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Athens has complained about a rise in Albanian nationalism following controversial statements by Prime Minister Sali Berisha during Albania's centennial celebrations.
“The rise in nationalism of late – in a region like the Balkans, which has suffered greatly from nationalistic, irredentist conduct and stances – needs to be brought under control,” the Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Gregory Delavekouras said.
“I think this is in Albania’s interest and in the interest of the Albanian people, whom Greece has supported all these years,” he added.
Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos cancelled a visit to Tirana last Wednesday after Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha said a Greek town had once been Albanian.
Avramopoulos had been expected to join other heads of state and foreign dignitaries at celebrations marking the 100th year of Albania’s declaration of independence from the Ottoman Empire.
Prime Minister Berisha had recalled a day earlier that the declaration of independence in 1912 had applied to all majority Albanian areas in the region, stretching from Preveza in Greece to Presevo in Serbia, and from the Macedonian capital of Skopje to the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica.
The existence of a large Albanian diaspora outside Albania's borders dates back to the circumstances of the Balkan wars of 1912/13, when Greece, Serbia, Montenegro and Bulgaria overran most of the Ottoman Empire in Europe, dividing it up among themselves.
While Berisha has said he was only referring to past history, the tone of the Albanian leader's words has ruffled feathers in Greece.
“It needs to be clear that we will not tolerate moves and nationalistic stances that drag our region back,” Delavekouras said.
“We need to look to the future and, together build our common European future,” he concluded.
To keep its reform policy credible for investors, the government must find common ground with the IMF and look for a new arrangement, experts say.