Prime Minister Edi Rama has urged the Western Balkans people, Albanians and Serbs in particular, to forget the harm they have allegedly caused to each other, and move on.
On Friday, Rama spoke to the audience attending a conference of the presidents of parliaments of the Adriatic and Ionian Initiative in Tirana, whose annual presidency Albania holds. The organization aims at sustaining peace and fostering cooperation in the region.
Speaking of the importance of peace in the region, Rama touched on the relations between Albanians and Serbs:
“We are here to stay. Albanians are not going anywhere […] Serbia is not going anywhere, same as Croats, Slovenes, Montenegrins, Macedonians. We are all going to be here. So we have to solve out [issues] and finally grow up and forget all the mess that we have created for each other,” he stated.
Serbian troops have committed the first and only genocide in Europe since World War II – the 1995 Srebrenica Genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina – which was recognized by international tribunals but still denied by Serbia and its President Aleksandar Vucic.
Rama’s assessments of a “mess caused to each other” raised a few eyebrows in Albania, with many accusing him of catering to Vucic, who was a minister of propaganda for the Balkan Butcher, Slobodan Milosevic, when Serbs committed numerous massacres against Albanians in Kosovo.
During the break-up of Yugoslavia, Serbs waged brutal wars against Croats, Bosniak and Kosovo Albanians, killing tens of thousands civilians between 1992 and 1999, causing mass deportations, massacres, and a horrendous genocide.
In their last war in 1998-1999 against Kosovo Albanians, the genocidal government of Milosevic and Vucic killed over 10 thousand Albanians and displaced nearly 90 percent of the population.
Kosovo Albanians’ resistance to the brutality of the Milosevic war machine inflicted incomparably less harm to the genocidal Serbian troops. Although some Albanians also committed crimes against civilian Kosovo Serbs, they were not centrally planned at state level and the numbers and nature of those crimes remain far from comparison. While Kosovo Albanians were comparatively less prepared for a war, other better equipped peoples in the region also suffered huge losses during their struggle to resist the Serbian regime’s cruelty.
There is nothing new in this for Rama though. He knows Serbian crimes well. But he has tried for years to take up a regional leader’s role which unavoidably goes through appeasing Vucic, who rules over the largest population in the Western Balkans.
Rama is the strongest regional proponent of the Open Balkan initiative that he has launched in close collaboration with Vucic, also joined by Macedonian prime minister, which goes parallel to the more robust Common Regional Market initiative agreed by all six regional countries under the EU umbrella.
With an ever increasing pressure by the EU and US on Serbia over its refusal to impose sanctions on Russia after invasion of Ukraine, Rama has stepped up action in support of Vucic.
He has been the only country leader to call on people to show understanding for Serbia-Russia ties and for Vucic’s alleged difficult position between the European Union pressure and friendship with Russia.
He has praised Vucic twice for Serbia’s two votes at the UN against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, claiming that the Serb leader had united the Western Balkans with the West through his decisions.
Rama has also dismissed concerns in the region over Serbia’s armament with a Chinese defense system.
The approach towards Serbia by the Albanian governments in Tirana and Prishtina remains the most contentious issue between prime ministers Edi Rama and Albin Kurti. The latter calls for Serbia to be held responsible and apologize over crimes committed against Albanians.