Is ‘Greater Albania’ in the interest of Albanians? by Hamza Karcic*
“Greater Albania,” primarily defined as the unification of Albania proper and the lands inhabited by the Albanian population in Kosovo, Macedonia and to a lesser extent Montenegro, has been the dream of some Albanian nationalists.
The notion was invoked as a rationale (among others) for the Belgrade regime crackdown on Albanian dissent in the 1980s in the former Yugoslavia and the repression in Kosovo during the 1990s. With the declaration of independence in February 2008, Kosovo became a second Albanian state. The Albanian political influence in Macedonia (officially, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM) has been enhanced as a result of the Ohrid Agreement of 2001, which ended the brief war in Macedonia. The persistence of the concern that “Greater Albania” is the ultimate goal need not be the case. “Greater Albania” is not in the interest of Albanians.
The process of integration of Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia into the European Union and NATO changes the calculus. Eventual membership of the three in the European Union translates into two to two-and-a-half Albanian votes and potential vetoes in key decision-making structures (with half a vote being the Albanian influence on how Macedonia votes).
The hypothetical scenario of Greater Albania, by contrast, would translate into a single vote. Assuming political solidarity between Albanian leaders in these three states, more votes would bring more leverage and more bargaining chips. Based on the current mechanism of national government representation in the European Union and assuming adjustments to accommodate new members, this calculus is particularly relevant as it applies to the European Council.
In the case of the European Commission, at least two commissioners would be from Albanian states each, with the possibility of a third. Voting in the Council of the European Union is weighted in favor of states with smaller populations, thereby ensuring an additional advantage. Similarly, with Albania a member of NATO, future membership of Kosovo and Macedonia would amplify the voice of political representatives of Albanian populations in the three states in the decision-making processes of the North Atlantic Council. The same logic applies for a number of international institutions.
This would not be a precedent, however. With the 2004 European Union enlargement, Cyprus (the Greek part of Cyprus, that is) became a member state, doubling Greek votes and potential vetoes in the European Council and the European Commission. But this is as far as the analogy goes. The Cyprus case is different in terms of its impact on Turkey’s integration with the European Union and its implications for the NATO-European Union cooperation.
The irony of the debate about “Greater Albania” is that it neglected a key factor: the (redefined) interest of the Albanians. The new strategic calculus explains why fears of a “Greater Albania” are unwarranted.
*Hamza Karcic is an instructor at the faculty of political science, University of Sarajevo.