Tirana, Albania | 10 Nov 2018 (Tirana Echo) – Greek-Cypriot Member of the European Parliament Eleni Theocharous was declared ‘persona non grata’ today by the Government of Albania on the grounds of extremist calls to challenge the constitutional order and threaten public security as well as inter-ethnic harmony in the small Balkan country.
The joint decision by Albania’s Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs and its Ministry of Interior came after the extreme conservative MEP participated in the funeral of Kostantinos Kacifas, an ethnic Greek minority gunman shot dead by Albanian police two weeks ago.
The shooting came as a result of Kacifas firing with a Kalashnikov against Albania’s police forces in the southern Albanian village of Bularat, inhabited predominantly by members of the ethnic Greek minority, during a commemorative ceremony honoring fallen Greek soldiers on Albanian territory during the Greko-Italian war.
Theocharous, known for her extreme nationalist statements and her continuous political engagement against Albania, called the gunman’s shooting an ‘heroic resistance act’ and referred to southern Albania as ‘Vorio-Epirus’, a term used by Greek nationalists to claim Albania’s southern lands as part of Greek territory.
This is not the first time for Theocharous to get into trouble. Last year, Azerbaijan issued an international arrest warrant for the Cypriot MEP and two others, over their visit and support towards breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, currently under Armenian invasion.
Theocharous, 65, heads the Solidarity Movement of Cyprus and is part of the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists parliamentary group at the European Parliament. She has constantly attacked Albania’s authorities during various meetings in Brussels, claiming that Albania does not respect the rights of the Greek minority, when in fact, the country is hailed globally for its excellent inter-ethnic and inter-religious harmony.
Following a proposal by Albania’s Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs and after consultation with specialized security services of the country, the Ministry of Interior decided to declare Theocharous ‘persona non grata’ and approve MEFA’s request.
“This decision comes as an obligatory constitutional and legal response by the institutions of the Republic of Albania towards repeated extreme acts of Member of European Parliament Eleni Theocharous. Her statements which incite hatred and threaten the constitutional order of our country, encouraging territorial claims against the Republic of Albania, will no longer be delivered on Albanian territory,” – said Glevin Dervishi, a spokesperson for MEFA during an extraordinary press conference this evening in Tirana.
Albanian authorities are expected to pass on the decision through diplomatic channels and will consequently ban Theocharous from entering the country in the future.
“Greece is a friendly country and her people are a valuable asset in our traditional friendship capital. Those individuals or extremist groups who speak of hatred and division, be it in Greek or Albanian languages, will have no chance of undermining our common path for peace and strategic cooperation which serves the future of children in Albania and in Greece”, concluded MEFA’s statement.
The decision of Albania’s authorities follows a highly controversial funeral ceremony of Albanian-Greek citizen Kostantinos Kacifa, which has strained relations between Tirana and Athens during the past two weeks.
What was to be the funeral of an extreme and mentally disturbed gunman shot dead by Albania’s special forces after opening fire on them, turned into a manifestation of radical right wing Greek nationalists, with dozens of them crossing the border into Albania, some of them illegally, during early hours of the morning.
During the highly tense mortal ceremony, hundreds of radicals holding Greek flags marched through Bularat chanting “Bularat is Greece”, “Vorio-Epirus Greek land”, “We shall return and the land will tremble”, “Albanians get out of here”, “Macedonia is Greek” and “Vorio-Epirus will regain its freedom” – slogans which have deeply disturbed Albania’s public opinion.
According to Albanian media, several of them belonged to the radical right-wing political group Golden Dawn in Greece and around 46 people known to police records were turned back into Greece for fear of inciting radical conflicts in Albanian territory.
12 people were arrested following the tense funeral but later released by Albania’s police. Another 56 Greek citizens of radical tendencies were later declared ‘non grata’ by Albania’s Ministry of Interior.
Yesterday, the Hellenic Parliament held one minute silence in honor of Kacifas, a controversial move likely to pour fuel over the fire and potentially poison the overall good relations between the two Balkan neighbors. Greece is the biggest investor in Albania’s economy while more than 800,000 Albanians live and work in Greece.
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