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

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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

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‘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

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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

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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

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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

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Editorial: Justice and governance need to work independently for the good of both

Editorial: Justice and governance need to work independently for the good of both

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL The saga of the videos allegedly incriminating the brother of the Minister of Interior Affairs in narco-trafficking is going on. Despite the brother being actually sent to Italy in haste to carry out his sentence of jail,

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Editorial: ‘Straight out of ‘Gomorrah’: the story of an abused girl and what is wrong with Albania

Editorial: ‘Straight out of ‘Gomorrah’: the story of an abused girl and what is wrong with Albania

To the follower of novels or drama series such as ‘Gomorrah’ or ‘Narcos’, the story that has gripped the Albanian political and public debate in the last days would seem extremely familiar. The script writers of every mafia show out

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Day of German unity: Albania, a reliable partner for over three decades

Day of German unity: Albania, a reliable partner for over three decades

By Susanne Schütz* On this 3rd of October, 28 years ago, German reunification was sealed and brought to an end the painful division of Europe into East and West. For Albania, too, this meant the end of decades of dictatorship

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‘The Munich Agreement is 80 years old’

‘The Munich Agreement is 80 years old’

By Alexander Karpushin* An “agreement” that went down in history as the “Munich Betrayal” of the four powers – Germany, Italy, Britain and France, was concluded in Munich 80 years ago on September 30, 1938. This act not only played

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                    [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.
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                    [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.
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                    [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

 

 
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                    [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.
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                    [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 
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                    [ID] => 138898
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                    [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
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                    [post_date] => 2018-10-11 19:48:35
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL

The saga of the videos allegedly incriminating the brother of the Minister of Interior Affairs in narco-trafficking is going on. Despite the brother being actually sent to Italy in haste to carry out his sentence of jail, the majority claimed the whole video was a montage and produced some evidence from a person who claimed he was paid to imitate one of the voices. In response the opposition produced another video here the same person says he was forced to do so, to claim he was an impersonator, buy none other than the Chief of Albanian Police.

In the meantime the institution of the Prosecution against Serious Crimes has issued arrest warrants for the journalist that produced the first video and the main character in it.  The story becomes even more difficult to comprehend because of the multiple political accusations from both sides.  The leader of the executive has been extremely vocal in denying the video’s authenticity and claiming that the professional examination of it would reveal it was a farce. As it turns out the examination is inconclusive.

While the Albanian soap opera of secret videos, or so called ‘Babale’ issue, rages on it is becoming increasingly difficult to see through the smoke and listen through the noise. The only strategy to get some clearance is to try and stick with the few facts:

First and foremost, the brother of the Minister of Interior Affairs had a valid jail sentence for trafficking of narcotics from Italy which he started to serve only after it was exposed in Albania and became part of the heated public debate. He stands accused by one side that he was continuing his trafficking in Albania, but before these accusations had a chance to be investigated properly he was sent to serve the jail time in Italy. The brother is in a prison, that’s the first fact.

If the Prime Minister or other members of the executive continue the practice of being attorneys, judges, forensic experts that distinguish one real video from a montage, that know the results of an investigation before the justice system does, then the justice reform does not stand one chance of succeeding. This ugly game needs to stop if any credibility in the new justice system is to be built. By purposefully raising hail and storm around every court case that touches upon their interest, politician will once again undermine the justice sector. The same is valid for the opposition, whose unserious and inconsistent approach is not winging any public points for them. The separation of powers is a fundamental feature of modern democratic and functioning states. The justice system needs to be given space and time to do its job, otherwise we will be back to ground zero. This is the second fact.

By consuming so much time, effort and energy with this noise, the executive is not focusing on governance which needs to be its primary job. Albania is not short of governance and development problems, on the contrary.  It is offensive, deplorable and utterly cruel to subject ordinary Albanians to this charade of ridiculous, revolting actors inside the videos and outside, who have spun webs of lies around dark truths.

