; Anastasopoulou 2013; Dalianis 2000 & 2008; Karakitsios 2010; Tsitselikis & Christopoulos 2003), geographical (Kallivretakis 1995), linguistic (e.g. Barkas 2016), cultural (e.g. Karkasinas 2014; Litsios 2008; Mandi&Jovani 2013; Pappa 2009) and educational (Barkas 2016; Giakoumis&Kalemaj 2017; Ismyrliadou 2013; Karakitsios 2010; Koltsida 2008; Kouzas 2013) perspectives. The matter of the Orthodox Church of Albania and its Autocephaly was dealt with in a lesser number of monographs [Glavinas 1996; Katopodis 2001; Giannakou 2009; Simaku 2011; Bido 2016]. Last but not least, a significant number of works have been devoted to Chameria and its inhabitants. This is a primarily legal matter related to the properties of the exiled Cham Muslims who were forced to flee out of Greece towards Albania after World War II, after the collaboration of certain individuals of this community with the Nazi occupation forces in Greece, but it also bears political ramifications. Such works were written from an Albanian (Naska 1999; Isufi 2002; Dervishi 2009; Meta 2009, 2010, 2012a; Puto 2011; Elsie & Bejtullah 2013), and a Greek (Tritos 2003; Manta 2004; Margaritis 2005; Ktistakis 2006; Papatheodorou 2007; Baltsiotis 2009) perspective on the matter.

Although one would have expected that, after many years of Greek-Albanian exchanges at all levels, Albania’s integration to NATO and the EU, where Greece is already a member and Albania’s supporter, a certain postnationalistic (Bennett 2001) or internationalistic trend would emerge, in fact, nationalist discourses and related stereotypes demonstrate an outstanding endurance. This is partly owed to the fact that very few scholars speak the language of the ethnic other. Michael Tritos’ brief treatise on the Chams (2003), for instance, cites no Albanian bibliography, while the Albanian perspectives considered by Malkidis (2007) are solely in English, thereby imparting the author’s ability to pass more informed judgements on the matters he raises. This is not an exclusivity of Greek historiography. Writing about minorities and the construction of national identity in Albania a year after his election as a member of the Albanian Academy of Science (2012), Beqir Meta (2013) did not consider any newer Greek bibliography to Lazarou’s 1986 book on the Vlachs of the Balkans and their language. His books on Chams (Meta 2010) and the Greek-Albanian tension from the outbreak of the World War II (1939) to the end of the Greek Civil War (1949) (Meta 2012a) includes no Greek scholarship after 1997, while even the Albanian works considered were published no later than 2000 and 2001 respectively. One could attribute this to personal hastiness, as his book on Greek-Albanian relations in 1949-1990 (Meta 2012b) has no bibliographical updates after 1997, had it not been for scholars of a younger generation who conducted part of their studies in Greece using a rather outdated bibliography, as is the case of Sonila Boçi’s work on minorities in Albania from 1939-1949 (Boçi 2012), whose last consulted work in Greek bibliography was Manta’s monograph (2004). It is surprising that Ktistakis’ authoritarian, purely legal work on the properties of Chams and Albanians in Greece and the lift of the war status from a domestic and international legal standpoint (Febr. 2006) has been entirely neglected in Albanian bibliography, as far as I know.

The absence of an international perspective from the majority of historiographic works produced in Greece and Albania after the year 2000 is also an approach entangled in past, ethnocentric perceptions and narratives. Hence, while Ardit Bido’s monograph (2016) is very well-informed in terms of Greek and Albanian bibliography, the author’s monoscopic perspective of the relations of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with the Orthodox Church of Albania falls short of understanding how developments analysed and discussed in his work were conditioned by wider political power reconfigurations that shaped the frame in which the Ecumenical Patriarchate could move, such as developments with the Romanian and Bulgarian Churches, etc. (cf. Giakoumis 2011). Sonila Boçi’s (2012) well-researched and overall balanced monograph on minorities in Albania between 1939 and 1949 reproduces uncritically an older thesis of Albanian historiography, stereotypically repeated by the older generation of Albanian historians (e.g. Meta 2013, 51-8), that the Greek-speaking population in Southern Albania were metics settled during the second half of the 18th century to work the lands of the rich land owners (formerly called feudal lords) of Gjirokastra and Saranda, a thesis that has long been reviewed (cf. Giakoumis 2003). The dominance of ethnocentric, monoscopic and rather localistic interpretative apparatus is apparently not a trait of some Albanian historiographical works (cf. Xhufi 2009; Karagjozi-Kore 2014), but also of Greek historiography (e.g. Koltsida 2008; Koltsidas 2008; Pappa 2009; Karakitsios 2010; Xynadas 2012; Ismyrliadou 2013; Karkasinas 2014). It is interesting to note that such proclivities are very evident to select historiography produced by members of the Greek minority in Albania (Barkas 2016).

