DATED: 12 January 2009
For Immediate Release
Telephone for Questions: (30) 697-228-5442
Albania’s Berisha Government appears to be demonstrating in word and deed that it is not ready to join the European Union family of nations as it violates not only foundational property and minority rights, but also basic legal principles.
Early Friday morning 9 January, about 200 riot units of the Albanian police raided Kakomaia (Alb. Kakome, in the province of Cheimarra [Alb. Himare] on the Ionian Sea) with a view to assisting Riviera Sh.P.K., a private company, forcibly to seize the land properties claimed by local residents, who happen to be ethnic Greeks.
The land in question totals about 70 hectares, the ownership titles of which belonged for centuries and until 1945 to residents of the nearby village of Nivitsa, and were expropriated by the Communist regime of Enver Hoxha. After the collapse of the Hoxha regime in 1990 the successor Albanian government did not return the land to its rightful owners, as it did in most other parts of the country.
The Berisha Government, ignoring the owners’ rights recently leased the land in question for 99 years to the Riviera Company even though the legal cases challenging this decision are still pending. A certain Dritan Çelaj appears as the majority shareholder of this company, though sources in Tirana link to it members of the Berisha family.
The events described above could have been considered as an isolated dispute between the residents of a community and a predatory government official were it not for the facts that,
a) Berisha had persecuted the Greek minority in the past (he had imprisoned five of its leaders on unspecified charges in 1994), and
b) he is using the country’s economic development plan to legitimate ethnic cleansing.
Specifically, the Albanian Southern Coast Development Plan has been drawn up under the direction of international entities such as the World Bank and includes tourism as one of the major axes of the country’s development.
Using the cover of these international entities Berisha has targeted properties of the ethnic Greek minority of the “Southern Coast”, i.e. the stretch between Cheimarra and Agioi Saranta (Alb. Sarande), an area inhabited by the minority.
Based on this context, many experienced international experts consider that the violent seizure of the private properties in Kakomaia represents only the beginning of a campaign of expropriations of properties that aim at eliminating the financial underpinning of the ethnic Greek minority.
The above events are taking place at a time when the Albanian Government is undertaking to finalize efforts for the country’s acceptance into NATO in April and is promoting its eventual joining of the European Union, both of which aims assume the concurrence of the Greek Government, and when hundreds of thousands of its nationals live and earn their income Greece, remitting to Albania hundreds of millions of euros yearly.
The Enosis Cheimarrioton (=Cheimarriot Union), representing the ethnic Greek inhabitants of Cheimarra Province living and working in Greece, is undertaking a campaign,
• to protect the rights of the ethnic Greek minority in Albania,;
• to actively monitor abuses, whether these originate with the Albanian Government or from other sectors of society;
• to inform the Greek Government, the Greeks of the Diaspora, the governments of all European Union states, the European Union, NATO, the United States Government, the Government of the Russian Federation and the international press with a view to transmitting the message to the Albanian Government that it expects it to respect the basic values and principles that govern joining the European family of nations.