The NATO intervention led by Washington in Yugoslavia in the 1990s plunged the region into chaos. Their bombing campaign killed hundreds of civilians and destroyed apartment buildings, farms, schools, hospitals, churches and bridges. The Kosovo war opened a Pandora’s box and created the threat of a Greater Albania.
The idea of a Greater Albania developed in the nineteenth century, while the Ottoman Empire was still present in the Balkans. Greater Albania is a nationalist project aiming at bringing together within Albania all Albanians living in neighboring states of Albania. These include Kosovo and Metohija [Serbian designation for Kosovo], the Preševo region [Serbia], territories in Macedonia, Montenegro and Greece.
The most dangerous thing is that this virus of ethnic nationalism is difficult to control. Indeed, since the proclamation of the independence of Kosovo, the Albanian nationalists have a free hand. And they feel at ease to use the issue of a great Albania as a political tool.
Thus, in his interview with the Politico portal, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama did not exclude the possibility of unification of Albania and Kosovo “if the prospect of the accession of the Balkan countries to the EU continues to recede.” Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi also said that national unity remains an alternative if the EU does not want Albanians. The remarks that the European Commissioner Johannes Hahn has deemed unacceptable and even counterproductive are not new. But they are gaining ground.
The Kosovo syndrome has spread in the region among populations of Albanian descent. It is enough to mention the very violent inter-ethnic crisis that killed 100 to 200 people in Macedonia in 2001. That year the country experienced several clashes. There were parades almost daily in Skopje, the capital, and in the main cities of the country. The protesters accused the Albanians of wanting to federate Macedonia, to divide it. There may also be riots in Greece or Montenegro. Indeed, many similar incidents have already occurred in these territories. As a result, Montenegrin deputy Predrag Bulatović stressed that “we are witnessing the organized and coordinated regional actions of Greater Albanian nationalism in order to promote the idea of Greater Albania”.
It should be noted that Washington has a geopolitical interest in these Balkan countries. Kosovo (today) and Albania are the two most American-phile states of the Balkans. Indeed, American policy in the Balkans is rather ambiguous. On the one hand, Washington prefers to avoid any conflict in the region so as not to lose its power. On the other hand, the Republic of Kosovo was created with the support of NATO, which Albanian nationalists still take advantage of. Moreover, the situation is worsened by the political crisis that drags on and begins to worry Western countries, including the United States. The most recent government of Kosovo fell in June, due to a disagreement over the course of the border with neighboring Montenegro, another former Yugoslav republic. And since then, everything has been blocked.
In the absence of an economic take-off, Kosovo could indeed become an Islamic hotbed in the heart of Europe. Thousands of young Kosovars, destitute and discouraged by the lack of a future, have left for the jihad in Iraq or Syria.
It’s a real time bomb.
The answer to the question of whether the Albanian national movement represents a threat to the region is therefore obvious. It remains to be seen whether Washington intends to add oil to the fire or maintain peace and ensure security in the Balkans, which is also what it proclaimed as its main mission at the time.