Thursday, June 28, 2007

"The Greater Albanian Symbol"

Highway set to bring Albania and Kosovo closer
Reuters - Analysis - Tirana

Thu Jun 28, 2007 6:36AM EDT

By Benet Koleka

KUKES, Albania (Reuters) - The shortest route from Kosovo to Albania's sparkling Adriatic coast makes a big dog-leg through the long, deep glens of neighboring Macedonia.The direct route from Serbia's breakaway province is a 234- km (145-mile) drive of seven hours over mountains 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) above sea level.

At 35 kph (20 mph), it takes travelers through a seemingly endless coil of dizzying hairpin bends."Traveling on that road has been a real trip through hell for me," says Rexhep Shahu, a poet who often makes the journey to his home town Kukes, near the Kosovo border.

"It is a symbol of impossibility."

That will all change in 2009 when a new highway links Kosovo to Albania. But it is a controversial project that some critics believe has more to do with dreams of a "Greater Albania" than the economic benefits touted by its backers.

Ethnic Albanians make up 90 percent of Kosovo's 2 million population.Since the end of the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict, hundreds of thousands of them have braved the old mountain road to get to Albania's beaches, bringing in some 350 million tourist euros ($470 million) every year.

Many plied the tortuous route this month to witness the Albania visit of U.S. President George W. Bush, whose country led the NATO intervention in 1999 to expel Serb troops from Kosovo and end the killing of Kosovo Albanian civilians.Bush was cheered for pledging that Kosovo Albanians will get their independence "sooner rather than later", despite Russia's strong backing for Serbia, which adamantly opposes it.

When Bush meets Russia's President Vladimir Putin at his family's Maine coast estate in the United States this weekend, the two leaders may reach agreement on Kosovo, or they may not.No one is betting, but Albania has already set to work on the new road -- a 180-km four-lane highway that will cut travel time between the two sister nations to two and a half hours or less.


"The road goes through the poorest region of Europe and it will definitely revive it," Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha says of the 600 million euro highway, Albania's biggest infrastructure project to date."It will bring new life to the port of Durres and give access to the sea to Kosovo, Macedonia and southern Serbia."But others say the project is really a step towards the nationalist dream of a "Greater Albania" that would unite all ethnic Albanians in the region in defiance of the West.

As a result of the controversy, potential donors have stayed away. Albania is financing the road on its own from commercial loans, which critics say it cannot afford."Donors saw it more as a political than an economic project," said Pandeli Majko, a former Socialist prime minister in Albania who started pushing for the project in the late 1990s.But he believes the road would "crystallize a year-round tourism industry and double the size of the Albanian market", while allowing both communities to rationalize agriculture.

"Kosovo will probably start planting wheat while Albania deals with livestock and vegetable-growing," Majko said.Analyst Mentor Nazarko said money would be better spent on a project such as European Corridor Eight, crossing Albania and Macedonia, or on domestic and regional roads.But Majko and Berisha wanted "a place in history", he said."The political dimension of this project looks bigger than the economic dimension," said Nazarko. "Spending 600 million euros is a rather pharaonic project for Albania right now."Regardless of cost worries, construction is moving along. Albania contracted the U.S.-Turkish Bechtel-Enka group to build a two-bore tunnel, Albania's first, along the most difficult section, and bulldozers are at work daily near Kukes.

"I would have worked for free just to see this road unite our people," said Nasuf Bimbashi, a Kosovo contractor.Still trying to repair the wounds of the decade of war triggered by the break-up of Yugoslavia, the West opposes any "Greater Albania" ambitions, just as it opposes any dreams of a mono-ethnic "Greater Serbia" or "Greater Croatia".

The pro-Western leaders of Kosovo and Albania have dismissed any such plan. But for some, the road alone will do the trick."We need not talk too much about a union," said Kosovo truck driver Refki Morina. "The road itself effectively unites us. When the Berlin Wall fell, they didn't need to do anything else. Here, we simply have to build a highway."

(Additional reporting by Shaban Buza in Pristina)

Our comment.....

