Ballina Bota Analiza Understanding Albanian-Greek relations: Deconstructing paradoxes and myths

Understanding Albanian-Greek relations: Deconstructing paradoxes and myths

By Albert  Rakipi, PhD

For more than a century – a period coinciding with the history of the modern Albanian state – Albanian-Greek relations have been dominated by two fundamental issues: the issue of territorial or border disagreements and the issue of minorities; typical phenomena for two neighbouring nation-states.

Disagreements over territory, the border and minorities have been historically and remain the principal sources of tension in bilateral relations. They have fed a cyclical relationship of crises with frequent ebbs and flows, interspersed with periods of co-operation, which always revert to a state of tension without ever reaching all-out conflict in the classic meaning of the word.

At first glance, disagreements over territory and borders and minorities seem like a mundane history for two neighbours, states founded in the vacuum left by the contraction or collapse of an empire, as was the case with the shrinking of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans.

This essay will analyse how and why historical disagreements over territory, borders and minority issues, which date back to the beginning of the twentieth century and about which – especially the border question – neither Albania nor Greece substantially disputes the status quo, have continued over the last twenty-five years to be the main sources of tension and cyclical crisis.


A brief excursion into history

Three historical periods have defined the nature and the problem of Albanian-Greek relations over the last hundred years.

Firstly, the period of national movements in the Balkans and the withdrawal of the Ottoman Empire at the close of the nineteenth century and the dawn of the twentieth. These movements brought the founding of new states in the Balkans, whose territories and borders did not necessarily conform to ethnic boundaries. In a special way, the case of Albania was more significant, more critical. The creation of an Albanian state and her recognition by the European Powers saw the division of Albanian lands among her neighbours, including Greece. The Balkan political map was thereby completed, but the territories that according to this map would be recognized as states, and the borders between them, would be the principal sources of future conflicts and tensions. The two Balkan Wars and the First World War brought into dispute lands in the north of Albania and, thanks to Greek claims, the south; at their most extreme they called into question the very existence of the Albanian state.

Secondly, the Second World War, at the outbreak of which Greece and Albania in fact accidentally found themselves on different sides, because of the actions of third parties. Italy attacked Greece in October 1940, using Albanian territory which she had occupied since April 1939. At this time two of the most important elements of Albanian-Greek relations became linked, elements which are still on the table seventy years later and still linked to each other: the War Law, which paradoxically remains in force, and the issue of the Chams. By a royal decree of 10th November 1940, Albania was declared an enemy together with Italy. As strange as it may seem, this act remains in force even today. Likewise, although the trajectory of the Cham issue was initiated in 1913[2], with the end of the Balkan Wars and the placing of the Chams under the jurisdiction of the Greek state, it was the dramatic developments of the Second World War that made the Cham issue relevant even today, and one of the historical problems on the negotiating table. In this way, Albania’s involvement in the Greek Civil War, during and immediately after the Second World War, not only created a tension in bilateral relations but also jeopardized Albania’s territorial integrity and affected her relations for a prolonged period.

Third, the Cold War and the East-West division left these two ancient Balkan neighbours in opposing camps. Albanian-Greek relations in this extended phase were deeply affected by the Cold War climate and, at least until 1970, the unchanging reality between the two was a state of perpetual hostility.

Although Greece was one of the few western countries with which Albania’s communist regime managed to establish at least diplomatic relations, and to a very modest extent economic co-operation, the two would remain generally isolated from one another for decades more. Communication between the peoples, the oldest neighbours in the region, was interrupted immediately after the Second World War. Inter-state relations were particularly tense until the beginning of the seventies. Besides the ideological division affiliating the two with rival blocs, the enduring political tensions between the two countries were fuelled chiefly by a historical legacy of conflict and fundamental historical disagreements, which had bloomed during the founding and the independence of the two, and more especially with the creation of an independent Albanian state at the beginning of the twentieth century.

