Sunday, January 6, 2008


XigniteWorldNews delivers daily access to hundreds of international news articles from dozens of high-quality non. Articles are translated to English from full text and summaries of newspaper articles, conference proceedings, television and radio broadcasts, periodicals, and non-classified technical reports.

Albania: Cam Representatives Say Euro MPs To Help Seek Solution of Cam Issue
Report by Denion Ndrenika: "Euro MPs: Greek Citizenship for Cams"
Originally published on 10/29/2006 by Shekulli in Albanian
Representatives of the Cams, ethnic Albanians expelled from Greece at the end of World War II, said in Tirana yesterday that they had obtained from Euro MPs a promise to work for the solution of their problems along two important lines.

Muhedin Tahiri, head of the Party for Justice and Integration [PDI], said that free travel to the ethnic Albanian region of Cameria [in Greece] and the restoration to its former inhabitants of Greek citizenship, of which they were divested in 1953, were two of the issues the Euro MPs said they would work for.

Along with PDI Secretary General Amos Dojaka and other PDI officials, Tahiri presented yesterday [ 28 October] the results of their mid-week visit to the European Parliament and answered questions from a Shekulli correspondent about two issues: first, the restoration of Greek citizenship to the Cams, and second, the assessment of whether the 1996 Treaty of Friendship with Greece contributes to the solution of the Cam issue.

Tahiri explained that the restoration of Greek citizenship was of great importance for the Cams and that [Jorgo] Chatzimarkakis, a German Euro MP of Greek extraction, had committed himself to resolving this problem, that is, to take up this issue with the Greek Government in order to see whether something could be done for the restoration of the Cams' former Greek citizenship, a right of which they were collectively deprived by Greece in 1947 and by the People's Assembly of Albania in 1953 (with the result that about 70% of the Cam refugees have a "common" birthday -- 1 January of that year).

Tahiri said that the 1996 Treaty of Friendship with Greece has never functioned, as it offered no scope for the restoration of the Cams' property in Greece.
He stressed that this [meeting with Euro MPs] was "the first important step on the difficult road to the implementation of the behests of our forefathers."

The PDI leader said: "we presented no title deeds on our olive groves or other property [in Cameria] to the European Parliament, but asked it to work for a political solution to our problems."

In addition, Tahiri underlined that "this was the first time in Albanian political history that a delegation of an Albanian party had succeeded in putting to the European Parliament the 62-years-long concern over the unresolved problem of the Cam population," and that "it was the first time representatives of the European Parliament had heard the voice of the Cam people and listened directly to their requests as expressed by a party that has as part of its program the democratic resolution of the Cam question."

The restoration of Greek citizenship by the Assembly of Albania would force Greece to allow the ethnic Albanians expelled from Greece to return to their land regardless of the illegal rulings by [Greek] courts on the length of residence outside the country (Greece) (that is, exile), whereby after 30 years property rights are supposedly lost.

There are at least eight reports by international -- not Albanian -- lawyers or students dealing with the Cam issue. They figure among the documents contained in the file handed to the Euro MPs. The reports come from, among others, such students [of the issue] as Miranda Vickers, Tom J. Winnifrith, and James Pettifer of the Defense Academy of the United Kingdom. The file contains "political analyses by international experts, historical studies, and proposals for the solution of this forgotten problem," Tahiri said.

He described as "very important" the promise given at the 13th meeting of the EU Parliament and Albanian delegations (25-26 October) for a prospective hearing with the participation of the two sides -- Cams and Greeks -- as well as the possibility of the adoption of a resolution on the Cam issue.

He also said that, this year, his party would expand its activities, including historical and juridical studies. There were two experts -- a lawyer and a historian -- who would work in this direction. They would examine the historic and legal problems in detail in order to facilitate the solution of the problem, which, following Tahiri's meetings with Euro MPs, was still "at the letter A, before the other 35 letters of the Albanian alphabet."

"We have obtained from Euro MPs the promise that they will work for the solution of the Cam question, as well as for the examination of its history. The European Parliament will henceforth keep the very serious Cam question under its consideration," Tahiri said.

