By Roland Qafoku
The Crete meeting between the Greek Foreign Minister, Nikos Kotzias with his Albanian counterpart, Ditmir Bushati, seems to be introducing a new era of relations between Albania and Greece. An era which would bring a solution for all six important issues which start with the agreement on sea borders and continental shelf, the war law, Greek minority in Albania, the issue of Cham properties, the Greek soldiers fallen in Albania and the Chams killed in Greece, the Apostille stamps, school texts and the recognition of Albanian driving licenses.
In the history of relations between the two states, the three day meeting in Crete brought the two countries closer and filled the participants in this meeting with so much desire to address so many issues at the same time, issues which have not been addressed for decades. Such meeting which was held under such a friendly atmosphere and with so much desire to solve so many issues, resembles to the meeting taken place in 1900, when Ismail Qemali visited Athens. Historians and researchers of relations between Albania and Greece, have marked the meeting taken place 117 years ago between him and the king of Greece, George I. It was an absurd situation, because in 1900, Greece had just declared its independence, while Albania hadn’t and in that meeting, Ismail Qemali represented Turkish administration. While Ismail Qemali entered the meeting with the Greek king, Ismail Qemali learned that his adjutant in the anteroom was Albanian. In his memoirs, Ismail Qemali writes that the Albanian adjutant of the King of Greece told him:
“Please, Ismail bey, don’t let these hot-headed people get to you. Do everything you can to build a free Albania for all of us, in order for all of us to unite there”.
Following the audience and the official visit, Ismail Qemal Vlora didn’t mention any hot-headed people or a tense situation. He didn’t mention any disgruntlement or war with the neighbors. Instead, in his memoirs he wrote something which was ahead of his time and worthy of the 21st century. The Albanian, who 12 years later would declare Albania an independent state by being a Prime Minister and a Foreign Minister at the same time, he wrote a terrible prediction for that period:
“Although the political events ever since have given a different turn to the feelings between the two countries, I’m sure that sooner or later, the love that both Albanians and the Greek have for freedom will enable them to reach a new balance in the Balkan Peninsula, a balance which will serve everyone’s interests”.
The meeting between Kotzias and Bushati seems to be a continuation of the meeting held between Ismail Qemali and George I.
The no. 1 problem for both ministers relates to the heavy burden of the events that have been produced in these 117 years.
Time has come to leave this dark part of history between the two countries behind. Once again, Ismail Qemali comes to our aid with the fact that his wife, Kleoniki Surmeli was Greek and he had 10 children with her. This is what the founder of the Albanian state wrote:
“Similarities in race and traditions and the role that the two nations have played in ancient and modern times, had prompted mutual sympathy between Albanians and Greeks”.
Today, Ditmir Bushati is accused of being welcomed with songs and dances in Crete. But, let us not forget that even Ismail Qemali, who would become the first Albanian Foreign Minister, was received with celebrations in Athens.
“The reception that I received everywhere in Athens, a city which I had loved and admired since childhood, touched me profoundly and for a moment, I thought I was in my country, going from one celebration to another.”
The good news in this story is that Kotzias and Bushati will soon hold another meeting, but this time, in the Albanian capital. A new era has started. A continuation of what Ismail Qemali pinpointed during his visit to Athens in 1900.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy