The Greek Foreign Ministry has described plans by Albanian authorities to demolish 19 homes belonging to ethnic Greeks on Thursday in the town of Himara as a violation of their rights as a minority and as an act that will threaten the neighboring country’s bid to join the European Union.
Albania has said the move is part of an effort to regenerate the southern town but, in a statement, the Foreign Ministry in Athens said all of the properties belong to ethnic Greeks, which leads to the “conclusion there is a plan to circumvent the rights of the Greek minority.”
“The events speak for themselves,” it said.
And in what was seen as an effort to counter the Greek accusations, Albania Prime Minister Edi Rama triggered further indignation by claiming in a Facebook post that the monuments of the Acropolis were saved from total destruction in 1686, when the Albanian population of Athens at the time convinced the Venetians – engaged in a war with Greece’s Ottoman rulers at the time – to desist from doing so.
The latest fallout between the two countries follows a recent heightening of tensions over the Albanian Cham community, whose members are demanding compensation after they were expelled from northwestern Greece after World War II.
Athens has dismissed the claim saying they were Nazi collaborators.
Greece expects a further escalation of tension as Albania heads to the polls in June next year, but analysts believe there is more to the nationalist rhetoric emanating from Tirana and cite – as evidence of a calculated plan to bring the issue of the Chams to the fore – the demonstrations organized by members of the community during a visit in June by Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, and the raising of a banner referring to their “genocide” in Greece, during a match at the Euro Soccer Championship in France.