The eviction of the Cams from the ethnic Albanian region of Cameria is known to the United Nations, which, through UNRRA [United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration] (the predecessor of the current Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR), gave the Tirana government $26 million in August 1948 in aid for refugees coming from Greece. Cameria, with its four districts -- Ioannina, Thesprotia, Arta (former center of the Greek troops who occupied the region in 1986 [as published; should be 1886], and Preveza -- was given to Greece provisionally by the 1913 London Conference of Ambassadors, and then definitively by the 1923 Lausanne Conference.

Tirana Shekulli in Albanian -- major independent daily

XigniteWorldNews delivers daily access to hundreds of international news articles from dozens of high-quality non. Articles are translated to English from full text and summaries of newspaper articles, conference proceedings, television and radio broadcasts, periodicals, and non-classified technical reports.

The European Union must request Greece to recognize the genocide that has taken place against the Cams, ethnic Albanians living in Greece. This request was addressed by the Party for Justice and Integration [PDI] to EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn. PDI Secretary General Amos Dojaka told a Shekulli correspondent yesterday that the letter was filed by Rehn's office, and now they are waiting for a response, all the more so as Olli Rehn was informed of the Cam issue and confirmed its existence. Dojaka said that "we believe that there can be no durable peace without justice" and that "just as Turkey has been requested to recognize the genocide perpetrated against the Armenians for it to make progress toward its EU membership, the same must also be done with Greece." "Reminding Mr. Rehn that just as the PDI backs EU initiatives requesting Ankara to recognize the genocide perpetrated against the Armenians in 1915-1918 as a precondition for its access to the EU, it holds that Athens too must be requested to recognize the genocide perpetrated by the Greeeks against the innocent and defenseless Cam population in the years 1944-1945," the letter addressed to EU Commissioner Rehn said.
"The genocide against the Cams, ethnic Albanians living in Greece, started as early as 1876, as Greek troops occupied Arta, the main city of the ethnic Albanian region of Cameria. The PDI refers to what it calls a 'strategy' for the elimination of the Cam population in the last years of the Ottoman Empire, in 1915-1918, exactly at the same time as the genocide of the Armenians, which was recognized by the France's National Assembly in the 1990s, was being perpetrated. Informing the European Commission that the strategy for the elimination of the Cam population started in the same years as those of the genocide perpetrated against the Armenians and that the painful events the Cams had to go through and their dimension coincide with the European Commission's definition of genocide, the PDI asks for a rational response on the part of the Commission," the letter continued.

The PDI also recalls what happened in the years 1944-1945 which was the last stage of the Greek genocide against the Cam population, a crime which, on 30 June 1944, the Assembly of Albania formally decided to commemorate as the Day of Greek Genocide, which reached its culmination point with the Paramithia massacres of 27 June 1944 (see Presidential Decree, No. 885, dated 12.07.1994).

Dojaka explained that this request was based on international law and the rights of peoples that have been victims of genocide.

At the request of Hilary Clinton, in September 2002 a hearing session took place at the US Helsinki Commission in the presence of the representative of the Greek Helsinki Committee, Panayiotis Dhimitras who was questioned by Counselor Chadwick Gore about the Cam issue.
According to Dojaka, the PDI addresses its request to the European Commission in order to make Greece recognize the genocide as a sign of respect for the victims of chauvinist violence and for the restoration of justice. The PDI says that it believes that the European Commission entertains no political preconceptions about nationalities, religions, or states, but that, on the contrary, it acts in respect of the universal principles of justice. So, according to Dojaka, "the PDI is waiting for a response from the Albanian and Greek governments, and the European Commission in the spirit of respect for the fundamental human rights of the Cam population."

Tuesday, 1 November 2005, 18:30 GMT
Albania protest halts Greek visit The Çamis say they were badly treated by Greece Greek President Karolos Papoulias has cut short a visit to neighbor Albania, after a minority group's protest which Athens described as disruptive.

Up to 200 demonstrators from the Albanian Muslim Çamis clan gathered outside a hotel where Mr. Papoulias was due to meet counterpart Alfred Moisiu.

The Greek foreign ministry said Albania had not taken steps to ensure a trouble-free meeting.
Albania said the protest was peaceful and Greece's decision unjustified.
"We express our deep regret after this hasty and unexplained decision of the Greek delegation, based on misinformation despite assurances given by the Albanian side," said presidential spokesman Aferdita Sokoli.

