13 August 2013
A growing nationalistic tone by some parties in Albania has officials trying the shift the public's attention to the country's EU accession.
The Red and Black Alliance, a new political party, recently lodged a request to hold a public referendum on Albania-Kosovo unity with the Central Elections Commission.
A 2012 December poll by Kult Foundation showed that about 63 percent of Albanians were in favour of Albania and Kosovo joining.
Other events have shown nationalistic tendencies as well. Prime Minister Sali Berisha's declaration that "Albania lies from Presevo (Serbia) to Preveza (Greece)" led to the cancellation of a scheduled visit by the Greek foreign minister, and the president of Macedonia cancelled a visit to Tirana after a group of youths burned the Macedonian flag.
"There is a growing tendency of the nationalistic spirit and ideas among the political parties and representatives of the state-owned institutions. We must raise the debate on the European project against the so-called project on Greater Albania," Albert Rakipi, executive director of the Albanian Institute for International Studies, told SETimes.
The EU frowns upon nationalistic sentiment, and the continuation of such rhetoric could damage the country's relationship with the Union.
"The common goal of all the states in the region is to one day be part of the European Union, where we have freedom of movement for everybody. That is why a redrawing of national boundaries is out of the question, including the Balkans," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on a visit to Tirana earlier this year.
Rakipi said that some Albanians may be returning to nationalistic tendencies because they believe the international community is not helping them and is favouring other nations in the Balkans.
"This is wrong. For your own failures, you cannot blame others. The international community supported the membership of Albania to NATO, as well as the independence of Kosovo. The reason why Albania and Kosovo are still feeble countries should not be searched into the fact that they are not united," he said.
The new government, which will take over next month, has made European integration a top priority.
"We will do everything possible in a very short time to get the status of candidate country. Our main goal is to have Albania part of Europe and integrated into it," Prime Minister-designate Edi Rama said.
According to Deputy Foreign Minister Kreshnik «ollaku, as long as the EU guarantees a positive course for Albania's European integration, no damage will come from Albanian nationalism.
"The nationalistic radicalism and the EU integration process are like two communication vessels. If one exists, the other is not needed," «ollaku told SETimes.
"The development, the prosperity and the unity of the nation is guaranteed and is not opposed by the integration to EU. As long as this process will be efficient, active and real, there is not any room for fear," «ollaku said.