The Greek Foreign Ministry on Monday night issued an announcement accusing the Albanian government of an “action that cultivates and conceals irredentism” in the renovation of the capital’s main Skenderbeg Square.
The square, unveiled earlier this month, is paved with slabs of stones from different parts of the Balkans to symbolize “national unity.”
“We condemn the placement, in Tirana’s redeveloped central square, of stones from various regions of the Balkans, including from the Greek region of Filiates,” the ministry said. “These stones, on which their regions of origin are inscribed, constitute a work that symbolizes the ‘unity of Albanian territories’ and is clearly a state action that cultivates and conceals irredentism.”
The ministry went on to label the initiative as “yet another provocation from the Albanian government, which is openly undermining good neighborly relations.”
“This is tangible proof of the central support for irredentist tendencies against the countries bordering Albania, given that the names of regions of various Balkan states are literally etched in stone,” the Greek ministry said.
Relations between Athens and Tirana have soured in the wake of nationalist rhetoric by Prime Minister Edi Rama championing the notion of a “Greater Albania.”
Claims made by the Cham community to the property they left behind when they were expelled from Greece during World War II is another divisive issue, with Athens arguing that the Chams were Nazi collaborators.
The tension was further heightened last November when Rama claimed in a Facebook post that the Parthenon temple on the Acropolis was saved from total destruction in the 17th century due to the efforts of an “Albanian” archbishop.
A decision by local authorities in the town of Himara last year to demolish the homes of 19 ethnic Greek families in the predominantly ethnic Greek seaside holiday resort, also added fuel to the fire.
At the square’s unveiling on June 12, Rama called it “the square of our national and European identity,” according to Reuters.
“Even today, unfortunately, dangerous and obsolete mindsets of the previous century are undermining the region’s progress and prosperity, creating a stone obstacle to Albania’s European future,” the Greek Foreign Ministry said.