Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has told Greek TV that Greece maintains a theoretical state of war with Albania to block the restitution claims of the exiled Cham community. Rama has again returned to the vexed issue of the exiled Cham community in a Greek TV interview broadcast on Tuesday.
Rama said it was a perfect Balkanian paradox that Albania and Greece remained “de jure” in a state of war despite signing a treaty of friendship in 1987. Commenting on the relations between the two countries, Rama said that time has come to resolve contentious issues.
In an interview with journalist Alexis Papahelas, Rama spoke about pending issues between the two countries at a time when the tensions have risen.
Speaking about the Greek law of 1940 declaring a state of war between the two states – which Greece adopted after Italian occupation forces in Albania attacked Greece and never abolished – Rama said this law remained in force partly to stop the Albanian Cham community from reclaiming its seized properties in Greece.
The Chams, an ethnic Albanian community living in the north of Greece, were exiled en masse after World War II, accused of collaboration with the occupation forces.
“I have told my friends in Greece to abolish the law. I said it to George Papandreou, to Antonis Samaras and [current leftist Prime Minister] Alexis Tsipras, whom by the way I respect,” Rama said.
The Albanian leader said it was absurd that members of the Cham community had no right to ask for their properties in Greece back, or even to visit them.
“How is it possible that 80-year-old women and men who were forced to leave their homes don’t have the right to go there again?” he asked.
“How is it possible that these Albanians are not allowed to cross the border of a neighbour, a big European country like Greece?” Rama wondered.
Rama was asked also about the detention of two Albania Foreign Ministry drivers on the border on November 13.
On a mission to deliver books for Albanian children in Greece, the Greek authorities accused them of plotting to spread irredentist materials.
“I don’t think it is irredentist to tell children that there was an area called Chameria [in Greece] where Albanians lived,” said Rama, adding that Albania laid no claim to this area.
“I challenge you by stating that there is no map of Greater Albania in any Albanian schoolbooks,” Rama noted.
The Albanian Prime Minister said that two countries should also handle the maritime border dispute in the Ionian sea with an open mind.
Albanian media reported on Tuesday that Rama and his Greek counterpart, Tsipras, had a tense telephone conversation about what the Greeks consider rising nationalistic rhetoric in Tirana. Athens has consistently said that the Cham issue is not up for discussion.
Balkan Insight/Fatjona Mejdini – BIRN