Most Albanians need real economic growth, need real improvements in their lives, need more reasons to stay then to leave.  This is not helping. And this is the third, final and most important fact.
                    [post_title] => Editorial: Justice and governance need to work independently for the good of both
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                    [post_content] => To the follower of novels or drama series such as ‘Gomorrah’ or ‘Narcos’, the story that has gripped the Albanian political and public debate in the last days would seem extremely familiar. The script writers of every mafia show out there should take notes from the Albanian stories, they might like the colorful details for lack of a better word. The plot however remains the same: strong and complex links between organized crime and politics, especially visible at the local level which generate absurd, dark and twisted realities for those governed.

A simple village girl, whose father has died long ago, goes to the police to denounce the violence that her former boyfriend has exerted. Hardcore physical violence as attested by medical reports which take note of multiple hematomas and some cigarette burns on the skin. She is turned away from multiple police stations until a police officer takes her testimony. The saga continues. The psychologists sees no violence, the prosecutor does not issue a warrant, the whole thing is left aside.

The boyfriend in question is the son of a strongman that has made it to the ranks of the MPs, on the governing side no less. Has made it or has been promoted there. Strongmen generate desirable votes and can swing entire districts to one party’s favor. Party leaders have learned this lesson.

The story resurfaces. The police officer is now seeking asylum abroad. The political parties fight and the cynical, unprofessional and captured media harnesses clicks and audience. Instead of any form of reflection the party in power, sees this as an opportunity to flex their muscle, show their teeth. They will haunt the police officer. They will draft anti-libel laws.

The boyfriend is arrested. Finally after months, the medical expertise act reaches the right hands. The judicial sector springs in action. Outside the court stairs, the boy threatens the opposition leader. His threat is the sentence with which the mafia show series would have ended their episodes on a dramatic and symbolic note: “You shall see me in the next elections!”

The story of this unfortunate Albanian girl is the story of the Albanian state, institutions and society. In order to harness the maximum amount of power, political parties spearheaded by the Socialist one in power are systematically making space at the higher level of political representation for figures that come from the dark and dangerous world of organized crime. These so-called MPs cement then their position as local lords, encapsulating all institutions within their grip. They become more and more untouchable, unpunishable. For rape, for beatings, for anything. Even for murder.

The state police, the state prosecutors are just useless tools and pongs in the hands of a few. They can be intimidated, they can be silenced and advised ‘for their own good’ to quit. Even the lines are sadly familiar of the Godfather films. No creativity needed there.

The ugly sadistic link between politics and media erodes the public’s opinion to seek accountability. Political spin doctors hand in hand with incompetent and abusive media actors twist and turn the story, chew the facts, spit out multiple interpretations, accusations and allegations until it all becomes an ugly sham. We are seeing the apex of a well-structured system that has interlinked criminal, political, media and commercial interests to such a degree that untangling it becomes completely impossible.

Who can any longer count the examples that we have been witnessing in the last years? What else needs to happen? What more shall it take? The responsible segments of Albanian politics need to assume the task to weed out these criminals, to resist the temptation to hire their electoral services. Otherwise the society needs to move and punish them.

What the ‘Gomorrah’ and ‘Narcos’ series tell us is that with time these models of silent acceptance of the politico-crime corporations render all dissent voices obsolete. People become increasingly cautious or passive and submitted to their fate. They lower their voices and their heads, they become accomplices. The people of Naples, of Medellin, of Cidad Juarez. I this the ultimate fate of the people of Nikla and Kruja and Shkodra and Elbasan? Now it is time for every Albanian needs to consider whether we have already reached this doomed point. Some have done it and have left. What about the rest of us who are staying?
                    [post_title] => Editorial: 'Straight out of ‘Gomorrah’: the story of an abused girl and what is wrong with Albania 
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                    [post_content] => By Susanne Schütz*

On this 3rd of October, 28 years ago, German reunification was sealed and brought to an end the painful division of Europe into East and West. For Albania, too, this meant the end of decades of dictatorship and isolation and the return of your country into the midst of the European family of states.

