Pan-Albanianism: How Big a Threat to Balkan Stability?
Pan-Albanianism: How Big a Threat to Balkan Stability?
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Albania: Pan Albanianism: Myth or Threat to Balkan Stability?
Albania: Pan Albanianism: Myth or Threat to Balkan Stability?
Report / Europe & Central Asia 3 minutes

Pan-Albanianism: How Big a Threat to Balkan Stability?

Pan-Albanianism is seen by many observers as a serious threat to Balkan stability. A century of shifting borders has left ethnic Albanians scattered across Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Greece. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), the National Liberation Army (NLA) in Macedonia, and other groups have all waged campaigns of violence in support of enhanced rights for ethnic Albanians. Where is the ceiling to their ambitions?

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Executive Summary

Pan-Albanianism is seen by many observers as a serious threat to Balkan stability. A century of shifting borders has left ethnic Albanians scattered across Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Greece. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), the National Liberation Army (NLA) in Macedonia, and other groups have all waged campaigns of violence in support of enhanced rights for ethnic Albanians. Where is the ceiling to their ambitions?

ICG’s research suggests that notions of pan-Albanianism are far more layered and complex than the usual broad brush characterisations of ethnic Albanians simply bent on achieving a greater Albania or a greater Kosovo. It is instructive that both the KLA and NLA started to gain popular support in Kosovo and Macedonia respectively at precisely the time when they moved away from their initial pan-Albanian nationalist goals and concentrated on more rights for their own people. The “Albanian National Army” (ANA) which overtly advocated a “Greater Albania” agenda, never managed to gain popular credibility. Violence in the cause of a greater Albania, or of any shift of borders, is neither politically popular nor morally justified.

In Albania since the arrival of multiparty politics, poverty and internal political conflict have eclipsed any aspirations towards expanding the state’s boundaries. Albania is more interested in developing cultural and economic ties with Kosovo, whilst maintaining separate statehood; and successive Albanian governments have opted for a strategic partnership with Macedonia as both aspire towards membership of NATO and the European Union.

There remains a risk of conflict in Kosovo, where the question of future status has not yet been resolved. The desire of the vast majority of Kosovo’s population for independence is supported by most Albanians elsewhere in the Balkans. However an independent Kosovo is quite a different matter from a Greater Albania. The international community’s problem is to manage the process of dealing with Kosovo’s final status without destabilising its neighbour.

In both Macedonia and the Presevo Valley of Southern Serbia, conflict was ended in 2001 by internationally brokered peace agreements, respectively the Ohrid Agreement and the Covic Plan. While there is dissatisfaction with the pace of implementation of these agreements, and with the delivery of promised reforms, this has not yet reached the point of crisis; the ANA’s attempts to capitalise on local discontents in Macedonia and Southern Serbia failed. Continued international attention will be necessary to ensure that all sides deliver on their promises. Montenegrin Albanians, on the other hand, have thus far resisted any form of paramilitary activity.

The large Kosovo Albanian diaspora communities living in the United States, Germany and Switzerland have played – and will continue to play – a key role in the current and future economic, social and political development of Kosovo, as well as dictating military events on the ground. They could easily open up new fronts if they wish to keep up the pressure on the numerous unresolved Albanian-related issues. For these reasons it would be advisable for the Albanian and Greek governments to try and settle the long-standing issue of the Chams displaced from Greece in 1945, before it gets hijacked and exploited by extreme nationalists, and the Chams’ legitimate grievances get lost in the struggle to further other national causes.

In the long term, Albanian nationalism will be tamed by full implementation of internationally-brokered agreements and respect for Albanians’ place in Macedonian, Serbian, and Montenegrin society, together with consistent pressure on Albanian extremists and politicians who appeal to them. The process will be assisted by European integration - as the borders open between Albania and its northern neighbours, and economic and educational opportunities increase across the region. Decentralising power in Macedonia, and giving Kosovo conditional independence in return for an assurance from all the Albanian entities in the Balkans that the present borders of south-eastern Europe will remain unchanged, would also help stabilise the situation.

Tirana/Brussels, 25 February 2004

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