In a bid to take the sting out of a string of incendiary remarks, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has denied his country is following an irredentist foreign policy with its insistence on discussing the issue of claims made by the Cham community to the property they left behind when they were expelled from Greece during World War II.
“I don’t think that is irredentist to tell people, to tell our kids where Albanians lived and I don’t think it is irredentist to tell people that it was an area that was named Tsamouria,” he said in an all-encompassing interview on Skai TV Tuesday, adding that the Cham community’s claims are a “human rights issue,” and calling for its inclusion in negotiations that would tackle all outstanding bilateral issues dividing the two countries.
Greece has dismissed their claims, saying they were Nazi collaborators.
Rama also rejected claims his country was pursuing a Greater Albania.
“We have Albania, we have Kosovo, we have Albanian people live in south of Serbia, living in [Former Yugoslav Republic of] Macedonia, living in Montenegro. So what? There is no plan, there is no foreseeable one, to collect all these in one natural or Greater Albania,” he said.
His interview came after a diplomatic spat with Tirana over the decision by local authorities in the town of Himara to demolish the homes of 19 ethnic Greek families in the predominantly ethnic Greek seaside holiday resort.
However, Rama was adamant that the demolitions are part of a wide-reaching urban renewal program.
The Albanian prime minister also reiterated the theory that the Parthenon temple on the Acropolis was saved from total destruction in the 17th century due to the efforts of an “Albanian” archbishop.
Earlier Tuesday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras used stern language in a phone conversation with Rama, stressing that the protection of the rights of minority ethnic Greeks was an obligation for Albania as a European Union candidate state, and called on Tirana to scale back nationalist rhetoric “to restore a climate of trust which is necessary to foster bilateral relations.”