Greek-Albanian relations, without blinders

19 Maj 2023, 19:03Politics Vassilis Nedos

Athens hosted an art exhibition a couple of months ago at its iconic Zappeion Hall venue where Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama was able to express his creative side. Late last year, Kyriakos Mitsotakis paid an official visit to Himare, becoming the first Greek prime minister to visit one of the main ethnic Greek towns in Albania in 30 years. Athens also used diplomatic channels to convey the message to Albania, and the Albanian contingent more generally, of its intention to help Tirana achieve its midterm goals, and particularly the West Balkan country’s expressed desire to join the European Union.

The Albanian authorities’ dictatorial decision to arrest the ethnic Greek mayoral candidate for Himare, Fredi Beleri, just two days before Sunday’s local elections did Rama no favors, as the result of the vote has shown. The decision probably helped Beleri’s Together We Win coalition score a historic victory in an area where Greeks are not passers-by, but natives. Regardless of Rama’s reaction to this development, Athens needs to make Tirana understand – in no uncertain terms – that Greece is not a naive partner who is ready to help those who do not want to help themselves.

Athens – and in the last three or four years in particular – has taken a mature stance toward Tirana and demonstrated that it is not driven by taboos when it comes to the West Balkans’ European aspirations. It appears that Rama may have interpreted Greece’s positive stance as weakness. It is worth remembering that Rama has strengthened Albania’s ties with Turkey and come out in support of Ankara during times of increased tension in Greek-Turkish relations. Recalcitrance toward settling the matter of the maritime zones – when Greece has been able to reach agreements with Italy and Egypt – Tirana’s favorable treatment of Turkey on maritime issues and its decision to acquire the Turkish-made Bayraktar drone are moves that were not welcomed by Athens, but were respected as the decisions of a sovereign nation.

The recognized Greek minority in Albania is an entirely different story, however. If Tirana does not respect the political, ownership and basic civil rights of the Greeks of Himare, Albania should not expect a helping hand from Athens. Greece may feel obliged to be friendly to its neighbors, but this does not mean it will be naive. (Ekathimerini)

Lini një Përgjigje