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I vjetėr 30.10.2006, 21:31   1

Shkrim i cituar 2006: W.Albanian EuroMPs to help seek solution of Cham issue


Originally published on 10/29/2006 by Shekulli in Albanian

Report by Denion Ndrenika: "Euro MPs: Greek Citizenship for Chams"

Representatives of the Chams, 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 Chameria [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 Chams, and second, the assessment of whether the 1996 Treaty of Friendship with Greece contributes to the solution of the Cham issue.

Tahiri explained that the restoration of Greek citizenship was of great importance for the Chams 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 Chams' 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 Cham 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 Chams' 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 Chameria] 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 Cham population," and that "it was the first time representatives of the European Parliament had heard the voice of the Cham people and listened directly to their requests as expressed by a party that has as part of its program the democratic resolution of the Cham 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.

Files

There are at least eight reports by international -- not Albanian -- lawyers or students dealing with the Cham 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 -- Chams and Greeks -- as well as the possibility of the adoption of a resolution on the Cham 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 Cham question, as well as for the examination of its history. The European Parliament will henceforth keep the very serious Cham question under its consideration," Tahiri said.

The eviction of the Chams from the ethnic Albanian region of Chameria 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. Chameria, 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

Inquiries regarding use may be directed to NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce.
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