Kathimerini article linking Erdogan to the ‘Cham’ party stirs waters between Greece and Albania again

PDIU Chair Shpetim Idrizi speaking with Albanian PM Edi Rama
PDIU Chair Shpetim Idrizi speaking with Albanian PM Edi Rama

Tirana, 24 Oct (Tirana Echo) – An article on the Greek daily Kathimerini, depicting the ‘Cham’ party in Albania as Erdogan’s extension stirs waters again between Greece and Albania, with mutual accusations dominating media outlets in both countries.

According to Kathimerini, the Party for Justice, Integration and Unity (PDIU) also referred to as the ‘Cham Party’ led by Shpetim Idrizi and boasting 5 seats in parliament thanks to the votes of the around 200-300 thousands ‘Cham’ community, is supported by Turkish President Erdogan.

Idrizi is part of the current SP/LSI governing coalition of Prime Minister Edi Rama, and also holds the position of one of the Deputy Speakers of the Albanian Parliament.

It is a paradox that a small party with 5 MPs, with Erdogan backing them, sets the tone of the Greek-Albanian relations during the last few years” says Kathimerini pointing out that the Albanian government feels obliged to the ‘Cham’ party’s votes in the current governing coalition and for the upcoming general elections.

Kathimerini quotes the leader of the Union for Human Rights (PBDNJ) which represents the Greek minority in Albania, who says that the Cham party has money, they buy votes and of course are assisted by Turkey. “The only party representative who met with Erdogan during his last visit to Tirana, was Shpetim Idrizi of the PDIU” – says Dule, who suggests that Turkey interferes with Greek-Albanian relations.

The Cham issue is one of the hottest bilateral issues between Greece and Albania which remains unresolved. The large Cham community claims that the Greek authorities forcefully massacred their parents and forcefully expelled those who remained alive outside of Greece, while Greece maintains that the issue is not open for discussion as the Chams expelled were Nazi collaborators.

It is still unclear whether the topic will be included for discussion in the suggested ‘diplomatic package’ which refers to a bilateral set of ‘open issues’ between the two neighboring countries.

The topic dominated the recent visit of Albanian Speaker of Parliament Ilir Meta in Athens, who confirmed for the Greek media that “on the Cham issue, Albania and Greece have opposing and differing views”.

The hot topic has resurfaced in recent weeks after EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn acknowledged the two countries are communicating on the ‘Cham’ matter as a bilateral issue, causing Athens to immediately rebuke his comments as  impartial and with a clear bias towards Albania

Reacting to Kathimerini’s article, Chairman of the Economy & Finance Committee at the Albanian Parliament, and prominent socialist MP Erion Braçe said that he was stunned by the latest allegations coming from Greece, which do not reflect the mode of thinking of an EU member state.

I’m reading that Erdogan stands behind the PDIU… They seem convinced but have no proof. I have another question: Who stands behind PBDNJ, Tsipras???” – said Braçe, referring to the Greek minority party, concluding that relations between Albania and Greece are important and as good neighbors should talk, discuss and cooperate as equal partners in the Europe of this century.

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