With the end of the Cold War and the fall of the communist regime in Albania, another factor began and would continue to affect the nature of Albanian-Greek relations – Albanian emigrants, and the continued emigration of Albanians, to Greece.[3] The wholesale emigration of Albanians to Greece has served as a kind of living, intensive engagement between the two societies. This massive Albanian presence in Greece has revolutionized political, economic and social relations between the populations, previously long separated because of the Cold War and Albania’s extreme self-isolation under communism.

The emigration of more than a sixth of the Albanian population into Greece at once created other problems, related to the integration of these new arrivals, their economic and social status, and human rights.

The nature of the international system, and the nature of the regimes governing the two states throughout this hundred-year period, were both important factors which influenced the particular dynamics of Albanian-Greek relations, but in any case it was at no point possible for the two states to move decisively towards a final resolution of the points of dispute.

Lastly, but not the least important, the populist approaches adopted by the two administrations diminished the possibility of resolving the disagreements created principally during the first half of the twentieth century.


The grand paradox: two NATO members in a state of war

The paradoxes and myths of Albanian-Greek relations, as in the histories of other peoples, are bound up with war and more generally with the past; but in the case of Albania and Greece, the scale of the influence of the past is extraordinary. In 1996 Albania and Greece signed a treaty of friendship and co-operation, the fullest diplomatic instrument possible, the formalization of an atmosphere of peace and collaboration between the two. But in the most surprising way, there remains in force between them a ‘War Law’, approved in 1940 by the Greek parliament.

Since 2009 both Albania and Greece have belonged to NATO. But despite their common membership of an alliance whose member states have agreed to engage in joint defence in the case of attack by a third party,[4] Greece maintains the royal decree of 1940 by which Albania is an enemy for her.

Beyond this is the paradox of paradoxes: in 1949 Greece abrogated the equivalent law by which Italy was declared an enemy, but left in place that referring to Albania, thereby declaring Albania her enemy despite the fact that it was Italy who had attacked her, from Albanian territory itself occupied by the Italians.

After almost two centuries the narrative of Northern Epirus – which in geographic terms refers to fully half of modern Albania, has become a myth – like the Megali Idea itself. Meanwhile the Cham question, which 70 percent of Albanians perceive as the principal problem in relations between Albania and Greece[5], continues to nourish the narratives of parties, media, and certain other elements in Albania – without daring to unpack the myth itself and ‘look within’.

The paradoxes and myths are more than historical: Greece is Albania’s leading economic partner and, continuously ever since the collapse of communism more than 25 years ago, at least 700,000 Albanians have emigrated and now live and work in Greece. Meanwhile, the majority of those Albanians who believe that their country is endangered and that national security is at risk believe that the threat comes from Greece.[6]

Albania and Greece, though NATO members, also differ when it comes to certain foreign policy orientations and activities in the Balkans. Greece’s traditional alliances in the region have historically been regarded with suspicion by Albania. This was particularly so after the redrawing of the Balkan political map by the creation and recognition of a new state: Kosovo. Greece remains one of two Balkan states, and one of five EU members, that have not recognized Kosovo as an independent state. The question of how much Greece’s non-recognition of Kosovo has affected Albanian-Greek bilateral relations is arguable; but in the end it is a factor that, if it does not influence the practical sphere of relations, does undoubtedly influence the virtual sphere – which remains hostage to those paradoxes and myths.


Disagreements over territory and borders

When the student Eleftherios Venizelos gathered his friends around a large map and defined the borders of Greece, he aspired to half of present-day Albania and almost all of modern Turkey.[7] Albania at that time did not exist as an independent state. But only a few decades later, in 1919, the one-time brilliant law student Venizelos had been named Prime Minister of Greece, and in the name of the Greek delegation to the Peace Conference he set out the arguments as to why she should be given half of Albania – or ‘Northern Epirus’, as it pleased him to call it.[8]

Although the Paris Peace Conference had not accepted Greece’s pretensions to the so-called Northern Epirus, in 1946 the Foreign Ministers of four remaining great powers – the USA, the USSR, Great Britain and France recognized the Greek arguments and claims to southern Albania.