The studies of scholars substantially trained internationally offer insights of wider interest. The historiographical value of the work of Ilir Kalemaj (2014) is good evidence of how substantial exposure to international scholarly environments can provide original insights of interest beyond the narrow focus of a study. While Kalemaj’s study did not focus exclusively on Greek-Albanian relations, his study of real versus imaginary territoriality of Albania also touches on Greek-Albanian relations. Kalemaj developed a two-by-two matrix, one of whose axis related to domestic political pressures regarding Albania’s actual and should-be borders, while the other to international pressures vis-à-vis Albania’s borders. His findings that high international pressure lowered claims of imagined territories and that low international pressure resulted in augmented domestic political claims over imagined borders can be applied in wider contexts. The works of Ridvan Peshkopia and his colleagues (Peshkopia & Voss 2016) can be classified in the same category of studies by internationally trained scholars dealing with matters related to the history of Greek-Albanian relations and how these affect current attitudes towards the other. Peshkopia & Voss’ work on the role of ethnic divisions in the attitude of ethnic majorities or minorities toward the death penalty (2016) draws conclusions of universal interest in such matters. Though about an entirely different period and setting, I think that Margaritis’ stunning comparative study of both Jews and Chams as “undesired fellow-patriots” (2005) can also be classified to the interpretative apparatus of viewing multiple perspectives of a single matter for safer conclusions.

[1]Assoc. Prof. Konstantinos Giakoumis, Ph.D., European University of Tirana

 
                    [post_title] => Greek-Albanian Relations in Greek and Albanian Historiography of the 2000s
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => greek-albanian-relations-in-greek-and-albanian-historiography-of-the-2000s
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-10-19 10:51:28
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-10-19 08:51:28
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=138898
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

        )

    [post] => WP_Post Object
        (
            [ID] => 139304
            [post_author] => 29
            [post_date] => 2018-11-16 10:27:15
            [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-16 09:27:15
            [post_content] => By Alba Çela

From the pulpit of the Assembly this week, Economy Minister Arben Ahmetaj called the public private partnership contracts, the infamous PPPs, the ultimate good option for the citizens: a way to deliver swiftly public services that cannot be covered by the budget alone. Indeed this government has already acquired the dangerous PPP addiction and spends a lot of time and effort dressing the PR around it. In the next 10-15 years the state budget will have to deal with a cost of around 2 billion euros due to its engagement with PPP contracts about classic public services such as infrastructure, education and healthcare.

This figure alone is an indicator of swift walking into a next financial rut rather than swift deliverance of public goods. There is no good way that the Albanian government can afford this price: it will either cut substantially from its public investment planned for the next years which hurt the citizens or tax them directly. The Albanian economy experts predict that it is more likely it will chose the second way, by increasing taxes to Albanian households by no less than 200 euro per year. It might not look much, however this is a medium size pension for an Albanian elderly and it is half of the average wage for a lower middle class household member.

This heavy reliance on the future, robbing the citizens in advance, has proven to be very deficient in other countries and very problematic in the existing contracts in Albania such as dialysis and checkup services. Therefore it is not clear why the government keeps defending it other than for dark corruption related reasons. The average cost of securing a service through PPP rather than usual other procedures (tenders, state owned companies, etc.), is about double. This is due to several factors related to capital costs (companies get loans by banks at commercial rates rather than favorable rates which are offered to governments), construction fees and the ultimate profit motive. There are additional hidden costs related to the lack of competition involved in this process.

Another aspect is related to the supposed government principles of a left majority in power. Indeed with such a rightist approach to governing most Albanian voters have forgotten that this is the Socialist Party who is in charge. All these concessions are burdening simple consumers with fees and tolls that weigh heavily on their modest pockets. Let’s take the example of the newly proposed fee for the Durres-Tirana highway. This is the heart of the country’s infrastructure. The secondary roads connecting the two largest cities of the country are not fully accessible. Once again just like in the example of the Nation’s highway, citizens are presented with no choice.

The PPPs are working only for the few people benefiting from them. They are enriching the already rich and large business entities that are doing minimum investment and are not really accountable to anyone.  Companies face no costs or any other type of negative consequences when the promised services don’t happen in a timely or effective manner. It is again the state who takes this burden if at all.

Ultimately these contracts have high risks for the public finances once the state budget starts to hand out the payments foreseen in the agreements. For a government that takes pride in lowering the public debt and in fiscal discipline this is at least ironic. These contracts are a pure form of increasing public debt in a masked way just to avoid incorporating it in the calculation of the debt to GDP ratio. However just because they are good at hiding it, the debt won’t go away. This is tomorrow’s crisis in the making.

 
            [post_title] => Drowning the future in PPPs and swift-walking into the crisis of tomorrow  
            [post_excerpt] => 
            [post_status] => publish
            [comment_status] => closed
            [ping_status] => closed
            [post_password] => 
            [post_name] => drowning-the-future-in-ppps-and-swift-walking-into-the-crisis-of-tomorrow
            [to_ping] => 
            [pinged] => 
            [post_modified] => 2018-11-16 10:27:15
            [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-11-16 09:27:15
            [post_content_filtered] => 
            [post_parent] => 0
            [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=139304
            [menu_order] => 0
            [post_type] => post
            [post_mime_type] => 
            [comment_count] => 0
            [filter] => raw
        )

    [queried_object] => stdClass Object
        (
            [term_id] => 30
            [name] => Op-Ed
            [slug] => op-ed
            [term_group] => 0
            [term_taxonomy_id] => 30
            [taxonomy] => category
            [description] => 
            [parent] => 0
            [count] => 795
            [filter] => raw
            [cat_ID] => 30
            [category_count] => 795
            [category_description] => 
            [cat_name] => Op-Ed
            [category_nicename] => op-ed
            [category_parent] => 0
        )

    [queried_object_id] => 30
    [post__not_in] => Array
        (
        )

)

Latest News

Read More