Albanian demarche raises concerns about possible territorial claims over Greece

A strong-worded demarche delivered by Albania to Greek authorities over energy exploration indicates that Tirana is asserting territorial claims along the land border dividing the two Balkan neighbors, Kathimerini understands.

Last week’s demarche, which called on Athens to revise its plans for hydrocarbon exploration in the Ionian Sea on the grounds it would encroach on Albanian territorial waters, also requested Greek officials to make available land surveys of Epirus in northwestern Greece.

Speaking to Kathimerini, diplomatic sources interpreted the move as a clear bid to question existing borders between the two nations. On a political level, the demarche is seen as a high-risk initiative for Albania and bilateral relations.

The same sources said that these moves are inspired by the nationalist ideal of so-called Greater Albania – all parts of the Balkans where ethnic Albanians live – that is popular among the country’s politicians.

According to maps made public in 2011 by then-Energy Minister Yiannis Maniatis, surveys were to be conducted in a large area north of the town of Ioannina. There had been no official reaction from Tirana officials at the time.

Analysts suspect that Albanian protests are being fuelled by Turkey. Concerns that Ankara is working against Greek interests in the area were strengthened last week after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Tirana with officials from the nationalist Party for Justice, Integration and Unity (PDIU). Diplomats told Kathimerini that the meeting was most likely aimed at rekindling an issue regarding the repatriation of Cham Albanians expelled from Epirus at the end of World War II following claims they had collaborated with the Nazis. Greece considers the matter closed.

In light of these developments, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias has not confirmed whether he will attend the meeting of ministers of foreign affairs of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) in Tirana on Friday.

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