Jan 29, 2007

Greeks in Albania: EU = Respect of Minority Rights

President of the Republic of Greece, Karolos Papoulias said Athens supports Tirana's EU bid, emphasising "complete respect of the Greek minority's rights".

Athens News Agency - President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias was the keynote speaker on Sunday at a New Year's event in Athens organised by the confederation of organisations representing people from the mountainous northwest province of Epirus -- Papoulias' ancestral home as well -- where he touched on relations with neighbouring Albania, Greece's neighbour on the Epirus frontier.

In citing the neighbouring country, Papoulias said Athens fully supports Tirana's European prospects, which he stressed, however, will necessitate "complete respect of the Greek minority's rights".

Papoulias, a former foreign minister in the 1990s and an architect of normalised ties with Albania following the collapse of a xenophobic Stalinist regime in that country, referred directly to the ethnic Greek community of southern Albania -- themselves identified as Epirots -- who languished in the neighbouring country during more than four decades under Europe's most isolated and authoritarian regimes.

The president said the ethnic Greek community of Albania continues to struggle for its rights, "struggles that are more effective when done with unity and harmony".

He also noted that Athens is doing everything possible to improve bilateral relations with the once impoverished country, which today boasts noteworthy growth rates.

Greece currently hosts a large number of Albanian guest workers and ranks as among Albania's biggest trade partners and investors.

Referring to the Epirus province itself, Papoulias said the goal is greater growth in rugged region known by that name since early antiquity.