Tirana, Nov 01 (Tirana Echo) – Albania and Greece have entered a new phase of diplomatic tensions as both countries clash over the demolition of a handful of properties in southern Albanian town of Himara, as part of larger mayoral plans to carry on with the construction of the touristic promenade.
Greece’s Foreign Ministry claims that the local authorities in Himara will demolish the properties of 19 ‘Greek minority’ families, while Albania says that this is a Albanian town and as such will undergo the planned touristic development while all expropriated families will be treated according to the Albanian law.
On Sunday, the Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it was following developments in Himara with great concern “where 19 families belonging to the Greek National Minority received notices according to which they have a deadline of five days to evacuate their homes, which are intended to be demolished.The Albanian authorities must proceed immediately with the cancellation of the demolition order and engage on meaningful consultations with the owners concerning Himara’s redevelopment plans,” the statement said.
Immediately after the statement, the Albanian Foreign Ministry summoned the Greek Ambassador in Tirana Eleni Sourani to give explanations over a statement by Athens on Sunday calling for a freeze on the demolition plans.
The Albanian Foreign Ministry in Tirana said that Albania is not discriminating anyone with regards to the principles of the rule of law, arguing that the town’s demolition plans have nothing to do with any ethnic group of families.
“The legal procedures being employed by the Municipality of Himara, which are centered on the town’s transformation into a European touristic destination, are transparent and in accordance with current laws,” a MFA statement said.
According to Greek daily Kathimerini, the Greek Foreign Ministry also warned its neighbor that: “The protection of property rights, and in particular of minority rights, is an integral part of the five conditions set by the European Union in order to start negotiations for the accession of Albania to the EU. Therefore, if Albania sincerely wishes to join the European Union, it should demonstrate in practice that it functions according to the principles of the rule of law, protecting the rights of all its residents regardless of their nationality and origin, against abuses and illegal acts.”
In response, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama reacted on his Facebook page saying that while Himara uses Greek language as a common tongue, this does not make it a Greek province.
In his status, Albanian PM Rama published an old painting of Athens in 1670, writing that Acropolis today stands thanks to Albanians, in what has shocked official Athens and Greek media.
“This engraving… reminds us, among others, that if the Acropolis still stands for the glory of humanity and civilization, this is thanks to the vision of the Albanian Archbishop of Athens Gjergj Dushmani, who in 1686 negotiated with Francesco Morosini of the Venetian fleet not to bombard the city … Such a story of a city that was once, according to the evidence and historians, mainly Albanian-speaking does not make it absolutely an Albanian city. Likewise, although Himara experienced the Greek archipelago and the Greek language as the ‘common tongue’ of the East through maritime exchanges and a close and fruitful coexistence, this does not make it absolutely a Greek province”, said Rama.
It is not the first time that Tirana and Athens clash over Himara, a southern coastal town of Albania and also administrative center to the larger province of Himara which stretches along Albania’s stunning southern riviera.
Some Greek nationalistic circles have often claimed that this is a Greek town, referring to the large usage of Greek language in the town, while Albania insists that despite the common use of Greek language in some villages of this area, Albania does not refer to it as a Greek minority zone, like it has recognized the ‘Dropulli’ region in the Gjirokastra area of southern Albania.
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