Throughout the Cold War these territorial claims were a factor of tension between the two countries, and an unspoken obstacle to the establishment of diplomatic relations for at least a few decades after the end of the Second World War. The reasons why the two states did not actually come to blows should be sought in the Cold War, in the rivalry of the great powers, as well as in Balkan rivalries of long historical standing as far as the recognition of an independent Albanian state and her territories was concerned.

The establishment of diplomatic relations, in 1971, marked a positive step towards the elimination of one of the sources of tension between the two countries – Greece’s territorial claims according to the Northern Epirus manifesto. From that time a gradual stepping back by Greece was perceptible, as well as an official effort in Tirana not to identify Greek national policy with the Northern Epirus thesis, still supported in reactionary circles in Greece, including also the Orthodox Church, which sought in chauvinist fashion to obstruct the rapprochement of Greece with Albania.[9]

It can with confidence be asserted that, with the end of the Cold War and the fall of the communist regime, the territorial claims of the Northern Epirus manifesto and ideology were finally consigned to the past. Further progress – the signing of the treaty of friendship between the two countries and Albania’s accession to NATO[10] – definitively terminated any territorial pretension created and sustained by history.

Despite this new reality, marginal elements within Greece and particularly in the Greek diaspora continue to nurture the still-born doctrine of  Northern Epirus, and to sustain a virtual arena of discourse fed by populists.

In parallel with territorial disagreements, questions of the definition of borders between the two states – international borders originally recognized by the Great Powers – have been a source of tension between the two.

In 2010 Albania’s Constitutional Court rejected an agreement on the continental shelf. After several years of negotiations and the acceptance of a deal on the maritime border – the only undefined boundary – by 2009 it had seemed that Albania and Greece were at last closing the chapter of disagreements over their borders. However, the Constitutional Court’s decision annulled the agreement, because it found ‘an abuse of constitutional principles and a lack of respect for the principles of international law on the definition of maritime borders’.[11]

The failure to approve an accord on the sea boundary, negotiations for which had begun immediately after the end of the Second World War, demonstrated another persistent characteristic of Albanian-Greek relations: border issues and disagreements remain a source of political tension, regardless of democratic change, membership of the Atlantic Alliance, and the support which Greece has given and continues to give for Albania’s accession to the EU. The question of delineating the border between Albania and Greece arose the moment that the European powers began to move towards recognition of the Albanian state. The disagreements pre-dated the birth and recognition of Albania. From the outset more than a matter of border definition between two states, the issue was bound up with territorial claims on southern Albania – termed Northern Epirus .

Although the conference of European Ambassadors in 1913 did not acknowledge Greek aspirations for the territory which would be included within the Albanian state, these aspirations were sustained into the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.[12] In 1921, the Conference of Ambassadors which had followed immediately on the Peace Conference recognized the borders of 1913. For several decades during the Cold War, the question of border definition was one of the obstacles to the establishment of diplomatic relations.[13]Even after the establishment of diplomatic ties, intermittent tensions arose in connection with the undefined borders and with Greek hesitancy to delineate the land boundary.

Similarly, issues related to the Greek minority in Albania have historically also been a source of tension. It is however important to stress that, more than the minority itself, the way that the two countries’ governments have adopted and behaved towards the Greek minority has been an aspect of tension. From the start, the presence of this community and disputes over its numbers served to feed territorial and subsequently border claims; but over time the policies pursued by Tirana and Athens towards the minority became almost independently a factor for tension. Throughout the Cold War, including the period when diplomatic relations had been established between the two states, questions about the Greek community in Albania were a persistent source of strain, even after the fall of the communist regime.


The Cham Question: a populist approach – “don’t open the box”

One of the most controversial elements of relations between Albania and Greece, bound up in fact with other historical disputes, is the Cham question. After the Balkan wars, the Cham population was placed under Greek jurisdiction; and by the Florence Protocol of 1913, lands to the north-west of Greece occupied by the Chams remained outside the borders of Albania. However, the issue became more significant in early 1923, when Greece and Turkey began negotiations for a population exchange. Greece declared that there was no intention to include the Cham population within the convention for a people swap with Turkey. However, although the exchange programme would incorporate the Muslim population of the region with the Chams as the only exception, at least 500,000 of them were included.[14]The Albanian did not perceive the non-inclusion of the Chams in the programme as a privilege.