'Unacceptable issues'

The two presidents were due to meet in the southern Albanian town of Sarande, opposite the Greek island of Corfu, on Tuesday afternoon.
We want basic rights; we want to be back at our land
Rexhep Ceno, demonstrator

But Mr Papoulias waited at a Greek consulate in another town, Gjirokaster, after hearing about the protest, and left for home when demonstrators failed to disperse.

"The Albanian authorities... did not take measures to deter known extreme elements, who in their effort to block the smooth development of the countries' ties present unacceptable, non-existent issues at a time when Albania is taking steps towards completing its European expectations," a Greek foreign ministry statement said.

Around 35,000 Çamis were expelled from Greece after World War II after being accused of collaboration with the Nazi occupation, they say. They were given Albanian citizenship in 1953.
The demonstrators, carrying banners reading "We want justice" and "Stop the indifference", were demanding compensation for or restitution of properties confiscated by the Greek government.

"We want basic rights. That is our land, our property. We thank the Albanian people for keeping us until now but we want to be back at our land," demonstrator Rexhep Ceno told AP news agency.

Albanian officials and local media said the demonstration was peaceful and under police control. Radio Free Europe,

Çamis Still Pressing For Return of Greek Citizenship, Property
Over the past few years, relations between Albania and neighboring Greece have shown marked improvement. But the two countries are still officially driven by the World War II-era Law of War imposed by Athens after Albania allowed Italian soldiers to transit its territory en route to Greece. The law today is largely a formality and has not prevented the two countries from signing a friendship and cooperation treaty and enjoying healthy trade relations. But until Athens agrees to dissolve the war law, it will continue to control the land and property of some 30,000 mostly Muslim Albanians who were forcibly deported from the province of Çamëria in 1944-45. RFE/RL correspondents Alban Bala and Ulpiana Lama report from Tirana and Prague.

Tirana; Prague, 19 September 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Qani Biraci, a 65-year-old musician living in the Albanian capital Tirana, was just 7-years-old when he and his parents -- along with some 30,000 mostly Muslim Albanians -- were forcibly expelled from the province of Çamëria in Greece.

The expulsion followed Greece's declaration of a Law of War in 1940, after Athens accused Tirana of allowing Italian forces to cross through Albania to Greece. The war law had a brutal impact on the ethnic Albanians of Çamëria, or Çamis -- with Greek army and paramilitary troops forcibly emptying towns in a sweep of violence that left many residents dead and mutilated. Biraci still remembers vividly his own experience nearly 60 years ago:

"When I was seven, I left the town of Filat together with my parents. Passing through [one neighborhood], where the biggest slaughter took place, I witnessed a tragedy, severed heads, pregnant women whose unborn children were cut out of their body and crushed on the ground -- such monstrous crimes. I remember the cleavers, the long carving knives that they used to sharpen in front of us."

Biraci now heads the Political Association of Çamëria, based in Tirana. The group's aim is to help forcibly expelled Albanians to regain Greek citizenship and reclaim some 200,000 hectares of land and property held by Athens since the expulsions. Biraci's group says the value of the sequestered property in Çamëria -- also known by its Greek name of Thesprotia -- amounts to $2.8 billion.

Albania has repeatedly sought to resolve the Çamis issue by pressing Greece to lift the war law. Recently, Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano addressed the Çamëria question during a meeting with Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos.

Greece, however, has consistently dismissed the Çamis question. Following a Çamis rally in Tirana last year, a Greek Foreign Ministry official said: "There is no Çamis issue, and certain parties want to contribute to the destabilization of the region by raising such nonexistent issues. Such matters have been dealt with by history."

Furthermore, a law on the registration of assets passed in 1998 has left Çamis with no legal way to reclaim seized property other than through a lengthy and expensive court procedure.
But Albanian authorities refuse to let the matter rest. Republican parliamentary Deputy Sabri Godo is the country's most outspoken politician on the Çamis issue. He says the issue is sufficiently important to take to an international court should the two countries fail to resolve it on a bilateral level:

"I am of the opinion that the Albanian government, the Albanian parliament, should insist on opening discussions in the proper time and manner. We are not conditioning Greece for further development of relations. If the Greeks are going to categorically refuse to confront this very real problem, then the assistance of a third party might be required."

