Greeks or Albanians?

Members of Albania’s ethnic Greek minority have been pressing for Greek citizenship in addition to retaining their Albanian citizenship. This would allow them to enjoy the rights of full Greek citizenship rather than using a Special Identity Document for Ethnic Greeks which they say functions more as a residence permit for aliens and makes them subject to discrimination. But although both the ruling PASOK party and New Democracy appear to be tempted to grant the request, in the apparent hope of a bonanza of votes in elections in eight months’ time, this would entail the danger of many ethnic Greeks losing their Albanian citizenship. This would be a serious blow to the minority’s presence in Albania. About 200,000 have received the special ID cards and tens of thousands more have applied. An organization of ethnic Greeks, named after the missionary «Cosmas the Aetolian,» has been pressing for dual citizenship for years. On May 12, its representatives met with Parliament Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis, four days after they held a demonstration. The issue was discussed a few days ago in Parliament’s Committee for Greeks Abroad and it appears the way will open for dual citizenship, Kathimerini’s Stavros Lygeros reports. There would be no objections to this if there were guarantees that these people would be able to retain their Albanian citizenship. But this is not assured. Albania’s citizenship law of 1998 allows dual citizenship, as does the relevant European convention which Albania’s Parliament ratified two months ago. Both give Albania the right, whenever it so wishes, to tell its citizens to choose which of the two they will retain. If this were to happen, at least the majority of the ethnic Greeks of Albania who live here will opt for Greek citizenship. Minority organizations, such as Omonia, are aware of the danger to Greeks’ age-old presence in Albania and have called for legal and political guarantees. One of these would be a bilateral agreement signed by the two parliaments which would bind Tirana to retaining dual citizenship. Athens had sounded out Tirana on this recently and received a negative answer. But Deputy Interior Minister Lambros Papademas told ethnic Greek organizations that Albanian Interior Minister Ben Blushi told him he was prepared to sign a bilateral agreement accepting dual nationality. Experts are discussing this but there has been no news on developments.

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