In any case, the larger part of the Cham population remained outside the 1923 Greek-Turkish convention of Lausanne on population exchange, and were thus supposed to enjoy the same status as Greeks.

But regardless of official policy as declared by the Greek government, the Cham population between the wars did not enjoy equal rights as Greek citizens. The economic and social status that they had inherited from the Ottoman period began to be undermined by means of central and local policies pursued by the government, and in an ever more hostile political and social environment clashes broke out between the Cham and Greek communities. Conditions for the Cham population started to worsen with the installation of the Metaxas dictatorship in 1936. As well as extreme policies and the arbitrary use of force, the Metaxas government stopped the use of Albanian in the public and private spheres, and the publication of Albanian books and newspapers.

But developments during the Second World War would be decisive for the future of the Cham population. Italy, and after her capitulation Germany, declared the national union of Albanians, incorporating among others the Chams of Greece. The Chams seemed to be regaining their social and economic status, and indeed their future, through co-operation firstly with the Italians and subsequently with the Germans. During the fascist occupation the communities were caught up in a cycle of violence, which assumed greater proportions after Germany’s withdrawal from Greece in 1944. In particular, Greek resistance forces under General Zervas undertook bloody operations against the Cham population, killing many.[15]

Communal violence and massacres continued, with the mass deportation of the Cham population into Albania.[16] In 1940, some 25,000 Chams were concentrated in the Cham region and more particularly south of the Greek-Albanian border.[17] A decade later, in the Greek population registration of 1951, only 127 Albanian-speaking muslims were recorded in the whole country.[18]

The Cham question, about which the two states have differing interpretations, was their first clash and their first disagreement.

The most crucial question is how the historical trajectory of the Chams – which, in the words of Stathis N. Kalyvas ‘couldn’t be more emblematic of the dark continent – the European 20th century’ – has influenced and continues to influence relations between Albania and Greece.

The Cham issue was a source of tension between the two countries from immediately after the conclusion of the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1926.

As well as in its direct official demarches to Athens, the Albanian government set out its disquiet concerning the community’s situation in the League of Nations. At the same time, Athens was observing the establishment of relations between Italy and Albania, among other things in the context of the Cham minority within its territory, worried that the Albanians might secure the support of a power such as Italy for their demands and potential actions on behalf of their brothers in Greece.[19]

In one way or another, Albania was engaged in the matter of the Cham population until the beginning of the Second World War. Developments during the war were dramatic for the Chams in Greece. First Italy and then Germany declared the establishment of a Greater Albania, incorporating as well as Albania with her 1913 borders other territories to the north, in Kosova, and in the south, including the Chameria region.

After the liberation of Albania and the establishment of the communist regime, Hoxha’s government initially proved attentive to the Cham problem. Hoxha raised the issue in the Conference of Peace in Paris in 1946. The communist government sought the repatriation of the Chams deported from Greece to Albania and the return of their assets.[20] It was another occasion when relations between the two states worsened because of official Greek demands for a territorial reconsideration of so-called Northern Epirus.[21] The atmosphere of the relationship between the two, meanwhile, was greatly influenced by their ideological alignment and the split between the great powers, the Soviet Union on one side and the USA and her allies, such as Great Britain, on the other. To a considerable degree, the clashes between the two superpowers at the global level had their impact on the contests within inter-state relations in the Balkans.

Thus the communist regime, though not in a direct and open fashion, supported the struggles of the Cham population settled in Albania to internationalize their issue. In 1945 and 1947 two Cham congresses were organized in Albania, and a series of attempts and interventions were made with the European powers and the United Nations. Sporadically, and more as a reaction against the territorial pretensions of Greece, the Cham question was raised in the UN General Assembly.

It arose again during the Greek Civil War: the Greek communists saw the Chams settled in Albania as a good means of reinforcing the Democratic Army. The communist leadership requested the help of Tirana – the Communist leadership of Albania – in recruiting Chams into their ranks.[22]

This was the last time that the Albanian government got involved in the Cham issue, and it was in a wholly ideological context: assisting the Greek communists in the civil war that had broken out.

