FM Kotzias: Greek minority issues, including property, are fundamental elements of Greek-Albanian relations

Greek minority issues, including those relating to property, are fundamental elements of Greek-Albanian relations, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said in a letter sent on Wednesday, replying to questions tabled by MPs on the demolition of Greek minority-owned residences and businesses in Himara, southern Albania.

Kotzias stressed that these issues were also linked to the existing state of Albanian justice and rule of law, alongside Albania’s standing obligation under treaties to respect and protect human and minority rights throughout its territory. Reforms in the justice sector and protection of human and minority rights were two of the five key priorities that Albania must implement fully and in a sustainable way, as a condition for examining the start of EU-Albania accession negotiations, he pointed out.

The minister underlined that the “illegal and provocative planning to demolish the properties of our diaspora in Himara and the attempt to implement this are a blatant violation of human, minority and property rights of the members of the Greek ethnic minority of the region.”

These actions showed clearly that Albania’s claim that minority rights were respected throughout the country was false, Kotzias added.

The minister accused Albania of continuing the anachronistic practice of “minority zones” established under the old Hoxha regime “beyond which minority rights are not recognised”. “Thus in areas like Himara, where a significant population of Greek descent traditionally lives, minority rights are not recognised. It is a long-standing effort on Tirana’s part to ‘Albanise’ those regions and eradicate their Greek element,” he added.

The Greek side had responded to the illegal Albanian arrangements in Himara by first expressing its concern and then, following Albania’s continued negative stance, by lodging a demarche with the Albanian ambassador in Athens and informing international organisations and its EU partners, Kotzias said.

“We have made it absolutely clear to the Albanian side that the Greek government and public opinion put great emphasis on the defence and protection, in practice, of all the rights of the ethnic Greek minority, including the right to property/ownership. The foreign ministry is closely following all the issues that concern ethnic Greeks in Albania and always proceeds to take the appropriate actions to defend and protect their rights and to best serve our national interests generally,” Kotzias said.

The degree to which Albanian adheres to these commitments is being monitored, assessed and is a prerequisite for further continuance of its European accession course,” he added.