I am delighted that we are also celebrating a very special anniversary this year: 30 years ago, in June and October 1988, just a few months after the re-establishment of our diplomatic ties, the representatives of our two countries signed the agreements about "Development of Economic, Industrial and Technical  Cooperation  "and"  Technical Cooperation ". In doing so, they laid the foundations for the close and trusting German-Albanian cooperation, which with over 1 billion € in the past thirty years has made Germany the largest bilateral donor of your country.

Albania is today a rapidly changing country in Europe with a young, dynamic population, and is a stabilizing factor for the Western Balkans region and beyond. I am pleased that we have contributed to this development with financial means, but above all also with German know-how. With the help of our implementing agencies GIZ and KfW, we have consistently supported Albania as  a  reliable partner for over three decades in key areas: for example: by building a modern and competitive agriculture, by providing clean drinking water, by building power transmission lines to connect Albania with its neighbors, by developing tourism in the North and South of Albania, or by investing in practice-oriented dual vocational training. These are just a few examples of our nationwide commitment. Out of the 100 villages that the government has identified as a special focus, we are already active in more than 50 with one or more projects.

One thing is clear: this is all about contributing to sustainably  improve  people's  living  conditions,  giving them a perspective here in their Albanian homeland and making Albania fit for its integration into the European Union.

Albania has already achieved remarkable progress on this way into the European Union. However, there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that the member states of the European Union will agree to the opening of accession talks in the coming year. A clear priority, above all for the people of Albania, but also for foreign investors, is the creation of reliable legal framework conditions, legal certainty and institutional reliability, free of nepotism and corruption.

The German Foreign Minister,  Heiko  Maas,  confirmed during his recent visit here in Tirana that Germany will continue to advocate a reliable EU perspective for Albania and will continue to support your country in establishing the rule of law, but also through economic cooperation. In November of this year, we will agree further projects together with the Albanian government, for which the Federal Government will again provide a record sum.

Before concluding – apart from our close political and economic ties - I would also like to mention our cultural relationship. Thus, cultural exchange will once again be at the center of the "German October” with a wide variety of interesting events already beginning this week. You are all invited to these events!

---------------------------

*The Author is the Ambassador of Federal Republic of Germany to Albania
                    [post_title] => Day of German unity: Albania, a reliable partner for over three decades
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                    [post_date] => 2018-10-05 10:15:28
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                    [post_content] => By Alexander Karpushin*

An “agreement” that went down in history as the “Munich Betrayal” of the four powers – Germany, Italy, Britain and France, was concluded in Munich 80 years ago on September 30, 1938. This act not only played a tragic role in the fate of Czechoslovakia, having sanctioned the beginning of its capture by Fascist Germany, but also became one of the key events that triggered the beginning of World War II.

Having trampled upon the norms of international law the participants of the Munich meeting betrayed interests of Czechoslovakia and incited Hitler’s Reich to territorial expansion in Europe. It should be noted that Czechoslovakia, having the population of 14 million people, possessed a developed industry, including the military one, and was a large exporter of weapons in 1938. That is why, to a great extent, after the Anschluss (annexation) of Austria in March 1938, Hitler started implementing a plan of seizing Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland under the pretext of protecting the Sudeten Germans.

Only Soviet Russia attempted to protest, but the others preferred not to hear it. The West sacrificed Czechoslovakia without regret, believing that it would be able to live beside Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. That is exactly why the Munich Agreement is both a symbol of shameful betrayal and an example of startling hypocrisy and short-sightedness of the leading European states.

A large number of archival documents show that the general outlines of the West’s collusion with Hitler were prepared in advance. Back in early 1934 E.Сarr – one of the heads of the Southern Department of the Foreign Office – stated that the “German solution” was more preferable for Britain and that it “should strive for a deal with Germany, since its victory is inevitable”. In fact, the British had already worked out the key points of the Munich program by then: a deal with Hitler at the expense of Austria and Czechoslovakia, the directing of Hitler’s aggression towards the borders of the Soviet Union, etc.

