Albanian PM: Kosovo idyllic place, Marty report fiction (Tanjug, Sept. 25)

NEW YORK — Albania’s Prime Minister Sali Berisha said in his speech at the UN General Assembly…that the crisis in northern Kosovo had occurred because criminals were resisting Priština’s alleged attempt to introduce the rule of law.

The Albanian prime minister almost idyllically described the situation in Kosovo. He said that it was a place with the highest standards in protection of freedom and minority rights in the region, where the Serbian cultural heritage was more protected than ever.

“The biggest problem for Kosovo Serbs today is that tensions were caused and orchestrated with a nationalist aim…”

“Belgrade’s efforts to keep the parallel structures in those three communities show that it still believes in the change of borders in our region based on a failed and long outdated idea of ethnic clean territories of Greater Serbia,” Berisha said in his speech.

Pointing out that respect of the existing borders in the Balkans was a fundamental condition for permanent peace and stability, the Albanian president called on the UN members to recognize unilaterally declared independence of the southern Serbian province.

Kosovo, according to him, represents a significant factor of peace, stability and cooperation in the region. […]

As Liz, who circulated the item above put it, “Apparently we’ve had it all wrong. It’s the Albanians who have ‘the highest standards’ and they’re ‘very protective’ of Serbs. And, it’s the Serbs who ‘ethnically cleansed’ themselves out of Kosovo in pursuit of a ‘Greater Serbia’. Who knew?”

And it’s multi-ethnic Serbia that believes in ethnic purification, as opposed to the pristinely Albanian Pristina and just about all of Kosovo. Berisha, however, sounds very steadfast in his affirmations of Kosovo idyllicism. Why would the prime minister of Albania find Kosovo idyllic? Maybe this is why:

“Before and during the war, Kosovars kept assuring me that Kosova would not be like Albania: corrupt, anarchic, ruled by the gun and the gang. Increasingly, it is. The Albanization of Kosova is taking place in a way no ordinary Kosova Albanian wanted.” — Timothy Garton Ash, Hoover Institute

In related news, Project Greater Albania — that great Serbian myth — proceeds apace:

Kosovo: Albania, Kosovo to merge consular services to cut bureaucracy (AKI, Oct. 24)

The Albanian government approved an agreement to merge consular services abroad with those of Kosovo in order to cut “bureaucratic costs”, the government said on its web site on Monday.

“Albanians should feel the same way in Tirana and in Pristina,” Albanian prime minister Sali Berisha said last week. Similar practices should be applied to other areas, like customs, culture and education to reduce costs and to draw closer “two sister states,” he added.

(But they do feel the same way in Tirana and Pristina. They feel like killing Serbs.)

“We have to strengthen cooperation within the same legal framework and practices in order to reduce bureaucratic barriers between citizens of Albania and Kosovo,” Berisha said.

Serbian officials claim Kosovo independence was just the first step towards unification with Albania and the creation of “Greater Albania”, which would incorporate ethnic Albanians living in Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and northern Greece.

(I love the way Albanian announcements are still somehow “Serbian claims.”)

Albanian and Kosovo officials have denied such intentions and the idea is opposed by the international community, including big powers which recognized Kosovo, for fears it would destabilize the entire region.

Until it isn’t opposed by the international community, and they announce that it won’t destabilize the region, calling the destabilization “stabilization.” Which, come to think of it, has already been happening. Looks like someone didn’t get the memo.

And a similar item:

Albania-Kosovo agreement rekindles old suspicions (Southeastern European Times, Oct. 31)

A deal to unify consular services abroad, to be followed by similar moves in all other sectors, is a source of concern for some about potential Albanian territorial aggression.

…An agreement to merge the Albanian and Kosovo consular services abroad has sparked concerns in parts of the Balkans that the deal is a step towards realising “Greater Albania “.

The accord was approved by Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha’s cabinet on October 20th. It would halve the two countries’ consular costs, the government said.

Kosovo analyst Seb Bytyci heading the Pristina-based Balkan Policy Institute echoed Tirana’s arguments.

“Kosovo and Albania are small countries without resources to have consulates everywhere,” he told SETimes. “This deal enables them to provide better services to their citizens. Similar deals are common even among richer countries, who still feel the need to cut costs.”

Macedonian diplomacy expert Lazar Lazarov cautioned there is more to this kind of agreements than meets the eye.

“In the first phase you have rapprochement, joint customs and economy, but the second phase in this process usually is unification,” Lazarov told SETimes. “It will be difficult for Kosovo to maintain its statehood in these circumstances. Both Albania and Kosovo seem to work on the ‘Greater Albania’ project, mentioned first in 1878.”

Lazarov referred to the plan promoted by Albanian political organisation Prizren League, which aimed to unify in one state Albanians scattered across Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Greece in the 19th century.