Martin Vulaj is a member of the National Albanian American Council in New York, which is lobbying to bring the Çamis question before the U.S. Congress. Vulaj says he hopes to move the Çamis issue out of the purely political realm and treat it as more of a human rights issue. He says the U.S. may prove a valuable partner in Albania's struggle to see rights and property restored to displace Çamis:

"I think that the U.S. Congress can help in a lot of ways. Greece is a U.S. ally -- they're both NATO members, so they have strong relations. And Albania has quickly emerged as a stronger ally for the U.S. in the Balkans as well. And U.S. credibility in both nations and America's status as an honest intermediary can facilitate the discussions and encourage resolutions of not only the [Çamis] matter but other issues as well, and can foster an environment where proper relationships can be formed."

Some say unyielding attitudes in Greece may be tied to concern that the restoration of property in the northern Çamëria province may pave the way for a reconfiguration of the Greek-Albanian border. But Mentor Nazarko, a spokesman for former Albanian President Rexhep Meidani, dismisses such speculation:

"In asking for the return of or compensation for their land and property, Albanians are in no way asking for a redefinition of the border, absolutely not. The Greeks might be interested in presenting this way in order to cast Albanians in a negative light, but in fact Albanians' only claim is on the question of property rights."

Biraci of the Çamis political association in Tirana agrees, saying: "All we are asking for is the return of our land, the recognition of our legal property rights."
2 Maj 2006

Et Albanian Daily News No. 3033 2006 October 28-29

Albanian Parliament to Lobby in Favor of Cham Community's Requests "The Cham issue has never been and will never be archived, but it will be resolved in the framework of the international conventions as well as based on the experiences regarding such matters," said Zogaj.

TIRANA - After the deliberations of the European Parliament, which discussed on Thursday the Cham issue forwarded to the Euro-deputies by the head of the Party of Justice and Integration, Tahir Muhedini, the head of the Parliamentary Committee of Foreign Affairs, Preç Zogaj reacted on Friday, saying that official Tirana will be the advocate of the Cham question in Strasbourg. "The Cham issue has never been and will never be archived, but it will be resolved. This issue is not only a bilateral matter between Albania and Greece and it is going to be resolved in the framework of the international conventions as well as based on the experiences regarding such matters. The Albanian state has constantly tried to keep this case opened, respecting the relations with Greece and it has requested, in the context of the friendship that exists between our two countries, the resolving of the problem property and movement of Chams," said Zogaj.

Further on he said that "the Cham community has found the proper solution by directly addressing the European institutions. This is an issue that can be solved with their collaboration because Greece, being a member of the European Union, has some obligations that derive from the membership."

According to Zogaj, the resolving of the Cham issue will strengthen the existing relation between Greece and Albania. The 13th round of the talks held in Strasbourg by the European Parliament with the Albanian parliamentary delegation ended on Thursday with the Cham question being high on the agenda of the proceedings.

When it was discussed the item on minorities, the demand of the Greek Cypriot deputy, Demetriu Panajotis, for the respect of the Greek minority in Albania faced the reaction of all the Albanian deputies who said that whereas the situation of the human rights of the Greek minority is good, Greece continues to not recognize the rights of the Cham population who were forcefully expelled from their lands in Greece during the Second World War.

The chairman of the Socialist Movement for Integration, Ilir Meta, a former Premier, said that generally the Greek minority has the same problems like all the Albanian citizens, which have mainly social and economic character but Greece should resolve the question of the Cham community.

He was backed by the other Albanian lawmakers like Majlinda Bregu of the Democratic Party, Arian Madhi of the Republican Party etc. In her comment, Doris Pack, head of the delegation of the European Parliament for South East Europe, said Greece should allow the representatives of this community to visit their fatherland. "This is a great human problem," she said, adding that the Cham community should visit and put flowers on the graves of their predecessors. The file of Chams has already arrived in Europe and calls for a democratic solution, she concluded.
After Pack's comment, Demetriu Panajotis said Greece as an EU country should absolutely find a solution to this problem and respect the human rights and values. A four-member delegation of the Party for Democracy and Integration, which represents the interests of the Cham community, was in Strasbourg where they had meetings with EP deputies raising the awareness of them on that question.

No comments: