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Sali Berisha: ‘The Albanian issue is solved’

TIRANA – The independence of Kosovo has definitively settled the Albanian issue in the Balkans, Prime Minister Sali Berisha told Kathimerini. Berisha spoke of Greece’s dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over the latter’s name, noting that it was an issue that concerns the entire region, and that Albania «is keenly interested» in seeing a compromise solution. He said that he did not see any tendency to redraw borders in the region since Kosovo’s independence. On recent Cam rallies concerning land, Berisha said property issues had to be resolved in the courts, and asserted that the borders of Greece and Albania were fixed and inviolate. Prime Minister Berisha, I imagine you are doubly happy at the moment. The door of NATO was opened to Albania at the meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels and Kosovo became independent. There are certainly important events, but I am also thinking about other friendly nations in the Balkans, because it is my profound belief that the independence of Kosovo is a great contribution to peace and stability in the region. What makes you think that its independence will calm the region when there is widespread fear that it will unleash troubles? What about the Serbs in Bosnia, the Hungarians in Vojvodina and Transylvania? Won’t they try to secede? Kosovo is a completely different case. If you look at history, you will see that Kosovo was never a component of Serbia. It was a part of Greater Serbia, and as such was under occupation. The fight the Serbs are putting up for the so-called cradle of the nation is not based on history but on myths. In the past, Greece, Kosovo, and Albania had a Slavic history, but it was a history of occupation that lasted for a period, then the Slavs withdrew. That is a fact. In 1389 Serbs, Albanians and Hungarians fought together on the plain of Kosovo. From 1912, Kosovo was a vilayet of the Ottoman Empire, It was given to the Serbs for a fee for a century. During that century, the Serbs did not create meaningful relations with Kosovo; on the contrary, it established a colonial type of regime. During that century, the Serbs adopted a nationalistic ideology, not only in regard to ethnic Albanians but to other ethnic groups. Do you know that the Croats united voluntarily with the Serbs but separated from them a century later because of the Serbs’ hegemonic behavior? In that sense, the independence of Kosovo will help Serbia a lot. It will free the Serbs of their myths and bring them back to reality. Do you agree with those of your fellow Albanians who argue that the independence of Kosovo has turned a new page for the Albanian nation but has not yet finished the book? I think that the independence of Kosovo puts an end to the indeterminate state of the Albanians in the Balkans. There are Albanians in southern Serbia, Montenegro and FYROM. In fact there are minorities everywhere. Their rights in this context of agreements about minorities must be respected, but the idea of redrawing the borders is unproductive, as it would create new tension and insecurity for the next 15-20 years, a period which we could use to get into Europe. Ohrid Agreement So in your view, has the independence of Kosovo settled the Albanian issue in the Balkans? I believe it has been definitively solved. But the Ohrid Agreement must be respected. Yet there is feeling on the international stage that after the defeat of Serbian nationalism, the Western Balkans have not calmed down because now Albanian irredentism will raise its head? I believe that the independence of Kosovo will have the opposite effect of that which some analysts claim. The borders are open and fixed among all the nations in the region and among ethnic Albanians who live in different countries. Personally, I don’t see the independence of Kosovo as being any encouragement in the direction you said. My view is that it will have the opposite effect. In a discussion long before the recent events in Kosovo, you told me that you saw talk of Greater Albania as a myth. Now, following the independence of Kosovo, might such a prospect not emerge, causing worse problems? As you know, much blood was shed in the past in the name of Greater Bulgaria, Greece or Serbia. Now some people are dreaming of a Greater Albania, others of a Greater Macedonia. Irredentist dreams have not disappeared from the Balkans. I absolutely agree with your observation. It is my profound belief that the independence of Kosovo is the definitive solution of this issue. But I must point out something: The implementation of the Ohrid Agreement is very important. You may say that the idea of Greater Albania is an idea with destabilizing tendencies, but I can tell you that fear of ethnic Albanians on the part of other Balkan countries was completely unproductive. I think that what is important for our countries is for their citizens to be treated equally before the law. And I repeat that I see no such tendency to redraw existing borders.