Caught in Electoral Struggles: Kurti and Mitsotakis' Anti-Albanian Campaigns

10 Qershor 2024, 22:07Op-Ed Mero Baze

Two prime ministers in the Balkans are leveraging their disputes with Albania for electoral gain. The first is Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis. His unsuccessful attempts to influence legal proceedings over Fredi Beleri's case, the mayor-elect of Himara who was arrested for vote-buying in 2023 and accused of involvement in a 1994 massacre of Albanian soldiers, have escalated into a diplomatic conflict with Albania. This conflict peaked with Beleri being elected as an MEP from Mitsotakis’ New Democracy party.

While Beleri's electoral success might be seen by some Greeks as a victory over Albania, the underlying embarrassment is hard to ignore. Unable to coerce Albania to cancel Beleri’s sentence, Greece strategically chose him as a candidate to capitalize on its nationalist electorate. They knew he would win the votes of nationalists in Greece and could be used as a voice against Albania in the European Parliament.

Ironically, Greece’s backing of Beleri may have inadvertently benefited Albania. By supporting a candidate with a troubled past—accused of murdering Albanian soldiers, arrested for illegal firearm possession in Greece, and recently convicted of vote-buying in Albania—Greece has unwittingly exposed its own issues. Beleri’s presence in Brussels, given his questionable background and intellect, is likely to backfire on Greece. Despite efforts by his speechwriters, ignorance is hard to hide and will eventually come to light.

Edi Rama has maneuverer Greece into a difficult position by compelling them to choose someone like Beleri as a representative in the European parliament. This decision does not align with the legacy and authority that Greece typically exerts as a nation. Unlike any other country, Greece has willingly exposed its flaws to the world. Their choice to be represented by Beleri, driven by the realization that they cannot influence Albania's justice system, underscores their internal issues. Essentially, Edi Rama has forced Greece to showcase its shortcomings on the European stage.

The second prime minister leveraging anti-Albanian sentiment is Kosovo's Albin Kurti. Once an advocate for union with Albania, Kurti now uses his conflict with Albania to boost his political support in Kosovo. But like Mitsotakis, Kurti's attacks on Rama do not hurt the Albanian PM’s standing. Aware of this, Rama encourages Kurti's antagonism, thereby exposing him as a leader seeking popularity through anti-Albanian rhetoric.

Kurti's real frustration is with Western demands, which he cannot openly oppose. Instead, he redirects this anger towards Albania, particularly when these demands are reiterated by Rama. Realizing Kurti’s weakness, Rama exploits this by repeating Western expectations to Kurti at every opportunity.

Recently, Rama did this in Prishtina during a ceremony honouring Ibrahim Rugova’s legacy, attended by local and international figures that helped Kosovo achieve its independence. Kurti did not attend the ceremony, as he needed Rugova’s party only to secure a parliamentary majority, while he rejects Rugova’s legacy.

In both Greece and Kosovo, leaders are using anti-Albanian sentiment to gain votes rather than promoting a European future. Similarly to Greece, where people voted more against Albania than for the EU, Kurti’s party in Kosovo hopes to gain support by inciting hatred towards Albania rather than promising a European future to its people. Ultimately, when these leaders lose power, they will be remembered for their anti-Albanian stance rather than their contributions to their people.

The article initially appeared in Albanian titled: "Kurti dhe Micotaqis në kurthin e betejave elektorale kundër Shqipërisë"

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