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News 28 Nov 13

Albania Independence Day Fervour Still Grips Kosovo

Kosovo may have become a state some years ago - but most people still see neighboring Albania’s flag as, in some sense, theirs, too.

Edona Peci

Although November 28,independence day in Albania, is not an official holiday in Kosovo, the Albanian ethnic majority throughout the country still celebrates it with fervour.

Albanian national flags are put out in almost every street of Pristina, the capital, while most shops don’t work that day.

Celebrations continue in the evening in decorated cafés and restaurants.

“We celebrate because we are one nation,” Burjan Nimanaj, a 26-year-old student, told Balkan Insight.

Kosovo declared independence fromSerbia in 2008 and has since had its own flag and national anthem, but many people still identify with the Albanian flag.

However, some do not. Deniz Ismajli, aged 17, is one of them.

“I know the majority celebratesNovember 28 because we are all Albanians, but I think this should stop becausewe have our own Independence Day and our own flag”, he said.

“November 28 connects us historically, because Albanians used to live in one state that was split into pieces, but reality has changed now,” he added.

Albania declared independence from the collapsing Ottoman Empire in 1912, and was recognized by the great powers at the London Conference in July 1913.

But the borders of the new state were drawn narrowly, reflecting the weakness of the Albanians vis-a-vis the other nationalities in the Balkans, most of which already had their own states. As a result, the border in several places ignored demographic realities.

The idea of a “Greater Albania”,uniting majority Albanian communities in Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia, andAlbania remains a hot issue among historians, politicians and experts and many ordinary people.

But the international community is having one of it.

Kosovo politicians, meanwhile,remain divided on how to deal with November 28.

Unlike Atifete Jahjaha, theKosovo President and Hashim Thaci, the Prime Minister, who carefully congratulated only the people of Albania, Jakup Krasniqi, the speaker of parliament, said he wanted to congratulate “all Albanian people” on the day.

“Today, Albanians honour the flag…convinced that with even more willpower we will move towards comprehensive progress, national unity and Euro-Atlantic integration,” Krasniqi said in a press release, drawing no division between Albanians in Kosovo, Albania or other Albanian-populated states in the region.

Experts in Pristina say November 28is an emotive occasion for all Albanians in the Balkans, but they differ on whether Kosovo should celebrate it as well.

Mehmet Kraja, of the Academy ofScience of Kosovo, told Balkan Insight that Kosovo Albanians celebrate November28 “mainly because it deals with their identity.

“November 28 is a manifestation of identity and at the same time it is a rejection of attempts to divide the nation,” he said.

He said the question was why “Kosovowas constrained to approve a constitution that rules out …some of the right sthat are natural and normal for any nation,” meaning national unification.

The constitution specifically states that “the Republic of Kosovo has no territorial claims towards any state or part of any state, and will not unite with any state or part of any state”.

Halil Matoshi, a political analyst, said the dream of union with Albania was damaging to Kosovo.

“Nationalism amongst Albanians will fade as time goes by,” he predicts.

“I believe that European and global integration will transform the nationalism characterized by myths,legends and icons into a ‘nationalism of law’,” he added.

“People will gradually understand that social welfare, economic development and a stat eof law and order are more important,” he concluded.

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