Handle with care

Kathimerini’s report yesterday about Greece’s intention to award dual citizenship to Albania’s ethnic Greek minority caused many different reactions. Government spokesman Christos Protopappas and Deputy Interior Minister Lambros Papademas confirmed the report but offered reassurances that they will handle the issue with a full sense of national responsibility. We have no reason to doubt them, but we must stress that the government must not only be sincere, but also look it. In this case, it must avoid any move that could be interpreted as an attempt to woo voters through unwarranted means. The current regime is no doubt causing many problems for Albania’s ethnic Greeks. These people are unable to work for the public sector, are restricted from certain professions, have to put up with a great deal of red tape, and face difficulties when crossing checkpoints at the Greek-Albanian border. Most importantly, these people feel bitter. In Albania, they were under strain because of their Greek origin. In Greece these days, they are subjected to discrimination because many Greeks – including state officials – treat them as Albanians. Attaining Greek citizenship will ease the everyday life of Albania’s ethnic Greeks, and broaden their employment prospects as well as those of their children. Above all, it will be a national and psychological vindication. All these reasons make their demand hard to ignore, even if dangers lurk. In truth, even if a bilateral agreement is signed and the pact is ratified by both parliaments, there will be no guarantee. First, a decision to grant them citizenship will trigger a new influx into Greece, which will enfeeble the Greek minority in Albania. Furthermore, there is nothing preventing a future Albanian government from passing new legislation obliging Albanian citizens with dual citizenship to pick one instead. Should this occur, the overwhelming majority of ethnic Greeks that have moved here will go for Greek citizenship. But this would mean their permanent exile and be the coup de grace for Albania’s ethnic Greek minority. The State must upgrade the Special Identity Document for Ethnic Greeks so as to curb discrimination against the people in question. The granting of citizenship must be put off until the best possible guarantees are in place. These may mean little to the execrable vote-grabbers. But not to Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis: If his comment about the alleged «slyness» is valid, we can only take it as an expression of self-criticism.

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