But, the correspondent of Reuters in Tirana, does not say why tow Greek Banks "Alpha Bank" and "NGB" honored 250 million euro to Albanian Government for this highway, helping directly Prime Minister Sali Berisha, while the public investment particularly in Southern Albania are in minimum rates? Why the government has blocked some highway investments in southern Albania such are Tepelene - Levan, Lushnje - Vlora and Vlora Saranda? The paradoxes continues at a critically moment when Albanian and Kosovo Mafia are investing to buy lands and proprieties to Albanian southern coast line, "taking the rights to be favoring " from government to built tourist villages during Ionian Coast Line, over the lands of Greek old proprietress origin. Anyway, for the Greater Albania, all together the Albanians are working without nothing other to.......

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The last Battle of Albanian Nationalism against Orthodox Archbishop Janullatos

Photo: His Beatitude AnastasiosArchbishop of Tirana, Durrësand All Albania

By Stavros Markos*

In January 1991, the Patriarchate of Constantinople elected Anastasios to go to Albania as "Patriarchal Exarch" with the mandate to contact Orthodox people irrespective of their ethnic origin and re- establish the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania. The Orthodox Church in Albania had been decimated after forty years of the most severe persecution. Before the country had finally overthrown its yoke of communism, the number of Orthodox clergy had diminished from 440 in the 1940’s to 22 in 1990. Once again, the opportunity to revive a Church on the brink of collapse confronted Bishop Anastasios.

But the Albanian nationalism including a number of Albanian parliament member, in 1992, wanted to have under control the activity of Albanian Orthodox Autocephalous Church, claiming to Albanian people (Musulman religion in general) the slogans “His beatitude Janulatos, must leave Albania, because he is Greek citizen no Albanian”. The protest often has been inside of Orthodox Curch of Tirana, during the religious ceremony of Archbishop Janullatos.

In 1994, the President of Albania Sali Berisha urges the Albanian people to go in referendum for the New Constitution of the Country. Inside of new draft, was the request of an article of constitution, to obligate the Archbishop of Albania to be Albanian citizen. Finally, the resultant of popular referendum has been NO, time when the Pressident Berisha perturbs his glorious figure.

After the collapse of Pyramidal Schemes and Civil War in 1997, in 1998 Albania goes for the second time to popular referendum for Constitution, under strong observation of International Community organizations, OSCE and EU. The religions communities must are independents and Albania must to be a Laic State, also the religions must be separated from the state and it administrates control.

During this period until now, the activity of Orthodox Church particularly to Archbishop Janulatos, is confronted periodically to multi dimensional incidents from Albanian nationalism both from Diaspora (not orthodox religion), putting goal as priority to national strategy and demagogy of “Greater Albania” an ultimatum to Archbishop Janullatos who “must leave Albania from Orthodox Church of Albania”. Albanian press often dedicated against archbishop Janullatos continues to make a lot of demagogy as negative impact to have in head of Albanian orthodoxy a Greek citizen, who serves to Greek nationalism strategy of Northern Epirus, converting the Albanian orthodoxy to Hellenic orthodoxy nominated three high cleric from Greek origin of general council of Albanian Orthodox church.

Anyway, the orthodoxies of Albania, must part from Greek ethnic minority, are about 25 - 30% of total population of Albania are very disturbed about escalation of religion conflict in Albania. Hundred of Byzantine churches in Northern Epirus (Southern Albania) have been violated from vandals and persons, often not catched from authorities.

The Orthodox church of Albania has the large land superficies and proprieties particularly in southern Albania territory, but until now the Albanian authority, refuse to known they. Incidents with local authority and Albanian tribunals have been often supporter from Albanian Service Secret against orthodox community and church, reported from Freedom House and Religious State Department Reports Human Rights of the World from 2003 until last report.

