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List: ALBSA-Info

[ALBSA-Info] IWPR'S BALKAN CRISIS REPORT, NO. 161

Uk Lushi juniku at hotmail.com
Tue Aug 1 20:43:18 EDT 2000


>>ALBANIANS SEEK TO ASSUAGE WESTERN FEARS
>>
>>Albanian leaders in the Balkans are seeking to reassure the West that they
>>have no desire to create a 'Greater Albania'.
>>
>>By Gabriel Partos in London
>>
>>A year after the signing of the Stability Pact, politicians across the
>>Balkans - and beyond - continue to express concern over demands for an
>>independent Kosovo. They fear the province's secession from Yugoslavia may
>>lead to the creation of a 'Greater Albania' and threaten regional 
>>stability.
>>
>>
>>Albanian leaders, by contrast, have been attempting to reassure their
>>foreign counterparts that they have no intention of establishing
>>an enlarged Albanian state, including Albania,
>>Kosovo and possibly parts of FYROM, Montenegro and even Greece.
>>
>>President Rexhep Meidani recently declared Tirana's goal was not
>>"constructing a 'Greater Albania' but contributing to the emergence of a
>>'Greater Europe'. "
>>
>>But forging closer links with the European Union and NATO will require 
>>more
>>wide-ranging collaboration between Balkan nations.
>>
>>The six million ethnic Albanians scattered across the region provide a
>>natural foundation for this kind of cooperation. They share a common
>>language, often have close family ties and similar ways of doing business.
>>
>>With the disappearance of the "Iron Curtain" separating Albania and Kosovo 
>>-
>>the two largest and most important Albanian centres - a Pan-Albanian 
>>agenda
>>has emerged.
>>
>>This has been made possible by closer cross-border links among Albanian
>>communities and much-improved relations between Albania, Macedonia and
>>Montenegro. Skopje, Tirana and Podgorica have been eager to improve
>>relations for a variety of reasons, ranging from a desire to reduce
>>inter-ethnic tensions at home to increasing their share of Stability
>>Pact assistance.
>>
>>One of the first moves towards a Pan-Albanian agenda came within weeks of
>>the end of the Kosovo conflict when the then Albanian Prime Minister,
>>Pandeli Majko, called for a common educational strategy for Albanians 
>>across
>>the Balkans.
>>
>>Since then, the Pan-Albanian project has acquired a broader political and
>>economic direction.  In March this year, the leader of the governing
>>Socialist Party of Albania, SPA, Fatos Nano, called for the establishment 
>>of
>>a Pan-Albanian political forum to promote regional stability and European
>>integration.
>>
>>The forum set out to help coordinate the interests of all Albanians in the
>>Balkans, while its designation was careful to stress that the framework 
>>for
>>cooperation would stay well within the accepted limits of the Stability
>>Pact.
>>
>>Nano's proposal was followed up in May by a meeting between Albanian Prime
>>Minister, Ilir Meta, Hashim Thaci, the leader of the Democratic Party of
>>Kosovo - the political successor to the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA - and
>>Arben Xhaferi, president of the Democratic Party of Albanians in 
>>Macedonia.
>>
>>The Pan-Albanian idea as it is now pursued has three purposes: to reassure
>>neighbours that the 'Greater Albanian' project is not on the table; to
>>facilitate cross-border links between Albanians; and to outmanoeuvre
>>domestic
>>political opponents who may be toying with more radical Albanian
>>nationalist ideas.
>>
>>In terms of the Pan-Albanian project's agenda, the initial results are
>>mixed. In the area of broader cross-border cooperation, there is expanding
>>trade
>>and other links, particularly between Albania and Kosovo and between 
>>Kosovo
>>and Macedonia.
>>But much of that expansion is driven by private enterprise - sometimes in
>>the guise of smuggling and organised crime. It has, until now, had
>>relatively little to do with government action or international aid within
>>the framework of the Stability Pact.
>>
>>Notwithstanding Albania's improved relations with its neighbours,
>>suspicions over its goals remain. Among those who feel particularly
>>hostile to - or threatened by - Albanian nationalism, the Pan-Albanian 
>>idea
>>is regarded as a new, more sophisticated rebranded version of the 'Greater
>>Albania'
>>project.
>>
>>On the Albanian government's domestic front, the Pan-Albanian idea has 
>>been
>>used to wrong-foot the leader of the opposition Democratic Party, Sali
>>Berisha,
>>who just three months after the end of the Kosovo conflict warned that
>>unless neighbouring countries stopped treating their ethnic Albanian
>>inhabitants as second-class citizens, Albanians living across the Balkans
>>would unite in a federation.  Berisha's militant tone - repeated on other
>>occasions - contributed to the United Nations' unprecedented decision to 
>>bar
>>him from entering Kosovo in June this year.
>>
>>By using the language of Pan-Albanianism, the Socialist-led governing
>>coalition is trying to isolate Berisha in the run up to this
>>autumn's municipal elections. The SPA has enlisted Thaci's and Xhaferi's
>>help - important
>>since they lead the most powerful ethnic Albanian parties in Kosovo and
>>Macedonia. They too are facing a challenge from other ethnic Albanian
>>parties and want to portray themselves as being firm on the Albanian
>>national
>>agenda as well as imaginative in its application.
>>
>>Long-standing links, particularly between the SPA and the KLA, have also
>>helped bring these parties together. Besides, all three parties are key
>>players in the
>>administrations of Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia.  Their position in power
>>lays
>>them open to criticism from rival Albanian parties.  A commitment to the
>>Albanian national cause - and its application through the Pan-Albanian
>>agenda - is one way in which they can
>>fight off their critics.
>>
>>Gabriel Partos is the BBC World Service's South-east Europe analyst

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