The one-night stand of Greece and Kosovo: The truth is that Albanians are in the harem of Turkey

Greece Kosovo flags

When in 2001 Ahmet Davutoğlu, in his famous book "Strategic Depth", revealed to the whole world the foreign policy program of today's Turkey, he actually did us a huge favour. Not only for those of us who are interested in Turkey and its ambitions in the Balkans from an academic and geopolitical point of view but also to every thinking Greek. Davutoğlu described very clearly what we have suspected for a long time.

However, one thesis from the chapter of the original edition of his book that talks about the Balkans is particularly etched in my memory, "The only way for Turkey to succeed in achieving its neo-Ottoman ambitions in the Balkans is to not allow the creation of the Belgrade-Athens axis."

One of the main levers of Turkish influence in the Balkans, as Davutoğlu admits and is often repeated by all Turkish officials, including Erdogan himself, is made up of "Muslim communities", from Greek Thrace all the way to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The most reliable of all are the Albanians, especially in Kosovo and Metohija, where the overwhelming majority of them, over 95 percent, are Sunnis who converted to Islam during the centuries-old Turkocracy. There is no doubt that Kosovo and Metohija represent the cradle of Serbian statehood.

But "Kosovo is Turkey, Turkey is Kosovo", were the words of Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoken ten years ago in Prizren, and it is no secret that Turkey was the first country to recognize the unilaterally proclaimed independence of the southern Serbian province in 2008.

On the other hand, in addition to Turkey, the United States stood behind the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo.

For Washington, it's no secret that Turkey in the Balkans, as Gabriel Escobar, the highest in the hierarchy of the State Department in charge of Southeast Europe, openly said recently in an interview for "Kathimerini", "is not a third country".

Moreover, America strongly supports the return of Turkey and Turkish influence in the Balkans, especially in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo and Metohija.

The latest evidence for this claim is the fact that Washington is pushing the idea that Turkey will take over the command of international peacekeeping forces in Kosovo starting this fall.

There is also some symbolism - this year marks the centenary of the Asia Minor disaster, and Kosovo is the place where the Turks, conquering the Balkans, encountered the toughest resistance from the Christians, the Serbs, who killed their sultan in the Battle for Kosovo.

What should official Athens do?

The answer is very simple - everything opposite to what Ankara stands for and strongly supports.

The minor concessions that Greece has made in the last ten years regarding Kosovo to the US and Germany, the main sponsors of the unilaterally declared secession of a part of Serbia, are actually major concessions to Turkey.

Concessions that, among other things, feed and fuel the conquering appetites of Turkish nationalists. In Ankara, they rub their hands every time Athens takes a step toward Pristina.

Whether it is the opening of Pristina's trade office in Athens (during the Tsipras government), its promotion to the status of an office for the protection of interests (during the Mitsotakis government), or the pompous visit of Nikos Dendias to Pristina.

What is the interest of Greece in making these concessions to Ankara, Berlin, and Washington, and in this way, taking small steps closer to the Kosovar Albanians, turning its back on its only true and centuries-old reliable ally in the Balkans, Serbia?

Because on the one hand, stories about Greece's economic interests in Kosovo are fairy tales for small children.

After the illegal NATO aggression against Serbia in 1999, the natural resources in this territory were already seized by the Americans and Germans, and the only local industry that works in Kosovo is actually the sector that is not regulated by economic law, but by criminal law.

If you understand what I mean.

On the other hand, the only interest of the Kosovar Albanians is to seize only one thing from Greece - the recognition of their illegal secession, achieved through NATO aggression committed against international law, in which Greece, although a NATO member, did not participate.

Arguments that the Americans and Germans increasingly put in a refined way in the public opinion of Greece, that Greece's attitude towards Kosovo will not affect the Cyprus issue, are a smokescreen that should not obscure our view of reality.

Kosovo is not a sui generis case, as we have been convinced for years. It is an internationalized precedent, which some are already referring to, and will only refer to when it suits them.

To conclude. The opening of the Pristina office and all these visits, from Athens to Pristina and vice versa, represent just one dangerously selfish flirtation from which nothing permanent, honorable, good, and reliable can emerge.

What will happen if, God forbid, this emotional flirtation ends with Greek shame in the form of recognition of Kosovo's unilateral independence?

At that moment, the Kosovar Albanians will break this "one-night relationship" and return to the place where history determined their place a long time ago - in the harem of the sultan from Ankara.

If, however, by any chance that evil happens, Greece will remain disgraced and without its centuries-old ally Serbia.

Is Greece mature enough not to cross the red line of its own dignity and its own survival again after the Prespa suicide? If Eleftherios Venizelos did not do it, and while the sword of Damocles was hanging over Greece's head, why would his countryman and descendant Kyriakos Mitsotakis dare to do it today?

By Panagiotis G. Pavlos, research associate at the University of Oslo and the University of Cambridge.

This article first appeared in Hellas Journal.

1 Comment
  1. The author is supposed to be a scholar? Well, if that is true, he still has to work on his education. This article is full of misinformation, biased presentations and simplifications.

    I recommend to the author read the proceedings of the ICTY to realize what actually happened in Kosovo. Further he would be well advised to know who Mr Ahtisaari is and what his Comprehensive Status Proposal for Kosovo is. As to the EU, the author might take a look into the 5 non-recognizing states, while the vast majority of EU states recognize Kosovos independence.

    Finally, the grave simplification to reduce the entire Balkan region to a competition with Turkey, is simply nonsense! The region is much more complicated.

    So my advise to the author: back to school! This would not be enough even for an undergraduate paper.