Debates on the existence or non-existence of the Cham issue

Debates on the existence or non-existence of the Cham issue

Tirana, 30 September 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Edison Kurani

Debates have erupted in the recent hours in Albania as to whether a Cham issue exists or not.

The first one to be expressed were political forces and associations that protect the interests of the Cham community in Albania and this came a few hours after the European Commission issued signals about a possible recognition of the “Cham cause”.

In a hearing with MEPs, Commissioner Johannes Hahn has stopped on the bilateral mechanism in addressing historical issues between the two countries, which are part of the Bushati-Kotzias package. He said that the Commission recognizes the “Cham issue” as such.

This declaration came as a response that Commissioner Johannes Hahn gave to the concern of the Greek MEP, Maria Spyraki in relation to what she considered as “Albania’s irredentist claims”, listing a number of events taken place prior and during the visit of minister Kotzias in Tirana.

The MP started her argument by mentioning the declarations issued by PM Edi Rama in the Convention of the Party for Justice, Integration and Unity. She also pointed out the protest held during the visit of the Greek minister to Tirana. At the end, the New Democracy MEP addressed two questions for Commissioner Hahn:

“Does the Commission consider the actions of this party (PDIU) which is part of the government, as being in the spirit of good neighboring relations, this being a prerequisite for Albania’s accession?

-Will the abovementioned events be taken into account in the progress report for Albania?”, the Greek MP inquired.

Mr. Hahn’s  reply was: “The Commission praised the fact that high level exchanges between authorities in Albania and Greece have intensified. Diplomatic relations between the two countries and political dialogue have been boosted. The Commission welcomed the fact that the two countries are discussing the creation of a joint mechanism, which will gather on a periodical basis in order to address bilateral pending issues. These issues include the determination of the continental shelf and maritime areas between Albania and Greece, the rights of minorities and the Cham cause. The Commission has praised these efforts, expressing its recognition for the renewal of such important bilateral diplomatic engagement.”

Strong reaction by the Greek Foreign Ministry

A few hours after Top Channel published the news that the EU Enlargement Commissioner, Johannes Hahn considered the Tcham case as a debatable issue between Albania and Greece, came the reaction from Athens.

In a declarations considered as one of the strongest ones in the recent years by this ministry, it has demanded to the Commissioner to withdraw his declaration and correct it, as “he has exceeded his competences, intervening in the affairs of member countries and provoking debates on issues which do not exist”.

The statement says:  “The reply Commissioner Johannes Hahn gave to the question Maria Spyraki, MEP for New Democracy, posed with regard to Albania is untruthful and unacceptable.

As is known, there is no cham issue and, as a result thereof, never has it been accepted as a topic in negotiations between the governments of Greece and Albania.

Commissioner Hahn through his untruthful response demonstrates his failure to exercise his duties on the basis of the impartiality principle so that the common interest of the Union may be promoted as provided for in Article 17 of the Treaty of Lisbon.

He has already been asked for, and is obligated by virtue of his institutional role to, immediately provide convincing explanations as to the unacceptable and erroneous content of his contentious reply”.

Later came the reaction of Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Stratos Efthymiou. In reply to the question of a journalist concerning the statements that the Spokesperson of the European Commission, Ms Maja Kocijancic, made today with reference to the response Commissioner Hahn gave to a query submitted by an MEP, Efthymiou stated: “Some people in Brussels do not understand the importance of not lying”.

“Cham celebrations” in Albania

“The great news arrived. The great hour for Chameri and century old injustices just came… Commissioner Hahn just demanded Greece to handle the Cham issue in the framework of the pending issues between the two countries”.

This was declared by the chairman of PDIU, Shpetim Idrizi. Idrizi exploited the declaration issued by Mr. Hahn politically: “The endless efforts, sacrifice and love for our cause of bringing back the dignity of the martyr Cham population led to the official introduction of this case in the EU’s official agenda”.

“On to our next victory. We will never forget it”, said Mr. Idrizi, who is also deputy speaker of the Albanian parliament.


A few hours after this declaration and the reaction of the Greek Foreign Ministry, Idrizi’s enthusiasm turned into anger for Athens. Idrizi didn’t spare his tough tones: “The reaction of the Greek Foreign Ministry looks to me as the reply of the ‘toughest kid in the neighborhood’. An unacceptable and grotesque arrogance”, Idrizi said. But Idrizi also reacted when he said: “I feel sorry for today’s Greek government, which forces me to say that it is defending the crimes of the murdering gangs of Napoleon Zerva”.

For Idrizi, “Commissioner’s Hahn declaration is a slap for the Greek nationalism which proves that the Cham issue is neither a bilateral issue, nor a multilateral issue, but a basic human rights issue”.

The head of PDIU also launches a public warning: “The Cham issue will exist for as long as there even one Albanian of Chameri remaining”. /