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Serbian media on the 'Beleri' case: Albania and Greece are officially still at war
Greece is indirectly threatening to veto the start of negotiations for Albania's membership in the European Union.
Bilateral relations between the two countries have been strained for a long time and many problems have their roots in the past, writes Serbian media B92.
Albania and Greece are officially still at war
This includes disputes over the definition of maritime zones, the state of war between the two countries, which officially still continues, and the issue of property rights of members of the Greek minority in Albania.
After Italy attacked Greece from occupied Albanian territory, Greece declared war on Albania in October 1940. Although Albania and Greece signed a friendship agreement in 1996, the two NATO members are technically still at war.
According to the representative of the Greek Foreign Ministry, the Greek government agreed to end martial law in 1987, but the Greek parliament never ratified that decision. Martial law has long been a source of tension between the two countries.
Ending martial law is important for Albania, as it could open the door to reparations negotiations for the Cham minority. That Albanian minority lived for a long time in today's northwestern Greek region of Epirus. After World War II, Greece expelled and confiscated the properties of a large number of Muslim Chams because they had allegedly collaborated with the invaders. After the end of the dictatorship in the 1990s, Albania demanded reparations from Greece and the Cham ethnic group in Albania is demanding the right to return to Greece. No success so far.
The candidate for mayor is arrested in Albania
However, the biggest point of contention between the two countries is currently the case of Fredi Beleri, a 52-year-old member of the Greek minority in Albania, who was elected mayor of the Albanian municipality of Himara on May 14, 2023. Most of the people who live there are a Greek minority.
Beleri could not take the oath, as he was arrested on the charge of vote buying. He categorically denies it. All his requests for release or taking office have been rejected so far by the Albanian courts. In the background of that case is probably the fight for land and real estate on Albania's picturesque Adriatic coast and Himara's potential as a tourist resort.
"Many properties on the coast belong to ethnic Greeks who live in Himara and the surrounding villages," says Skerdian Duli, a lawyer from Himara. "However, for various reasons - mainly due to corruption in public institutions dealing with real estate - local owners cannot invest in their real estate." Local Albanian property owners were also affected.
Greece reacted strongly to the arrest and detention of Beler, accusing Albania of violating the rule of law and the rights of the Greek minority. Athens claims that his detention was politically motivated and has hinted that it could block the start of Albania's EU membership negotiations. To start these negotiations, we must remind you that all EU members must vote for it.