Greece Investigates Ethnically Albanian Soldiers, Relations Deteriorate

Because of a photo in which seven ethnically Albanian soldiers in the Greek army make a hand symbol representing the national double-headed eagle, they now run the risk of losing their citizenship and facing jail time.

The photo, originally published on Friday evening, has led to a large debate in the Greek army and media.

The seven soldiers, all Albanians with Greek citizenship, have been interrogated and have had their cell phones confiscated in order to check whether they have had conversations with people that may pose a threat to Greek national security.

Greek media report that the General Staff of the Army has started investigating how the cellphone ended up in the army barracks and whether this is a case of anti-national propaganda.

In an interview, Greek Minister of Defense Panos Kamenos called the incident “unacceptable for the Armed Forces,” and has demanded the continuation of the investigation and punishment of the soldiers. “This is something created by Albanian nationalists to damage the relations with Greece,” Minister Kamenos stated.

So far the Albanian government has not released any statement regarding the incident.

Deteriorating relations

The last few months there have been several incidents between the Albanian and Greek governments.

In November, two drivers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were arrested at the Albanian–Greek border while transporting school books in Albanian to Greece. They were accused of importing propaganda material into Greece depicting “Greater Albania.”

Another conflict has been the expropriation and demolition of several houses belonging to the ethnically Greek minority in Himara. While the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs has several times expressed his concern about the situation in Himara, Prime Minister Edi Rama fanned the flames by publishing an engraving from 1670 on his Facebook wall, claiming that Athens has Albanian origins and that Albanians contributed considerable to the history and preservation of the Greek capital.