A few thoughts about the relation between the two issues as expressed by “OMONOIA’’s members:
In Kosovo, during Tito’s era the Albanians used to enjoy broad autonomy as much in the first level local self-governance as in educational, cultural and religious field with due respect for all their rights. They used to have education, independent from the central government –even that of college level-, their own newspapers and radio stations while they were allowed in high proportion to participate into the Public Order and Security minion. Of course, that was reduced in the beginning of 90’s by Miloseviç. Upon the broadly known events (NATO’s bombings) the Albanians are just a step before declaring independence particularly of territories considered as the heartland of the Serbian nation although the last 50 years the Albanian element eventually have outnumbered any other population group.
On the contrary, in N. Epirus there stands a situation absurd and one-sided in relation to what the Kosovars enjoy:
1) After 15 years of “democracy” in Albania, no official and effective census that would take into account any national, religious and cultural traits among Albanian citizens has ever been conducted. This would allow the systematic registering of N. Epirotans (grecophones, albanophones as well as vlachophones) and in turn give them the opportunity to manifest their identity through such a census.
2) The Albanians, relying upon Hohxa’s laws, recognize as minority area (although without granting it full rights in violation of relevant O.S.C.E. and U.N’s. provisions) only 99 villages in 3 counties of N. Epirus. All remaining areas (Argyrokastro, Korytsa, Chimara, Premeti, Leskoviki, Ag. Saranda) are by no means recognized thereupon Greek children should not be entitled in learning their motherland’s language and history while under Hohxa’s regime even speaking Greek was strictly forbidden. It’s very interesting to know that Albania has persistently refused the opening of a Greek school in Chimara while in Korytsa such license was granted but under a private school’s status with a view to preclude recognition of any Greek element in the area.
3) However even in the field of civilization, the Greeks of N. Epirus every day witness their archaeological monuments (Vouthroto, Apollonia, Antigoneia etc) - documents of an over -3000- year-old radiant history- either to be desolated or to be usurped by Albanians as their own heritage after having destroyed Greek inscription on them.
4) In the field of religion, there certainly exists the Church of Albania however it has not been fully rendered its holdings back while on a weekly basis there has been a remarkable account of burglaries, robbing and damages to chapels and churches, mainly where the Greek minority area rests on.
5) Last but not least remains the issue of the Greek villages’ holdings that have always been at the mercy of the Albanian judicial authorities or the greed of any local agent who may covet them. Deprived of their holdings, the Greek villages have been economically strangulated and this being one of the most important reasons (along with the lack of proof and sound scope for enterprising activities as well as the shortage of Greek education for their children) has driven a number of them to seek better chance in Greece.
In all the aforementioned and in a number of other issues for which there is no sufficient space in the context of a brief article, cry out the abysmal difference between the status of the two areas (N.Epirus –Kosovo) as well as the way the Kosovars eventually managed to hold their future in their own hands, by taking advantage of the favorable environment internationally. Unfortunately, Greece spasmodically acting has come to the point of rather watching the N. Epirotans who still live in their land to fight an uneven battle against the Albanian state while Greece stops short at single reactions, inadequate to positively affect the environment and in turn offer a real hope to our Greek brothers. If indeed would anyone compare our stance to the way our eastern neighbors defend –substantial and insubstantial- minorities related to them upon long-term planning , we should then feel totally ashamed.
F.K. President SFEVA Regional Committee of Thessaloniki, Autumn 2005 (published in NOIAZOMAI.net)