Recent provocations from no less than Albania and the very tepid response from Athens reveal the lack of a Greek strategic foreign policy to deal with potential crisis on the many open fronts. After years of utter failure the Foreign Ministry once again has shown it is not up to the task of protecting national interests as far as Albania is concerned.
The surprise nationalist provocation of Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha making claims on Greek sovereign land forced Greek foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos to get off his airplane and not to fly to the Albanian capital Tirana, essentially cancelling his official visit. Berisha is trying to distract through nationalism because the Albanian economy is going from bad to worse so he is alluding to redraw the borders and claiming Greek land until the northern city of Preveza.
International relations are a “jungle” particularly in periods of global crisis and this episode shows that more concerted responses are needed to generate positive outcomes in defense of the national interest.
The policy of Greece towards Albania has been plagued by a series of historic failures. The first big mistake was made by the current Prime Minister Antonis Samaras when he was Foreign Minister in the early 1990s. He allowed Greek-Albanian borders to be completely unsecured and porous because he was pressured by the Northern Epirus Greek minorities living inside Albania looking to repatriate.
Samaras should have known the Greek Foreign Ministry services were hopeless and would not be able to carry out a controlled repatriation of Northern Epirus Greeks based on an accurate data. It is notoriously well known that bribes we paid at Greek Embassies and Consuls to secure a visa into Greece. Anyone who could afford it found the border doors open and hopped over to the Greek side.
On the other hand we had a previous socialist Minister of Interior during the Costas Simitis Prime Ministership declaring we shouldn’t be talking about Northern Epirus but that it was rightly a era that should be labeled “Southern Albania.” This flippant abrogation of sovereignty was dictated by leftist political correctness.
These are some of the few obvious reasons why in the years that followed the 1990s Greece faced an illegal immigrant invasion by “all types” from Albania. We exempt from that description Albanians who were hard working enough to come here and do jobs that Greeks didn’t want to touch. Any hard working Albanian is more useful that a lazy Greek.
The chain of systemic foreign policy mistakes towards Albania stretches too long for us to cover it all here. It is more important to look at the present even if some isights form the past as usual since history at times repeats. The brazen Albanian PM Berisha was in charge during the country’s bankrupting pyramid scandals and at that time solved his problems by sending Albanian made Kalashnikov weapons along with their handers to Greece. He is at it again trying to lay down the same tactics today.
Berisha also hasn’t taken any notice of the Greek response of the cancelled visit due to his provocation because he ridiculed it by saying “there is a French proverb about friends shining by their absence.” That is insult to injury for Greece.
The current Foreign Minister Avramopoulos’ image strikes one more as a children’s playground than one of a well strategized set of plans, especially since he considers an adequate response to provocation is just getting off a plane. In this light since Greece’s economic dependences has dramatically decreased its national standing in international relations, the country won’t be able to deal with all the open issues on the foreign policy front.
Today’s extraordinary conditions do not allow for the luxury of complacency and dealing with matters by simply handling media communications well. It’s a national imperative that crises are handled strategically. The first and determinative matter of this strategy is to fashion a new foreign policy dogma.
On Monday we will write more on what we mean about new foreign policy dogma amid current conditions, unless of course the Foreign Ministry beats us to it over the weekend.
PS.1. To Foreign Minister Dimitri Avramopoulos: until Monday you can send back a boat full of illegal Albanian immigrants, and not just the criminals, to teach Sali Berisha a lesson.
PS.2. Ask for a list of illegal Albanians in Greek prisons that should be expelled back – and now there are enough roads and trails that you can send them back without crossing over mountainous borders.