After the Anschluss of Austria by Germany in March 1938, Soviet Russia addressed itself to Britain, France and the USA with an appeal to create a common front for the protection of Czechoslovakia from possible armed aggression. However, this proposal was not supported. On the contrary, on behalf of their governments, the ambassadors of Britain and France in Prague warned Czechoslovak Foreign Minister K.Krofta that “if an armed conflict arose because of Prague’s obstinacy, London and Paris would not render assistance to Czechoslovakia”. Knowing this, Hitler started preparing an operation to dismember Czechoslovakia and approved a plan for a war against Czechoslovakia (“Fall Grün”) on May 30, having announced the order for its execution not later than October 1, 1938.

During the next months of the year 1938 the Western states made significant efforts in carrying out the so-called “appeasement” of the Hitler regime and in inclining the Czechoslovak leadership to the voluntary transfer of the Sudetenland to the Führer.

Then, everything went in this way: on September 21 the envoys of London and Paris issued an ultimatum to the Czechoslovak leadership, which was accepted by President E.Benesh showing no willpower. On September 22, this time the Polish and Hungarian governments delivered an ultimatum to Prague: it was demanded to transfer the territories inhabited by the Polish and Hungarian minorities to Poland and Hungary. W.Churchill made a remark in this regard: “Poland with greed hyena appetite took part in the robbery and destruction of the Czechoslovak state”.

On September 25, delivering a speech in Berlin Sportpalast, Hitler demanded that the Sudetenland be transferred to Germany not later than October 1, 1938, otherwise Germany “would achieve it by force”.

At that time, the allies of Czechoslovakia were the USSR and France. Immediately after the Germany’s ultimatum, France refused to support the Czechs. But even without the French support, the USSR declared its readiness to fulfill its obligations to defend Czechoslovakia. Prague was offered a plan of assistance, which provided for the use of ground forces and the transfer of fighter aircrafts to strengthen the capabilities of the Czechoslovak military aviation. Rifle divisions, tank units, aviation and air defense troops of the USSR were put on combat alert at the south-western and western borders.

However, Poland and Romania declared that under no circumstances they would allow the Red Army’s units to pass through their territories. The Poles even warned of delivering a strike on the flank in case of the Soviet troops’ advancement as well as of destroying any aircraft that would appear in the Polish airspace. Reiterated Soviet proposals to discuss collective support to Czechoslovakia through the League of Nations were blocked by London and Paris.

The US government also played an active role in the preparation of the collusion. Back on September 20, 1938, the Americans warned the French government through their ambassador in Paris W.Bullitt that if Germany’s demands towards Czechoslovakia were not satisfied and the situation worsened, France would not receive “a single soldier” and any credit from the USA. US Secretary of State C.Hull made it clear to the German ambassador in Washington that the United States “had a favorable attitude to giving Germany a “free hand” in Southeast and Eastern Europe”. The American ambassador in London assured the British government that President F.Roosevelt “decided to follow N.Chamberlain in the Czechoslovak issue”. And the latter, in his turn, assured Hitler that he could get everything “without a war and without delay”.

On September 27, 1938, US President F.Roosevelt made several appeals: to Hitler to convene a conference of the interested parties on the Czechoslovak issue, to J.Stalin to support this American initiative. The latter replied to F.Roosevelt that the USSR agreed to participate in the conference “in order to find practical measures to counter aggression and save the world through collective efforts”. Moscow did everything diplomatically and militarily to show a serious attitude to solving the problem by peaceful means. Meanwhile, Hitler hurried to invite only B.Mussolini (Italy), N.Chamberlain (Britain) and É.Daladier (France) to Munich. Czechoslovak representatives were not allowed to discuss the agreement. The participation of the USSR was rejected. On September 29, the conference began its proceedings.

At 1:00 a.m. on September 30, 1938, N.Chamberlain, É.Daladier, B.Mussolini and A.Hitler signed the Munich Agreement. After that, the Czechoslovak delegation was admitted to the hall.

The document enacted to transfer the Sudetenland and the areas bordering on the former Austria with all the property, including weapons, to Germany. Czechoslovakia was to abandon the territories being seized (41,098 sq. km. with the population of 5 million people) within October 1-10. The agreement also prescribed the separation of a number of regions in favor of Poland and Hungary. Having got acquainted with the paper, the Czechoslovak representatives voiced their protest. However, they were forced to put their signatures under the pressure from Britain and France. In the morning, the Czechoslovak president accepted this agreement and decreed its execution. Already on October 1, Poland delivered an ultimatum supported by the Nazis to Prague, demanding to transfer Cieszyn Silesia to it.

