Tensions between Albania and Greece rose on Friday over the ownership of residences of the ethnic Greek minority in the neighbouring country.
The Albanian government issued a decree on Friday envisioning the progressive usurpation under financial compensation of Greek-owned land plots in the region of Himara. Himara is an integral part of the so-called Albanian Riviera and has become an important touristic hotspot, located roughly 220 kilometres south of Tirana, by the Adriatic Sea.
The new decree envisages the usurpation of coastal plots situated on the Albanian Riviera, the road network connecting the cities of Vlore and Saranda. The majority of houses and plots in this region belong to members of the ethnic Greek minority.
The latest decree is based on the ministerial decision No. 708/2018 which designates that 46 plots in the aforementioned regions fall under the ownership of the Ministry of Tourism. These plots will be reclaimed upon compensation and will be redeveloped to serve tourism purposes.
Potential Violations of Greek Minority Property and Residence Rights
Nonetheless, the progressive usurpation of these plots of land for tourism purposes is at odds with the ethnic Greek minority’s inherent rights in the region. Members of the minority claim that under the pretext of Albanian Riviera, Tirana finds an opportunity to forcibly remove the Greek populations from South Albania.
The 46 plots of land to be usurped by the Ministry of Tourism reach approximately 1.614 hectares. Of them 41 plots with size of 1.377 hectares belong to the Municipality of Himara while the remaining five, with size of 237 hectares, are located in the areas between Vlore and Saranda. The Municipality of Himara plots to the greatest degree belong to members of the ethnic Greek and Christian Orthodox minority.
Greek Prime Minister Reaction
For his part, the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras from Bucharest commented on the Albanian government’s Friday decision:
‘I have just been briefed on the negative developments that occurred with respect to treatment of the ethnic Greek minority in Albania – this is a very negative development. It is a case which for the time being drags Albania further away from aspirations of an eventual integration to European institutions. It represents one of the challenges for the Albanian government that needs to be carefully solved. We wish to see Albania fulfilling its European ambitions, but undeniably such developments pose considerable hindrances to their materialisation.’