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The Albanian Flag
read in Macedonian


To begin, let me join with the citizens of the Republic of Albania in wishing them a very happy 100th anniversary on the birth of the Republic of Albania.  Since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which brought about the beginning of the modern-day nation-state, peoples have struggled to create states, homelands, under the rule of law.  The Republic of Albania, while a multi-cultural, multi-confessional state, is the homeland of the Albanian people, even though it has Macedonians, Greeks and others living in it.  Likewise, the Republic of Macedonia is the homeland of the Macedonian people, even though it has Albanians, Turks, Roma, Vlachs and others living in it.

Of course today being November 28 (when this article is being published), the Albanian flag is flying in various parts of Macedonia, owing to the 25% of the population claiming to be of Albanian extraction (source: Macedonian census 2002).  Now, there is nothing wrong with individuals and businesses flying the flag of Albania or, for that matter, the Jolly Roger, the well-known pirate flag of the 17th and 18th centuries, or the flags and symbols of Manchester United or any other flag. In a country governed by the rule of law, people are free to show their pride in various symbols.

However, because Macedonia is governed by the rule of law, the rule of law dictates when, where and the size and protocol of flying flags other than those of the Republic of Macedonia at public institutions, government buildings and in public spaces.

So the first question to ask when confronted with the flag of the Republic of Albania being flown wherever is, “is it legal?”  Does the show of the Albanian flag conform to law?  As mentioned above, individuals and businesses are free to fly and display the flag in its various forms wherever (though I saw a photograph of a soccer ball for sale in the Bit Bazar decorated with the Albanian flag and I thought to myself “why would you want to kick the flag around?”).  My understanding is that many Albanian flags now fluttering around Macedonia at public institutions and government buildings do not conform to the law.

Now, we all know that DUI is pushing the flying of the Albanian flag in the run-up to local elections to show their constituency that they are “more Albanian” than the other ethnic Albanian parties.  And according to media reports, “in a speech, the DUI leader, Ali Ahmeti, declared: ‘This is Albanian territory,’ adding: ‘These flags will be waving for ages.’”  First of all, it is not Albanian territory.  It is the Republic of Macedonia.  Ahmeti knows that and if he really believes it is Albanian territory, then he should be tried for treason, however politically unfeasible it may be.  Some analysts are claiming that he is doing so for pre-election reasons.  But even if Ahmeti is using pre-election rhetoric, then some fools – young and old – will take him at his word that “this is Albanian territory,” and act on it.  That is irresponsible and wrong and he should cease making these inflammatory statements.

Furthermore, and again according to media reports, DUI spokesman Bujar Osmani said that “As a sign of mutual respect, all citizens in Macedonia should be part of Albanians’ joy and the question whether it is legal for an Albanian flag to flutter should not be raised, because Albanians may consider this to be a provocation.” Obviously, Bujar, you have absolutely no understanding about the rule of law.  But this does not surprise me, coming from a party whose founding members launched a war against a democratically elected government.  No, Bujar, it has nothing to do with “mutual respect” for the Albanians joy, but mutual respect for the rule of law. In addition, why would Albanians consider it a provocation if others questioned the legality of the flags?  Just asking the question is a provocation?  Seriously, Bujar?

The flag of the Republic of Albania should no more fly over public institutions and government buildings in Macedonia than the flag of the Republic of Macedonia should fly over public institutions and government buildings in Albania.  Nor should the flag of the Hellenic Republic fly over public institutions and government buildings in Albania.  But this is a particular failure of the Ohrid Framework Agreement which allows the flag of the Republic of Albania to be flown over public institutions and government buildings in limited circumstances.  It should not be in any circumstances.  But again, as Eleanor Nagy told me (she the then number two at the US Embassy in 2001), “We made a deal with the Devil.” Well, the Devil is now coming back for payment.

Flags – throughout history – have denoted dominance and ownership.  That is why the Conquistadors planted the Spanish flag on territory they claimed for Spain.  That is why the United Nations displays member flags – because the flags denote the countries that are members.  This is an irrefutable truth which makes me question the motives of our Albanian friends when they insist that the flag of the Republic of Albania fly over Macedonian institutions and government buildings.

I’m happy Albanians – wherever they are – can celebrate 100 years of the Republic of Albania and they certainly have the right to do so.  But what I also want from them – in whatever country they live – is to show respect and loyalty to that state, whether it is Greece, Serbia, the USA or Macedonia.  If they cannot, then I cannot trust them.

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Jason Miko
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