Meanwhile in 2005, Archbishop Janullatos, was elected as President of Churches World Council, which composts a precedent to known the Albanian state on the world, when Albanian nationalism raised the voice again against his eminence Janulatos particularly from Diaspora. The AANC (Albanian American National Council) urges to claim Archbishop Anastas Janulatos as “person Non Grata” and he must leave the Albanian territory very soon as possible, because “he is making the hellenisation of southern Albania”. Albania press continues to publics propaganda anti orthodox church, even churches and monasteries particularly of Byzantine period, have been attacked and violated every time from Albanian criminals groups.

On June 10, 2007, the Albanian Authority, in occasion of historically visit of US President George Bush in Tirana, over alls, had previsted a meeting with George Bush and high representatives religions of Albania, but the name of Archbishop Janulatos was replaced from another person “anonymous of Orthodox Church”. This scandal has been a provocation against orthodox community of Albania, but was been deviated and changed by status protocol of President Bush from his staff during his visit in Albania. The absolutely silence of Albanian press about this scandal, conducted particularly from Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha to other politic responsibilities tells a strategic plan of Albanian nationalism installed a large front against Archbishop Janulatos and Orthodox Church of Albania, which begins from Albanian Diaspora to Albanian politic specter in Tirana, including the government and a part of politic opposition.

Is this fact why the Albanian authority does not give the Albanian citizen to Archbishop of Albania Anastas Janulatos, even he is the must loved person not from orthodoxies of Albania and particularly from Greeks who live in Albania but also from orthodoxies of the world. Never has been a decision as “good work” from Albanian authorities to honor the benefice of Archbishop Anastas Janulatos, while at the time; Albanian nationalism is preparing the last battle against his eminence and orthodoxy.

June 25, 2007. The Association “Chameria” a mussulman community which live in Albania, escaped from Northern Greece in 1944 as “collaborationist with axes fascist forces” has demonstrated near the Greek borders in Southern Albania, demanding and protesting to Athens for their “home land rights” lost in Greece.
Organized under politic background of all politic Albanian nationalist specter including the government, the representatives of demonstration calls the Archbishop Janullatos “to held a special High Mass to honor the chams victim from Greek genocide of 1944”, but the response of Orthodox Synod Church was against: ‘We make High Mass for every soldier who did for the honor of his Patria and not for recommendations from another religions communities”.

Anyway, the Albanian nationalism is raising in infinite the battle against spiritual leader of Albanian orthodox community damaging as victory of “greater Albania”,
the end of influence of Archbishop Anastas Janullatos to Albanian orthodox mission. An aggravation of situation between religions has begun in Albania inasmuch, the Greek Ethnic Minority of Albania, known as “Omonia” calls to Albanian government to have under observation any efforts of “Chameria`s Association” and his paramilitary instrument: “We are very disturbed and minaced about ulterior developments of Chameria Community protest to Greek Borders, considering as a provocation of Albanian irredentism against our mother country, Greece, which compost a precedent to romp the existence of many communities which live in harmony in Southern Albania” said in the communicate press the represent of “Omonia”.
Last year, an official visit of Greek president Carolos Papullias in Albania was annulled after the cham community protest near of the Hotel, when the President Papulias should meet Albanian counter part Alfred Moisiu in Saranda . Some days ago, in a village of Greek ethnic community of Argirocastro Region, has been stamped slogans under the name of UCC, which considered from Greek population as a new provocation against Greek minority. On April 2007, a paramilitary ethnic nationalist group known as UCC has claimed one video their military actions and objectives against Greek State in Epirus Region. According to Research Terrorism Center in Washington, UCC is known terrorist as first military action in Himara Region (Southern Albanian, Greek population) on 2003, killing a person, while in Northern Greece, they has been exploded a electric station which links Italy and the Greece in Igoumenitsa.
Meanwhile, the parliament lawmakers hold one minute of silence for the “Chames victim from Greek genocide of 1944”. This warm escalation, from Albanian parliament should have in future dangerous religion impact which should damage the perspective of Albanian State to EU and NATO, regarding implication of Greek Ethnic Minority and Orthodox Church, a very critic moment, where the Greek opinion, can not stand indifferent.
Stavros Markos*
(Journalist and Member of the World Security Network Foundation at Athens & Southeastern Europe Office, RIEAS Athens).