Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis pledged Athens’ support for the ethnic Greek minority in southern Albania during his visit to the towns of Himara, Dervician, and Livadhja on Thursday.
The “ethnic Greek minority in Albania…is a bridge of friendship between Greece and Albania,” he said in Himara, where members of the Greek ethnic minority welcomed him at the seafront in the town.
Mitsotakis said they had “in my person a firm supporter in your just demands.”
“I am and will remain a supporter of Albania’s European path and Albania’s obligation is to fully respect your own rights in the issue of self-determination, in the issue of language and in the issue of your property rights,” said the Premier, who added that he was proud to be the first sitting Greek prime minister to visit the town.
“I want to say a big thank you for holding on in very difficult years, and I’m referring especially to the older of you, for keeping the flame of Hellenism and Orthodoxy in your heart unquenchable,” he asserted.
Pyrros Dimas accompanies Mitsotakis in Greek minority tour of Albania
Olympic gold medallist Pyrros Dimas accompanied Mitsotakis on his visit to the villages of the Greek minority, calling it a historic day and stressing, “I would have come from the other side of the world, I would not miss it for anything.”
Mitsotakis also delivered a brief address to over three hundred members of the ethnic Greek minority that gathered in the yard of the high school “Lefteris Stalios” in the town of Livadhja.
In his address, he appeared optimistic about the signing of an agreement on referring the delimitation of the EEZ with Albania to arbitration and insisted that this was the right way to resolve differences between civilized countries.
The Greek minority in Albania
Although widely considered unreliable, Albania’s recent census data claims that there are only 25,000 Greeks living in the country.
Other estimates number Albania’s persecuted Greek community, including those of Greek descent and with Greek passports, to be around 250,000 to 300,000.
Bordering Greece on the north, Albania’s proximity to the country makes the presence of a large ethnically Greek population there unsurprising.
The great majority of Greeks in Albania are confined to the south of the country, which is located just above Epirus in northwestern Greece. Greeks from this region of Albania are called Northern Epirotes, and they’re a recognized minority group by the Albanian state.
Despite their recognition by the government, Northern Epirotes have been oppressed by the country’s “minority zones,” the only places in the country where the Greek language can be spoken and Greek traditions followed.
Due to these restrictive policies, an estimated eighty percent of Northern Epirotes have returned to Greece in recent years.