It appears that the communist regime intended to close the Cham question at last in 1953, when in a special decree it accorded the Cham population Albanian citizenship. Throughout the Cold War, until the fall of the communist regime, the issue featured in not one single episode of the generally troubled and tense relationship. The argument that the Chams did not come to the government’s attention because of the Cold War and the division into two blocs is not sufficient. Irrespective of Albania’s isolation, the closure of the border with Greece, the absence of diplomatic relations for three decades and the two countries’ memberships of ideologically- and militarily-opposed camps, there was a tense relationship between Albania and Greece but in no case was the Cham question the source of tension. The Hoxha government abandoned the request laid out in the Peace Conference of 1946, and remained wholly silent on the issue until the end of the Cold War and the fall of the regime. Even when negotiations for the restoration of diplomatic relations began early in the nineteen-seventies, the Cham issue was not part of them.[23] This total silence about the Chams on the part of the communist regime for almost 50 years becomes even more incomprehensible if we compare its attitude towards the Greek minority in Albania. Significantly, the government worked to give the impression that this community, a people ‘wise, hard-working and patriotic’[24] ‘enjoy all the rights of any citizen of the republic’. The government ensured and made propaganda of the fact that the Greek minority had their own newspaper, an energetic combative platform for the working members of the community. The Constitution of the People’s Republic secured for them all the rights enjoyed by its other citizens.[25]

The only comparison drawn between the Cham question and the Greek minority in Albania was that of 1945, when Enver Hoxha himself tried to emphasize the great difference between the reactionary, chauvinist Greeks and his own regime: ‘We do not treat minorities’, he wrote, ‘as do the bands of Zervas and Plastiras with the Cham population, whom they have massacred and slaughtered in the most brutal manner. Our attitude towards minorities is the attitude of a more advanced people. The Greek minority enjoys full rights, it has its schools, its teachers, its press, its people in power and in the army.’[26]

The end of the Cold War and the fall of communism in Albania marked the re-emergence of the Cham question. As early as 1991, the Cham community created its own political organization and subsequently a political party, which managed to secure representation in parliament. Initially the organization made public its objectives, which in fact were not so different from those directed to the UN, foreign missions in Albania and the Greek government half a century earlier. Much the same as the memorandum from after the Second World War, the organization sought the return of lands and assets, compensation of income and respect for basic human rights. The Chameria organization – the second political group founded in 1991, after Albania’s first opposition party – likewise expressed the hope that they would have the support of the post-communist government for the resolution of their issues, and declared that the Cham issue should be put on the agenda of Albanian-Greek relations. The Cham population in Albania and their political organization invested a great deal of hope in the Democratic Party and the first non-communist government in Albania. Under the communist regime, the Cham population were regarded with mistrust, and were not permitted any form of organization, and there was a widespread idea that the communists had betrayed the Cham issue. This explains not only the great hopes of the Chams after the fall of communism, but also a kind of mistrust of the Socialist Party (and of its allied parties), which for at least the first decade was seen as the inheritor of the Party of Labour, responsible for the prolonged silence regarding the Cham question. From 1991 and continuously the question would be a persistent element of Albanian-Greek relations. From 1992 the demands from the Albanian side had to do with financial compensation for confiscated property and the return of the scattered Chams to their lands. It seems that the Greek government accepted the return of the issue to the agenda of bilateral relations between the two states.[27] Despite this, the subsequent attitude of Greek governments varied from total refusal to acknowledge the existence of the Cham problem to refusal to discuss even the request for compensation for confiscated property – with the justification of collaboration with the occupier or being declared a war criminal by judicial verdict[28] – a request they had accepted in principle in 1992. At the same time, the attitude of Albanian governments following the revival of the Cham question in 1991 was marked by ebbs and flows. The 1994-4 crisis in Albanian-Greek relations radicalized the position of the Albanian government towards the issue. But during the crisis of 1997, when the country fell into anarchy, the issue was left more or less unmentioned in bilateral exchanges. The explanation for this dramatic change has to do with the weak condition and near collapse of the state because of the crisis, but also with the fact that the Socialists came to power, and there remained a perception that they ‘supported the Albanian national question little or not at all’, and especially in their relations with Greece reflected a weak policy and demonstrated a kind of dependence on Athens.[29] Meanwhile, within Albania the ‘Cham issue’ started to become more and more part of the domestic political battle between the parties.[30] The slide towards a totalitarian narrative became apparent at the end of the nineties, and a kind of myth about the Cham issue started to emerge. There was no more talk of concrete demands, including the Cham issue, of the kind that had been clearly articulated after the end of the Second World War and after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of communism. The Cham question was discussed more and more, but not its constituent elements and how they might be resolved; instead, in the narrative of the parties and other political and non-political groups, it was spoken of general terms, as if it were a myth. The narrative of the ‘Cham issue’, at least from the 1997 crisis onwards, resembles the narratives of myths. No small part in the narrative of the issue and the development of its myth was played by the initial establishment of the Party for Justice and Unity (PDU) and, after its dissolution, the establishment of the Party for Justice, Integration and Unity (PDIU) – which marked, in fact, another kind of privatization, not only of the Cham issue but of its myth.

