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Reply to my unknown Greek friend
by Sokol Balla / Panorama newspaper
Dear professor, for a series of coincidences and to avoid misunderstandings, I read in advance and also agreed in advance with the director of the largest and most important Albanian newspaper, "Panorama", to respond in parallel to your article, published today in this newspaper.
My name is Sokol Balla. But every time I cross the border into Greece (a place I visit often, not just because we are geographically close), your police officers at the border checkpoint ask me about my father's name. The reason is that another Albanian, with a name like mine and a similar surname (Bala) and with a birthday similar to mine (I 7. 5. 1973 and the other 8. 5. 1974), will probably have some problems small with the laws of your country. Once, at Venizelos Airport, just as I was jokingly showing a picture of myself to the then Foreign Minister of Greece, Professor Kotzias, the police, confused, left me alone apologizing. In fact, they were doing their job, and yes: there are Albanians who have problems with the laws in your country. But there are much Greek police and customs officers, since I cross the land border roads, because of my work, they know me and respect me. But it has not been, and unfortunately, it is still not so for many Albanians there who have a life of their own.
You rightly write that the Albanians of the second and third generations today are integrated in Greece. Many of them excel in the best schools, are given the Greek flag to hold the first day of school in Greece, and yet their parents are still denied Greek passports and voting rights. Because they are Albanians. Many of them have Christian names. They have changed them. You can rightly say that they did it of their own free will. But I say they did it to get the residence documents, which they can not get, without the blessing of the Church.
You can rightly say that the Church is still part of your state. Not us. At this point, we have chosen a model different from yours and we believe that this ion is a European model. But we know that Greece is no longer an obstacle for us in European integration, although it has not always been so. You mention, not without reason, Turkey, which, unlike Greece, you say, seeks to revive the spirit of a new empire, not just spiritual, in the Muslim countries of the Balkans, where you also list us.
Albania has in fact been a clinically atheist country for half a century and we are not very proud of this dark part of history. We feel guilty that the communist regime of that time killed many Catholic priests, some Muslim clerics, and some Orthodox priests, because they, along with religion, preserved the spirit of resistance to the dictatorship. But we are not a Muslim country today. Albania is a secular country, where religion does its job, without confusing the state, while Albanians have different religions and where numbers do not matter much. True, it is very true that Turkey is worried about financing more mosques in this country and is doing very well. Mosques are the houses of God, as are churches, and now you too have your mosque in the middle of Athens, even old Athens, at the foot of the Parthenon. But the Turks today have nearly $ 2 billion in investments in Serbia. And Serbia, as you know, is not a Muslim country, not even a secular one.
We are rebuilding our relationship with God, in our own way. I am of Muslim descent, but my son has a Celtic Catholic name and my daughter an ancient name originating from Bethlehem, and no one knows to separate him if he is a Christian or a Jew. But my two children were born in Greece and their Albanian passport says "birthplace: Athens".
This is not a problem for Albanian police officers. Nor for the Greek police. But I do not know if it would be so if they were born in Parga or Paramithi. I know that for a 90-year-old woman this was a problem a few years ago. I accept in principle what you write, that these feelings are sometimes "exchanged in political actions", but we must be more honest when trying to answer the question of who is to blame for this.
As a journalist, I have a pathological relationship with the truth and I believe more in causality than in causality. I read to you with enthusiasm that you think as I think, that we have many vain misunderstandings between us and that you, like me, believe that Greeks and Albanians are brotherly and friendly peoples. You rightly say that in the meantime it matters to you how Albania treats the (ethnic you say) Greek minority. But my aunt (sorry!) Married 35 years ago to an Albanian, whose father was born in Paramithi. They are Albanians of course, but they call themselves Chams, just as I call myself "Tirana", from the region to which I belong. You write in your letter that there is no "Cham issue". While I have only one question for you: How can the Cham issue not exist, while the Chams exist?
My first cousins are Chams. And they are 33 and 23 years old. Chameria exists in them. So, as a great philosopher said: “I am, therefore I exist: My aunt's husband says they have a lot of property in Paramithi, but they can't get it. Your state forbids them. You meanwhile say he can go to court. I doubt this, while you have a collective definition of the Chams as collaborators of Nazism and you know better than I do that the laws of your state deny property rights to collaborators. How such a whole community can be called, you should know better, because you are a well-known professor in your country, but my legal knowledge suffices to say with certainty that the law recognizes individual rather than collective responsibility. Ah and let us not forget: still formally in power, we are in a state of war.
It is a paradox you say in your letter because we are two NATO member countries and the law of war is overcome. But you and Turkey are also in a paradox, you are both NATO countries, and with the barrels of arms turned from each other. You do not have this risk with us, but since you say that the law of war is "obsolete", I think you should remove it yourself and there is no need to include it in the negotiations between us. Because, as you say in your letter, Greece has never used its superior position (in the EU or NATO) to condition Albania. And Albanians do not set conditions, they do not demand privileges. They just demand equality.
Since you say that Greek law guarantees this to Albanians, then let us make a compromise: call them Albanians and remove the law of war. As some here say that you keep it, precisely that these Albanians who for us are also Chams, you want not to return the property. Do you see it? Here is proof of why I believe in causality and not a coincidence and how it is up to you to try me wrong. But I do not fear that this is not the case and I agree with you when you say that we need to overcome these misunderstandings as soon as possible.
