Albanian Elections

Editorial

(“Kathimerini”, English edition, June 23, 2001)

The parliamentary elections in Albania tomorrow are extremely crucial, as they coincide with the resurgence of Albanian nationalism in the Balkans. They are also particularly important for our country as they directly concern the future of the Greek minority in the region.

Greece has aided Albania in various ways in the past without asking anything in return. As a result, the Socialist Party is taking Greek aid for granted at a time when it has tried to eradicate the Greek minority with various means such as land appropriation, overt violence and ballot manipulation (during last year's municipal elections), and systematic efforts to weaken the ethnic Greek Omonoia party and expel ethnic Greeks from the country.

Recent developments are alarming. In the south, the police, secret services and the entire state mechanism are at the disposal of the government candidates. They threaten and blackmail the ethnic Greek voters. Tirana, however, seems to believe that such behavior will be free of consequences.

It should be pointed out that the Greek element comprises the only Balkan minority which has not expressed separatist tendencies but rather has attempted to promote Albania's democratization and socioeconomic development - in this way comprising a factor of stability in this highly volatile region. This does not mean, however, that it is willing to remain passive to the machinations of the Albanian state.

The election of the Omonoia candidates is vital for the survival of the Greek minority. The electoral outcome will be determined by how many members of the minority living in Greece travel to their villages in order to vote. With their actual presence and participation they will help dissolve the climate of fear cultivated by the local state mechanism.

Athens has no intention of getting involved in Albania's internal affairs, but it has warned Tirana over the consequences of violating the rights of the Greek minority. It supports the election of the Omonoia candidates out of national obligation as well as geopolitical interest. Ethnic Greeks and, more generally, the Orthodox element helps put a brake on Albanian nationalism and promotes genuine cooperation between the two countries.

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