Monday, January 12, 2009

Northern Epirus (Southern Albania) - Between a rock and a hard place

Australian Macedonian Advisory Council
January 12, 2009

Elections in Albania over the past years have been treated with foreboding by the Greeks of Northern Epirus, especially given that all polls gave the notorious Dr Sali Berisha a clear lead. Sali Berisha, the leader of the Democratic Party was Prime Minister during the infamous pyramid scandal of 1997 that wiped out the life savings of a much of the population. His term in office was also characterized by anti-Greek sentiment, stemming from the bi-polarity of Albania, divided as it is, culturally and linguistically into north and south.

The southerners, Tosks by race are generally left-leaning and culturally close to Greece, while several hundred of thousand of them are also Orthodox Christians. They form the core support of the Socialist party which until recently, most Greeks have supported or at least sympathized with. The north, the heartland of Berisha country is conservative, anti-Greek and for the most part anti-Orthodox, as it is feared that the Orthodox Church within Albania is nothing but a front for Greek irredentist designs there.Indeed, as Prime Minister, Sali Berisha presided over one of the worst periods of Graeco-Albanian relations.

In 1991, Greek shops were attacked in the Northern Epirot town of Agioi Saranda while in 1994, Sali Berisha proposed an amendment to the Albanian Constitution, requiring that all heads of religious groups be Albanian born.
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