In an interview with Greek newspaper Ta Nea on Tuesday, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama referring to recent bilateral conversations with Greece, stressed the pending “Cham Issue”.
Even though Mr Rama explained that Albania has no territorial claims over Greece, he believes that the descendants of the Cham population who fled Greece after World War II should be allowed to claim their property rights.
The Chams are an Albanian group that lived on Hellenic soil and during World War II collaborates with the Axis committing numerous atrocities against Greeks. By the end of the war, the remaining Cham groups had left Greece for fear of retribution.
He said it is expected of Greece to assume responsibility at some point as Athens and Tirana are bound with a “strategic partnership”.
Mr Rama highlighted that the “Cham issue” is not some part of Albania’s hidden agenda because “such a territorial claim simply does not exist… such a territorial issue between Albania and Greece cannot stand” and went as far as to ask both sides to “eliminate the voices fuelling that kind of fantasy and find refuge in the extreme corners of our political scenes”.
“The ‘Cham issue’ only exists as a matter concerning some fundamental rights of fellow Albanians who once lived in your country, and nothing broader than this. I frankly do not think that any rational individual would disagree that these people should have the right to travel back to Greece and visit if they wish to, or that they or their kids should have the ability to claim property rights through the court of law, as every citizen of Europe normally does,” he added.
The Albanian PM also commented on Greek Foreign Minister, Nikos Kotzias’ recent statements saying that Greek and Albanian officials are not discussing the “Cham issue”.
“Kotzias did not hear well. The Albanian side is intensely seeking to put the Cham issue on the table… We will insist because it is an Albanian issue”, Mr Rama said
The Chams are a group of Albanians with a long presence in Epirus, northwest Greece, although following the Italian invasion and the occupation of Greece they avidly collaborated with the Axis powers aiming to territorial gains following the end of World War II. In the aftermath of the war the entire population residing in Greek soil fled in fear of retaliation, as large parts of the Cham population actively supported the Axis operations and committed a number of atrocities against the locals.