Brussels sought to downplay comments by European Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn, who lumped the claims by the Cham community in Albania along with other disputes in the negotiations between Tirana and Athens, saying the matter was “blown out of proportion.”
The Cham community in Albania claim their property was confiscated by the Greek state when they were expelled from northwestern Greece during World War II, but Athens has dismissed their claim, saying they were Nazi collaborators, and does not recognize it as an issue.
Hahn’s comments, in response to a question by conservative MEP Maria Spyraki, drew a vehement reaction in Athens and from the lawmaker herself, who described them as “untrue and unhistorical.”
“As is known, there is no Cham issue and, as a result thereof, never has it been accepted as a topic in negotiations between the governments of Greece and Albania,” the Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that “through his untruthful response, Hahn demonstrates his failure to exercise his duties on the basis of the impartiality principle.”
However, officials in Brussels insisted Thursday that it was a case of “lost in translation” and told Kathimerini that the matter is “of no importance here” and that the Greek Foreign Ministry had “overreacted.”
Spyraki raised the issue in June when Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, on a visit to Tirana, was greeted by protests from Cham community members.
“Albania is a candidate for EU membership and has received, since 2014, 649.9 million euros from EU funds,” she told Kathimerini, adding that the Commission is “obliged” to take into account political acts aimed against a member country, Greece.