AIM: start



WED, 02 MAY 2001 01:16:53 GMT

The Fantasy of “Greater Albania” in Albanian Politics

AIM Tirana, April 23, 2001

Perhaps not even the executive president of the Party of Democratic Alliance (PAD), Arben Imami could have imagined that his proposal of the union of Albania with Kosovo would have the effect of a political bomb. One could have hardly found a more appropriate date than April 12 to turn a statement into a political and diplomatic scandal. On that day, at the invitation of US Secretary of State Colin Powell, 11 foreign ministers of the states in the region gathered in Skopje, Albania inclusive, to coordinate efforts for preservation of stability and guarantees of the borders. During the month of Macedonian crisis state leaders of Macedonia and of a few other Balkan countries insisted on the stand that the ideological and nationalistic motivation of Albanian armed guerilla groups in Tetovo and Kosovo was the aspiration to create “Greater Albania”.

The government of Albania and its diplomacy have spent a considerable amount of energy in order to convince their international interlocutors that the accusations of certain circles in neighbouring states concerning the aspirations to create “Greater Albania” were unsustainable. And then, exactly at that moment, a member of the cabinet, minister of justice Arben Imami publicly presents the platform of his party on peaceful union of Albania with Kosovo. In four points of that platform, the political and institutional union of Albania with Kosovo is demanded, joint economic reform, customs and monetary union, psychological and cultural union and joint diplomatic action aimed at persuading the international community to start believing that such a union would be useful.

If Imami had not been a member of the cabinet but just the president of his party, this statement would have passed unnoticed, because the political significance of this party is too small and insignificant in the process of decision-making of this country. PAD has only two deputies or 1.29 per cent of the votes in the parliament.

It is easy to imagine how difficult the position the minister of justice has put his government into regardless of the fact that he had spoken in the capacity of the president of a party which is in power in Albania. The Albanian government immediately disassociated itself from the minister of justice confirming that Albania was against the change of borders and that it recognised Resolution 1244 of the Security Council. But since it has just two months left to be in power before the new already scheduled elections, the government has not asked Imami to disassociate himself from his statement and confirm his loyalty to the platform of the government he belongs to, the platform which does not include even a faintest hint or idea of any form of a union of Albania with Kosovo. The minister of justice has not disassociated himself, nor has he offered to resign, but neither has the government asked him to submit his resignation. In fact, secretary for relations with the public of the Democratic Alliance, Gj. Zefi, after the reaction of the government, declared that the government had no reason to disassociate itself nor to support this stand and repeated that the Democratic Alliance remained true to the platform of union of Albania with Kosovo.

The mentioned platform caused commotion in Albanian politics, because all the major political parties often encountered concern in relations with international partners because of the thesis on “Greater Albania”. Socialist Party (SP) which heads the coalition PAD belongs to, opposed this statement through its secretary for international relations Dade. Other parties from the coalition also reacted negatively, and foreign minister Paskal Milo, who is a member of the presidency of Social Democratic Party (SDP), declared that such statements caused damage to the Albanian cause and the position of Albania and that they cast a shadow on relations with the international community. It is interesting to mention that even the main party of the opposition, Democratic Party (DP), opposed the platform of the executive president of PAD, although the Democrats constantly criticised the government coalition for uninvolvement in protection of the interests of Kosovo. Secretary for foreign relations of DP B. Mustafaj estimated the idea of the union of Albania with Kosovo as a fantasy invented by non-Albanians and a deliberate act meant to satanise Albanians.

The quantity of emotions stirred up by Imami’s proposal is also illustrated by the negative reactions that arrived from Albanian political parties in Kosovo and Macedonia. President of Democratic Alliance of Kosovo (DSK) Ibrahim Rugova said on April 20 that he considered the statement of one of the ministers in the government in Tirana on the necessity of the union of Albania with Kosovo – frivolous. President of ADP in Macedonia Arben Xhaferri warned that every politician had to be responsible for every statement because they can be just soap bubbles.

Many prominent politicians from various parties and factions in Tirana explained Imami’s platform with the approaching campaign for June parliamentary elections. At the convention of the party on April 21, Imami himself tried to mitigate negative reactions. Nevertheless, the argument on the pre-election character cannot explain the motives for the public presentation of PAD’s platform. The election campaign has not officially started yet and the election weight of PAD is so small that one can hardly believe that it will manage to attract a significant number of votes. It does not seem to be completely true either that PAD has done it in order to make it easier for itself to separate from the left government coalition headed by SP in order to join the right coalition after the invitation president of DP Sali Berisha had addressed to its leadership.

In fact more than in the country itself, the platform for the union of Albania with Kosovo has caused the greatest concern outside Albania and in diplomatic circles which deal with the Balkans. The first public reaction arrived from the Ambassador of USA in Tirana, Joseph Limprecht, who warned on April 16 that when the invitation for the union of Albania with Kosovo came from a member of the cabinet, that invitation is considered by the Albanian people as support to the extremists and terrorists who wish to destabilise the region. Reactions were much broader in the countries of the region where some media hurried to present it as evidence that corroborate their warnings about the objectives of the Albanians. Reactions have arrived even from Poland where a known daily, Rzheczpolitika, called Imami’s proposal a provocation for the international community.

In these reactions there is no fear that PAD could be capable of winning parliamentary reactions with its platform, because everybody underlined the fact that PAD was a minor party. However, they are all alarmed by another thing: first, Imami is a member of the cabinet and, second, he showed that the fantasy of “Greater Albania” exists in the arsenal of Albanian politics. Indeed, the idea of what is called “Greater Albania”, but which is in political vocabulary called “Ethnic Albania” and which implies the union of all the territories where the Albanians live in various states in the region, have always been present but on the margins of Albanian politics. Such ideas are not present at the centre of this politics. In the platforms of major political parties, left or right, in Albania, there is no idea of ethnic Albania or a union of Albania with Kosovo. Only certain minor parties, such as Legalitet (Royalists) among the rightist parties and National Unity among the Leftist one, have in their platforms the union of territories where the Albanians live. Neither in Kosovo nor in Macedonia major political parties of the Albanians have the question of the union in their platforms. There are a few minor parties which are practically illegal and which advocate the idea of ethnic union.

However, the existence of such ideas even on the margins of Albanian politics causes concern in the international community that they might be stirred up and gain more ground for various pre-election, political, financial or other reasons. The fact that a party known as cosmopolitan and liberal suddenly appeared in public waving the flag of union of Albania with Kosovo causes a great surprise. It seems that minor parties do not seem to be able to find other possibility to reduce the influence and the image of big parties except by sending signals that will cause alarm in the international community that the fantasy of “Greater Albania” exists and that it is moving around the Albanian politics.

AIM Tirana

Arian LEKA