The PDIU declares itself ‘The Party of national causes, of the Cham question, of the inclusion of patriotism in the direction of the country’[31] claiming exclusivity in the national issue. The Cham issue ‘is simply one part of the unresolved national issue’.[32]


Liberating oneself from paradoxes and myths

Albanian-Greek relations after the end of the Cold War, the fall of communism and the opening of Albania to the West developed in two different spheres: one is the sphere of peace, within which practical relations have been established in the sectors of economy, trade and investment, together with exchanges at the societal level, communication between the two societies in the fields of culture and art; the other is the sphere of conflict, which is in fact virtual, involving political discourse, the elites of politics and the media and other groupings. Within this turbulent sphere, the narrative is almost totalitarian and it chiefly exploits issues of dispute springing from history, such as the Chams, and the so-called Northern Epirus  and alike.

While these two spheres appear to evolve and function in parallel at the same time, they have a measure of inter-dependence and mutual influence. The more or less cyclical crises in Albanian-Greek relations following the end of the Cold War have been marked by the inter-relationship of the spheres. The first is a real world, which has to do with economic interests, communication, and the collaboration of the societies; the second is built and thrives on paradoxes and myths, establishing indeed its own paradox, a great one, which in the best case maintains the status quo in relations, without allowing their development or reinforcement, and in the worst case produces cyclical crises which damage, or have the potential to damage, the future of the relationship.

The understanding, the explanation, of Albanian-Greek relations in the post-Cold War environment is not possible without an understanding and an explanation of the paradoxes and myths created by history. Undoubtedly, the future of these relations is not possible without escaping the paradoxes and myths.

[1] This paper is part of the study “Understanding Albanian Greek relations: Deconstructing paradoxes and myths”

[2] For a detailed understanding of the Cham issue, see Eleftheria K.Manta, Muslim Albanians in Greece, The Cham Epirus (1923- 2000), Institute for Balkan Studies, Thessaloniki 2008.

[3] Only since 1991, several hundred thousand Albanians have emigrated to and settled in Greece. The great wave of emigration immediately following the opening of borders was to Greece. Though exact data are wanting, comparable to the case of Italy were 540,000 Albanian emigrants were registered, it is reckoned that at least 700,000 Albanias have settled in Greece in the last 25 years.

[4] Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.

[5] See Albania and Greece, Albanian Institute for International Studies, Tirana, 2013.

[6] See European perspective for Albania, Albanian Institute for International Studies, Tirana, 2016. See also Twenty Years After: People on State and Democracy, Albanian Institute for International Studies, Tirana 2014.

[7] Margaret Macmillan, Paris 1919 – six months that changed the world, Random House, p 348.

[8] Ibid. p. 351.