This is what you ask of us when it comes to the minority and the conditions that you often remind us of, even when you do not call them such. Because you say that Greece has never set conditions for the Balkan countries, based on its superior position. And I think over the decades, Athens has become a point of reference for Balkan interests, despite the fact that Skopje still has another impression of what you do not call conditions.
Condition or not, I do not know, but in the midst of an internal political crisis of ours years, while the EU set some conditions for us, your Honorable Prime Minister mentioned this word, when he asked for attention to the (minority you say) Greek minority in Albania. And I think we should definitely respect minorities, but the (ethnic you say) Greek minority in Albania is not just a minority. He is part of us. We have them in government, in Parliament, in the administration, in the media, in the family, and in society. Their political representation is a national concern of ours, so much so that, in addition to the three special political parties, the minorities find deputies in the "Albanian" parties, and believe me, they do not feel bad there. Meanwhile, 1 million Albanians live in Greece. An Albanian woman tried to be elected to your Parliament, but failed. That's what happened to him because he chose the wrong party, or that he was of Albanian origin, I do not know for sure yet. I know for sure that if almost 1 million Albanians living regularly in Greece had the right to vote, they would certainly have, at least in local government, their representatives. As they have for example in Italy, where they were chosen because of the numbers. Or in Belgium and Sweden, where they voted because of the qualities and equality of opportunity. Has this happened in Greece as well? Maybe, but until I hear it, it certainly is not a phenomenon. Whereas in 2015, when the Administrative Reform took place, some local units were hardly defined, only to respect adequate minority representation in local government. The signal of two or three Greek televisions comes to our screens for free.
Of course, there are problems. Some time ago, a young minority was killed in an attempt by the Albanian Police in a village in Dropull. But I assure you as a journalist from the footage we had provided then, the deceased boy demanded this clash, which became fatal, not for the words he said, but for the weapons he used.
He used the same words, for which you, in fact, imprisoned his political idols 13 years in prison, ten days ago in Athens. And I think in principle, what is bad for you politically in Athens, can not be good for us in Dropull. And Dropulli is one of the most beautiful areas of Albania, where mainly Greek is spoken, but Albanian is voted. Albanian, I say in the sense of state and not nationality. Unlike you, we have these two things separate and we have no complex about it. Therefore, a "Jorgo" in Dropull will never return to "Isuf". Nor will it ever be needed either. This unsolicited but necessary answer, I have taken care to write for a Greek reader. And so I will continue when I return to you an unsolicited answer to the unresolved issue of the maritime border between us.
You have a lot of unresolved issues and it really's time to leave them behind. You rightly state that the 2009 agreement was opposed by those in government today and that an almost successful negotiation between our government today and Athens is opposed by those who signed it themselves, in 2009. But I believe, as scholars, we should you have been convinced by these facts, that nothing has a nationalist background, but simply a political one. Even Sali Berisha, who in 1995 arrested minorities and treated them as criminal and political prisoners, makes a few jokes when he accuses that after the collapse of the sea agreement in our Constitutional Court in 2010, it was Erdogan's hand. In fact, the Constitutional Court of 2010 was totally under the control and influence of Sali Berisha, then a powerful Prime Minister.
The reasons why those judges decided to formally rise up against their political boss, they themselves know. Maybe Mr. Berisha knows them too, who has a personal hobby of playing with two gates. As for the conscience of those judges, I can not trust, my dear Greek friend. Not even when some regard them as patriots. Those who made that decision a decade ago are now all dismissed as unworthy of the platoon of judges. Because Albania is changing, dear friend. Becoming more dignified and increasing self-esteem. And that does not mean we are becoming nationalists. No. We simply feel more equal or more similar to Europeans, including Greeks, as a good part of them. We have also found an expression for the nationalist that you also use.
We call him "mascara" and he still has one under his shelter, but not many people follow him. Because we do not need. Because you too have changed in front of us. I do not know if it's more your merit or ours, but do you know that it does not matter much? I do not know how much you follow the sport, but it was so beautiful when I saw a few days ago Kosovo (which I hope Greece recognizes as soon as possible) to play at the Olympic Stadium in Maroussi, just 500 meters from Egyia, the maternity hospital where the children were born. my. 10-15 years ago Greece chose to face Albania in gladiatorial arenas and isolated places like Crete, while in Athens if Albania scored a goal, at least one Albanian would surely be killed. Not today. So you have changed too.
I am very happy when you suggest that if we do not reach an agreement (but I believe we will), we should calmly turn to the International Court of Justice together, where we will resolve the issue of the common sea, as people. How beautiful: as people! Because we are the same, professor. We have much to learn from you, as the whole world learned, democracy, politics, discourse, philosophy, art, and theater from your ancient ancestors. A friend of mine told me that while listening to a drama in Athens, in ancient Greek, it sounded very much like our beautiful, strong, and harsh Albanian.
Every time I go to Athens by car and enter "Kakia Skala" or pass by Kineta, every time I step on Plaka, I take a deep breath and smile with our Albanian words that you use without complex (I believe), and my hope and confidence increase, that we will not have to wait for several generations of grief and wounds to die, to resolve as human beings the remaining disputes and continue to coexist, not as a punishment of nature that made us eternal neighbors, but as common members, voluntary and desirable, of the same family, that EUROPEAN. And finally, let me be a little jealous of you: I would very much like this article of mine to be published in "Kathimerini", as your article is published today in the most important Albanian newspaper today. But for this, apparently, we will have to wait a little longer. Time does not flow the same for everyone.