Albania, Kosovo: a crucial week in the Balkans

Kosovo and Serbia: debate reignited by Albanian elections

A crucial week for Albania. Political elections in Albania took place on April, 25th. After the re-election of the former President, the opposition has claimed that election results have been manipulated; in the meantime, Serbia has complained about Kosovo’s prime minister voting in Albania. Let’s try to analyse these events, in order to better understand what is happening.

Albania’s parliamentary elections. The last week of April has been crucial for some Balkan countries. The center of the events is constituted by Albania’s elections: the elections held on April 25th led the Socialist Party to the win and Edi Rama, the leader of the party, has collected his third consecutive electoral win — a unique circumstance in Albania’s history, since the birth of the Republic of Albania.

The Prime Minister has won 74 of Parliament’s 140 seats: the socialist party has proved to be the largest party in all the central and southern counties, while all the northern ones have been voting the defeated Democratic Party led by Lulzim Basha.

Edi Rama, the Prime Minister of Albania

Rama has ceremoniously said that his dream is “to make Albania in this decade[…] the Balkan champion”; however, his words were opposed by what was claimed by Basha, his rival — according to whom, the election results have been manipulated.

In fact — says the candidate for the defeated Democratic Party — April 25th in Albania has been an electoral massacre that fosters the need to keep fighting for democracy. Democrats are currently gathering evidence of the presumed fraud, because tens of thousands of ballots were found invalid.

Relationship with Kosovo and Serbia. What has had an international impact, in the context of these elections, is what happened with the Premier of Kosovo, Albin Kurti: being entitled to double citizenship — both Albanian and Kosovar, as many citizens of Kosovo -he has personally voted to Albania’s parliamentary elections. This has raised eyebrows, from the one hand because of the delicate political balance that Kosovo is trying to achieve between Albania and Serbia; and on the other hand, because it comes right a week after a document that has questioned borders in the Balkans — with particular regard to Albania and Kosovo.

The document that has reignited the debate about borders was published by the Slovenian investigative news outlet “Necenzurirano”, and attributed to the Slovenian government (which has, in turn, rejected the paternity of the document). According to this two-page paper, “ the Balkans’ main points of contestation are the unresolved issues of Serbs, Albanians and Croatians”; and in order to solve these longlasting disagreements, the document proposes the unification of Kosovo with Albania while partitioning Bosnia between Serbia and Croatia — basically, the creation of what is called a “Great Albania” and a “Great Serbia”.

However, this unification is far from becoming a real political project since Serbia has never recognised the independence of Kosovo — and therefore it is hard to believe that it would agree to an eventual annexation of Kosovo to Albania.

Kosovo, in fact, declared its independence from Serbia in 2008. However, Serbia has never recognised it. Currently, Kosovo as an independent state has been recognised by 22 out of 27 EU States and, globally, 98UN states out of 193.

Supporters of Edi Rama

However, Serbia not recognising independence in 2008 — and saying it will never recognise it — is only part of a greater chain of conflictual events (one amongst all — Kosovo War between 1998 and 1999, in which the Kosovo Liberation Army fought against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia formed by Serbia and Montenegro).

A look at the ethnicity of the population of Kosovo helps us understand that its population is deeply divided: Kosovo is populated by almost two million people — 92.9% being of Albanian ethnicity, in contrast with the 1.5% of Serbian ethnicity.

Moreover, Edi Rama, had already talked about the connection between Albania and Kosovo, stating that it will be inevitable; while the Prime Minister of Kosovo has recently said that if a referendum was held on Kosovo joining Albania, he would vote yes.

Completely against these statements, the president of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, has shared a post on his Instagram official account, showing Kosovo painted in the colours of Serbian flag. This has triggered a huge number of comments (more than a hundred and fifty thousand) that are split between users that side with Kosovo being part of Serbia and users that support it being part of Albania.

This example, coming not from the institutionalised dimension of politics but taken from the world of social media, is explanatory of the dimension of the topic: it is deeply felt into social sensitivity and individual sense of cultural belonging — it is not a sheer political topic.

The standpoint of the EU. The EU has a clear political line which has been expressed in the resolution of 8 July 2010 on the European integration progress of Kosovo, in which the European Parliament encourages Member States (…) to step up their common approach towards Kosovo with the objective of Kosovo’s accession to the EU and would welcome the recognition by all Member States of the independence of Kosovo.

It is therefore clear that the EU openly supports the recognition of Kosovo, and it has also, in support of this State, launched EULEX Kosovo, the “largest civilian mission under the CommonSecurity and Defence Policy of the European Union”: its mission is to promote and support the rule of law institutions in Kosovo in their path towards effectiveness and accountability, free from any political interference and in compliance with best European practices.

Basically, this impressive mission is aimed at ensuring sustainable development of Kosovo, with the aim of granting its approximation to the EU.

The European Union, as can be seen, has adopted a clear line with regards to Kosovo. What would now be desirable, in the context of such a complicated geopolitical equilibrium, is progressive distension of the relationship between Balkan states, especially in the perspective of joining, in the future, the EU: as the European Parliament stated in the sum mentioned directive, good-neighbourly relations are an essential criterion for the aspirations of Serbia as well as of Kosovo and all the other countries in the region to join the EU.

by Aureliano Morabito

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