The Munich Agreement became an example of betrayal committed at scales of a whole country, the highest point of the British “policy of appeasement”. At the suggestion of N.Chamberlain, in Munich on September 30, Germany and Britain signed a declaration on mutual non-aggression and peaceful settlement of all arising controversial issues. On December 6, a similar document was signed by France and Germany. Obviously, N.Chamberlain and É.Daladier believed that by concluding these agreements they averted the threat of a Germany’s attack from Great Britain and France and turned the aggression in the direction they wanted – to the East, against the Soviet Union. The Western powers gave the Czechoslovak lands to Hitler for this purpose.

Under the terms of the Munich Agreement, in addition to the territory, Germany significantly increased its raw material and industrial potential, having received various enterprises, metallurgical and chemical plants, mines, communication lines and facilities as well as weapons. All this made it possible to additionally arm 9 infantry divisions and to fully equip 5 of 21 Wehrmacht tank divisions with tanks of the Czechoslovak production by 1941.

However, assistance of the Western countries to the aggressor was not limited by this. On October 13, 1938, following the Munich Agreement, the US company “Standard Oil” and the German concern “IG Farbenindustrie” signed an agreement on establishing an American-German society that monopolized patents for the production of synthetic gasoline, in which the Hitler army felt a great need. This document became a kind of “Munich Agreement” in the economic field, giving Germany the opportunity to prepare its armed forces for combat operations.

On his return from Munich to London, N.Chamberlain said at the airstairs: “I brought peace to our generation”. É.Daladier was greeted at the airport by a crowd shouting: “Viva Daladier! Viva the peace”. Meanwhile, W.Churchill gave a different assessment of the outcome of the Munich meeting in his speech delivered in the British Parliament: “The partition of Czechoslovakia under pressure from England and France amounts to the complete surrender of the Western Democracies to the Nazi threat of force. Such a collapse will bring peace or security neither to England nor to France. On the contrary, it will place these two nations in an ever weaker and more dangerous situation. ... The belief that security can be obtained by throwing a small State to the wolves is a fatal delusion. And do not suppose this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning.” In fact, it turned out in this way.

As a result of the occupation of Czechoslovakia, one of the forces in the center of Europe, which could potentially serve to defeat the fascists, disappeared. Germany strengthened its strategic and military-political positions and got all the opportunities for an attack on Poland, which imagined itself till the last moment to be an ally of Berlin, actively participating in the partition of Czechoslovakia.

On October 3, 1938, W.Churchill predicted: “England was given the choice between war and dishonor. It chose dishonor and it will have war”. Perhaps, this is why the West is trying to forget the events in Munich, whereas the young generation perceives it as an occurrence that has already become outdated. However, without taking into account the mistakes of the past, a peaceful future is impossible. As the history has repeatedly proved, all behind-the-scenes decisions about the fate of nations, which are made without taking into consideration the interests of these people, inevitably lead to a global tragedy.

The Munich Betrayal is a classic example of disastrous consequences, to which  disregard of the norms of international law, belief in one’s own exclusiveness and infallibility, reliance on national egoism can lead. The lessons of this event should serve us all as a warning, especially in view of the realities existing at the current moment. It is obvious that genuine security can be only equal and indivisible and rely on the fundamental principles of international life specified in the UN Charter: respect for the sovereignty of states, non-interference in their internal affairs, peaceful settlement of disputes.

Russia will continue to contribute in every possible way to the strengthening of global and regional stability, to the search for collective responses to numerous challenges and threats of our time. As Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly stressed, we are open to close cooperation with everyone, who demonstrates mutual readiness to conduct affairs on the basis of equality, respect for each other and the search for a balance of interests.

 *The author is Russia’s Ambassador to Albania 
                    [post_title] => ‘The Munich Agreement is 80 years old’
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            [post_date] => 2018-11-01 19:27:56
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            [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 
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