Kosovo pledged in its 2008 independence declaration full respect for its neighbours’ territorial integrity and for the borders assigned on Martti Ahtisaari’s plan for a settlement to the Kosovo status issue, approved by the UN. [sic: Ahtisaari may have been the UN envoy, but his plan was never approved by the UN.]

Ian Bancroft, co-founder of the Belgrade-based TransConflict, argues the Ahtisaari Plan clearly states Kosovo can not seek to unite with another state, hence Berisha’s intent should be treated with a great deal of concern.

“If the government in Pristina will not uphold this important element of the Ahtisaari Plan, then it is hard to expect that it will uphold the other safeguards provided, which will breed further mistrust amongst Kosovo’s Serbs and other non-Albanian populations. The EU, in particular, therefore needs to be more explicit in its criticism of such steps,” Bancroft told SETimes.

He added the agreement adds to existing concerns across the region about the assertion of Albanian ethno-national identity. “[It] has motivated, in part, the boycott of the census in south Serbia, the abandonment of Macedonia’s census and tensions within Albania over the number of ethnic minorities, likely to provoke further mistrust in neighbouring countries such as Montenegro and Greece.”

Insisting that Kosovo is still a UN protectorate, Serbian government spokesman Milivoje Mihajlovic said in comments for SETimes that Belgrade could not support any initiative that is not in accordance to UN Security Council Resolution 1244.

According to Bytyci, the consular agreement could fan “the paranoia about ‘Greater Albania’”, particularly among “fringe politicians in countries neighbouring Albania and Kosovo”. […]

Or it could fan Greater Albania.
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FLASHBACK to August 2007:

Many people across the world are saying that the archaic idea of a “Greater Albania” is dead…European officials now are thinking that the “Greater Albania” saga is a closed chapter too…Apparently, the Ahtisaari package…[does] not allow Kosova to join Albania or, for that matter, Macedonia…

Those who think that the Albanians have “forgotten” the idea of the unification of their territories or the idea of a Greater Albania are mistaken. Only those who do not know the Albanians well as a Balkan people may think like that. Those, however, who know the Albanians well think differently. And those who know the Albanians well are first and foremost their neighbours.

This time, however, when they saw that they were being denied their desire for “reunification”, the Albanians kept silent because they knew that the Ahtisaari package had a thousand and one loopholes through which they may slip to achieve the unification of their territories, that is, to establish a Greater Albania…Only the ingenuousness — and the sincerity — of a cool-headed diplomat from a cold country working on cold diplomatic dossiers my jump to the conclusion that Kosova will not join Albania following the establishment of its status.

For their part, another category of people and intellectuals — especially those who live close to Albania — people with the same political mentality and political ethnography as the Albanians, considered all this to be a mere “self-induced deception.” There is no reason to doubt that, shortly after the establishment of “independent” status, or a status that does not rule out independence, a Greater Albania will be formed in the Balkans. Attentive analysts and specialists in Balkan affairs consider this a reality that will happen soon.

One cannot think that Kosova’s joining Albania is far off as long [as] “immediately after the establishment of the status there will be joint markets and joint beaches,” as the Albanians say. It cannot be imagined that a Greater Albania can be prohibited by a phrase contained in the Ahtisaari package. The Balkan people only smile at these phrases. Throughout their history, they have learned how to ignore the phrases of the great powers a thousand times a day. At the same time, the Balkan peoples have learned that protectorates imposed by the great powers are short-lived…They know that the West soon tires of the problems of their area, just as they know that the mills of time work very quickly in the mountains that have given their name to their peninsula. A little change would be enough for the West to desist from maintaining by armed force its ban on the unification of Albanian territories.

Deep down, the Albanians do not think that a long time will pass between the recognition of Kosova’s status and its joining Albania. Not only ordinary Albanians who spend much of their time talking nationalist politics, but also their senior politicians want that. This time, however, it was the politicians who came out with the idea of a Greater Albania. Just take up the letters of greetings they sent to Ahtisaari on 3 February [2007], and you will clearly see what senior Albanian politicians — both in the government and in the opposition — really think. They greet the Ahtisaari package “with rejoicing” and add that “this is a victory for the Albanians wherever they happen to be.” Do you not see the hidden idea rearing its head?!

…Indeed, the Balkan states are like communicating vessels: if one of them is reformatted as a greater state, other states must necessarily become smaller. Will Serbia allow itself to become “smaller” just because Albania wants to be “greater”? Or, for that matter, will Macedonia allow that? Especially as Macedonia would have to cede some chunks of its territory to a Greater Albania. A chain reaction of transformation from smaller to greater would follow its Balkan course, as the world’s senior politicians are warning.