Coinciding with an ongoing discussion about Serbia-Kosovo relationships, several voices are arising in Albania in favor of the unification of the Albanian people under one single state, including those living in Kosovo and Macedonia. This would give birth to the "natural Albania", in the literal words by the Albanian politician who is currently championing this goal: Koço Donaj. Leader of the political platform List for a Natural Albania, he is trying to put this issue on the present Albanian political agenda. The Balkan country will hold its parliamentary election in June and Donaj says he is ready to make agreements with political parties who advocate similar goals.
And indeed there are parties and leaders who think along the same lines. The unification of the Albanian people is part of the generic rhetoric of all parties -last November Albanian PM Sali Berisha promised to realise a de facto Greater Albania within the EU-, but some of them especially insist on this topic. This is the case of the leader of the Red and Black Alliance, Kreshnik Spahiu, a party that stands for June election and that advocates an Albania-Kosovo federation. Spahiu wants a referendum to be called in order to decide about the matter. But the Kosovo Constitution explicitly forbids the former Yugoslav republic to join any other state.
A "natural Albania" without violence
Going back to Donaj, he said in a recent interview to Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso that the concept of a "natural Albania" was born in 2006 and refers to the natural borders of Albania, that is the borders that, acording to Donaj's views, Albanians themselves have established as theirs. The concept, Donaj concedes, is born to supersede older notions as "Greater Albania" or "ethnic Albania".
It is interesting to note that these "natural" borders that Donaj promotes are in absolute contradiction with the way this issue is understood in Serbia. Those advocating for Kosovo remaining inside Serbia recall that this territory is the cradle of the medieval Serbian state and underline that, until the 19th century, Serbs were the ethnic majority there. Thus, they say, Kosovo has never been part of such a "natural Albania".
Nevertheless, Donaj points out that the unification of the Albanian people should be reached not through war, but through dialogue and negotiations between representatives of the different states. 2013 is a good moment to insist on this, he says, because it marks the 100th anniversary of the London Conference, when the main powers agreed to establish an Albanian state that left outside an important part of the Albanian people.
More support in Kosovo than in Albania proper
Donaj considers that the advent of democracy, pluralism, free movement of persons, and exchanges between Albanians of different states all configurate a favourable scenario for the unification. According to a recent opinion poll by Gallup, 81% of Kosovo Albanians want Kosovo and Albania to merge.
Things are not that clear on the other side of the border. Contrary to what might be expected, the citizens of the Albanian state are less in favour of the merger. According to the poll, 63% of them want unification, and the figure is going down.
(Picture: Albanian flags on a street. / Image by Shkumbin Saneja.)