By Alush Gashi
More than 20 years after Milosevic’s genocide was stopped by NATO’s intervention, which Greece endorsed, it is time for Greece to officially recognize Kosova as an independent and sovereign country within its current frontiers. Recognition would set the stage for expanding economic and security cooperation to the benefit of both Kosova and Greece, as well as other countries in the region.
Greeks and Kosova Albanians have historically enjoyed good relations. Historically, many Greeks studied and vacationed in Kosova. We learned from each other, shared our common culture and values, and cultivated enduring friendships. During its transition, Kosovars have cherished cooperation with Greece as a NATO and EU member state. Successive Greek governments supported freedom and democracy in Kosova and the region.
Kosova has struggled to make progress. In the late 1980s, Serbia used force to abolish Kosova institutions and impose the rigid rule of apartheid. In the 1990s, Serbia aggressed and committed crimes against Kosova.
Through this dark time, Kosova-Greek relations were constructive. Greek officials welcomed Dr. Ibrahim Rugova to Greece. Dr. Rugova, the Chairman of the Democratic League of Kosova, was the uncontested leader of Kosovars and the main proponent of independence for Kosova.
In return, high-level Greek officials visited Kosova to share their perspective on peaceful non-violent resistance. I was privileged to be a part of discussions on strengthening Kosova’s self-governing institutions and fostering regional cooperation.
Despite Rugova’s commitment to non-violent resistance, the Kosova Liberation Army emerged in response to increased brutality by the Serbian police, military, and paramilitary forces. Greek officials were uneasy about the KLA’s emergence but supported our democratic aspirations.
They urged us to resolve differences with Serbia peacefully and through negotiations. However, Milosevic was committed to a security solution and intensified Serbia’s crackdown. NATO launched airstrikes on March 24, 1999, to drive Serbian security forces — and being NATO in.
At this critical time, Greece helped stabilize Kosova by deploying troops as part of the Kosova Force (KFOR). Greece’s Foreign Ministry established a diplomatic presence. It supported Kosova’s economic development by encouraging Greece businesses to benefit from Kosova’s market.
After a long international negotiation led by Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Martti Ahtisaari, we finalized the Kosova Status Settlement and declared independence on February 17th, 2008. I was honored to be a signatory to Kosova’s Declaration of Independence.
A majority of EU and NATO countries recognized Kosova’s independence. To date, 114 countries have established diplomatic relations.
Greece voted for Kosova’s membership to the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and other international financial institutions. Greek officials, including its foreign minister, visited Kosova. Contact between parliamentarians has been extensive. Greece has recognized passports issued by the Republic of Kosova and welcomed the establishment of Kosova’s diplomatic mission in Athens. Civil society — scholars, business leaders, and cultural figures — visited Greece and were warmly received.
No outstanding territorial or security issues exist between Greece and Kosova. We are sincerely engaged in the Kosova-Serbia Dialogue, which is moderated by the EU, aimed at normalization and mutual recognition.
As Kosova enters the next phase of its state-building, we invite closer cooperation with Greece. Specifically, we invite the Hellenic Republic of Greece to formally recognize Kosova and establish diplomatic relations.
Having courageously resolved differences with North Macedonia, Greece should focus on improving relations with Kosova. I had a privilege to meet Prime Minister Kyriyakos Mitsotakis, whom I hold in high regard.
Not only will establishing diplomatic relations between Kosova and Greece have a positive impact on bilaterally. It will also have a positive impact on Greek-Albania relations.
We hope that Greek leaders have the wisdom to move forward. Both countries will benefit from friendly neighborly relations.
(Alush Gashi is a political adviser to Kosova’s Prime Minister HE Mr. Avdullah Hoti. Previously he served as Senior Adviser to President Ibrahim Rugova, Health Minister, and a Member of Parliament).
The opinion of this article is the authors and does not necessarily represent the position of the government.