[9] Enver Hoxha, Dy Popuj Miq, 8 Nёntori, Publishing House ,Tirana 1985, p. 415.

[10] Albania secured her invitation to join NATO at the Bucharest Summit in 2008, and became a member of the Alliance with full rights in 2009.

[11] See the decision of the Constitutional Court of 15th April 2010.

[12] See The Albanian Problem in the Paris Peace Conference, AIIS Tirana 2018.

[13] See Enver Hoxha, Dy popuj miq.

[14] The League of Nations Committee, struggling to define the origins of the Muslims of Chameria, decided to apply a compromise and take into account the wishes of Cham Muslims about whether or not to go to Turkey. According to the Greek government, of 10,000 who expressed the desire to emigrate only 5,000 were accepted by Turkey. See Eleftheria K. Manta, Muslim Albanians in Greece, the Chams of Epirus (1923-2000), Institute of Balkan Studies, Thessaloniki 2008.

[15] The most brutal massacre of Albanian muslims was carried out by Greek soldiers no longer part of military formations, on June 27th 1944 in Paramithi, when troops of the Greek Republican League (EDES) of General Zerva entered the town and killed some 600 men, women and children – many of them raped and tortured before death. According to eye-witnesses, the next day another EDES battalion entered Parga and killed 52 more Albanians. On September 23rd 1944 the town of Spatar was pillaged and 157 people killed. Young women and girls were raped, and those men who survived were rounded up and deported to the Aegean Islands.

[16] For a balanced description of the Cham question, see Miranda Vickers & James Pettifer, The Cham issue – the next stage, Naimi publishing house, 2014.

[17] Within the Cham issue, which is always controversial for the two countries, the question of numbers is likewise debatable.

[18] Stathis N.Kalyvas and Eleftheria K. Manta, Muslim Albanians in Greece, The Cham Epirus (1923- 2000), Institute for Ballkan Studies, Thessaloniki 2008.

[19] Miranda Vickers.

[20] See Beqir Meta, Greek Albanian Tension, 1939-1949, The Cham Tragedy, Academy of Science of Albania, Tirana 2006, pp 111-167. See also Miranda Vickers.

[21] Ibid. Meta.

[22] Of 2,000 communist Chams settled in Greece whom the Greek leadership expected recruit, only 150 were won over.

[23] One more plausible explanation is the fact that the Cold War and East-West ideological rivalry served among things as a kind of cage keeping national issues and nationalist ideals around the world locked up and frozen, including in the Balkans.

[24] See Enver Hoxha, Dy popuj miq.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] During a visit to Albania in 1991, Foreign Minister Karolos Papulias said that requests for the return of Cham property and financial compensation ‘should be resolved by means of a bilateral commission’. See Miranda Vickers. Likewise, in the first meeting of the two Prime Ministers, Simitis and Berisha, in 1992, of the two requests presented by the Albanian side regarding the Cham issue – financial compensation for confiscated property and the return of the Chams to their lands – the Greeks expressed themselves inclined towards a kind of willingness regarding financial compensation ‘for property confiscated in cases of those Chams who in the end were not convicted as collaborators of the Axis occupation forces but who had out of fear moved away from their property at that time’. See Eleftheria K. Manta, Muslim Albanians in Greece, The Cham Epirus (1923- 2000), Institute for Ballkan Studies, Thessaloniki 2008; Toena (Tirana) 2015, p. 236.

[28] Ibid. p. 232.

[29] In October 1997 Prime Minister Fatos Nano met Milošević in Crete, offering to play the role of intermediary with Prishtina in the resolution of the Kosova problem, whereas the Cham issue had vanished, no longer part of the bilateral agenda under Socialist administration.

[30] The usual exchanges when an Albanian minister visits Greece or a Greek Minister visits Albania conclude with the question ‘Was the Cham issue mentioned in the discussions?’ And, by extension, ‘Why was Cham issue left out of the discussions? Who is betraying the Chams and why?’

[31] See: PDIU, ‘Misioni Yne’, at

[32] See the speech by Idrizi on the 27th anniversary of the founding of the Chameria society, in January 2018.