Albania and Kosovo: Is Unification the Common Future?

By TTimes November 6, 2020 13:41

Albania and Kosovo: Is Unification the Common Future?


What should be done to end the drama in which the Albanian question is trapped?’[i] This question, posed by the Republic of Albania’s Academy of Sciences in its Platform of 1998 on the resolution of the national issue, was ‘answered’ twenty years later by the Prime Minister of Albania - and answered twice.

The first occasion was on 18 February 2018, during the jubilee festivities for the tenth anniversary of Kosovo’s independence. Speaking in a plenary session of the Kosovo Parliament, Albania’s Prime Minister proposed the election of a common President for Albania and Kosovo.[ii] This entirely unexpected proposal only reinforced the stillness of the parliamentary chamber, decorated with the national red and black flag which is officially that of the Republic of Albania. The surprise of the Republic of Kosovo’s 120 deputies, and almost all of Tirana’s political ‘celebrities’, likewise present in the solemn session, their attempts to stifle their surprise, and the occasional ironic smile from political representatives from both sides of the border, demonstrated that the proposal was merely an idea of Albania’s Prime Minister, without consultation in Tirana or in Pristina.

The second was on 26 November 2018, during a joint meeting of the governments of Albania and Kosovo in Peja. Albanian Prime Minister Rama suggested to the Kosovo’s Prime Minister that their respective Ministries of Foreign Affairs should begin work for the preparation of a strategic document for the unification of Albania with Kosovo in 2025. Taken by surprise, Kosovo Prime Minister Haradinaj - host of the joint gathering - accepted in front of the media that they had indeed discussed ‘the preparation of an analytic, strategic document covering how they would progress towards 2025’ and what the Albanian perspective in the Balkans would be,[iii] but without referring to unification of the two states.

During the last twenty years these have been the only two proposals coming from Albanian state institutions, following the Platform of the Academy of Science made public in 1998. In that platform, labelled a treaty of Albanian nationalism for the ‘realization of a Greater Albania’, to the question of what should be done to resolve the drama of the Albanian national issue, the Academy of Sciences replied: ‘The only solution is urgent intervention by the International Community to oblige Belgrade to recognize the Republic of Kosovo as an independent state and… one open to both Serbia and Albania.’[iv] At that time, twenty years ago, the Academy proposed an independent Kosovo as the maximal objective in the resolution of the national issue, including that reference to openness in both directions.

But what has occurred to influence Albania’s attitude to the objective of the Academy of Sciences? Why, twenty years after the liberation of Kosovo from Serbia and ten years after the declaration and recognition of an independent Kosovo, was Albania seeking unification? What has really transpired in relations between the two states? Is unification the common future of the two states, and are the two of them ready for such a thing?

At the strategic level, Albania and Kosovo perceive their common future as members of the European Union, and this is mentioned ever more frequently. During the past six or seven years, meanwhile, the idea of the unification of the two states - or of national unification - has been ever more present in political discourse in Albania and in a series of initiatives undertaken chiefly by the Albanian government.

Beginning in 2014, Albania and Kosovo organized inter-governmental meetings, an initiative first proposed by authorities in Tirana.[v] None of the many agreements signed in those meetings, including the agreement for strategic partnership, refers explicitly to the unification of the states. Nevertheless, the cumulative effect of the scenography of such meetings, colorfully decorated with national symbols, where political leaders speak in ambiguous terms of the nation, the common future and unification[vi], coupled with reports on plans for open borders and a common customs union[vii], is such that it lends strength to the idea that the future of the two states lies in their unification.

In parallel with the bilateral relations between Albania and Kosovo, there appears to be another context nourishing the narrative of union or national unification: Albania’s relations with the European Union, and in particular the sense of stasis, if not indeed backwards steps in the process of the country’s European integration. The thesis that besides union with Europe, there is an alternative possibility of ‘union of Albanians among themselves’, seems to appear with ever greater frequency in the political narrative in Albania.[viii] When two years ago, in November 2018, the Albanian Prime Minister asked the Kosovo Prime Minister that their Foreign Ministries should begin to prepare a strategy for union by 2025,[ix] the principle argument for union had to do with the European Union’s unwillingness to move the integration process forwards with Albania and Kosovo. Such approaches accordingly have the air of both revenge and pressure, if not indeed blackmail, in response to that lack of will.

However, it may be, the notion is growing in the country that national unification might be an alternative to Albania’s European integration. Should ‘Europe close her doors to Albania’ then the option of pan-national union would remain, meaning principally unification with Kosovo.

Besides this context, the idea of essential unification continues to be sustained by two related arguments. The historical argument, firstly, suggests that the Albanian nation and lands were divided unjustly, and that national unification would redress an historical injustice and finally resolve the Albanian National Question.

The second argument has to do with the viability of the Albanian state. The reason why Albania historically has been and remains a weak state, barely viable or functional, is ‘the division of the nation and the fragmentation of its territories’. The unification of all Albanians and all Albanian lands would facilitate a functional, strong and competitive state, would guarantee economic progress and would increase the country’s political and diplomatic might, and the weight of the Albanian nation.

Meanwhile, the theory of a union on the basis of religion continues to circulate in the international media. According to this thesis, the EU’s refusal to accept Albania - a country with a Muslim majority - will increasingly encourage it to cohere in an Islamic axis with other countries of the same faith, first of all Kosovo.[x]

Regardless of the cause, the fact remains that the issue of an Albania-Kosovo unification is becoming ever more prominent.

Historically, the notion of Kosovo’s union with Albania, represented as the resolution of the national question, has been exclusively the preserve of nationalist/populist circles, predominantly concentrated in the Albanian diaspora and which yielded no influence in shaping governmental policy. Yet over the last five to six years, the idea of unification has become part of the political narratives of significant political parties and has attracted significant media coverage. During this period, public support for unification has grown to a surprising - even spectacular - degree. Were there to have been a referendum in Albania in 2018 on the question of union, 74.8% would have voted yes to it.[xi] Were this referendum to have been held in Kosovo, proponents of unification would still have won but with a smaller total, 63.9%.[xii]

Whither Albania and Kosovo?

This study offers a critical review of the issue of unification between Albania and Kosovo, attempting to answer the following questions: Are Albania and Kosovo heading towards unification? Is union of the two states truly desirable? Why should they unite? Is union feasible? Is union an alternative to European integration? Are European integration and national union mutually-exclusive? What would be the possible implications of unification in Albania’s domestic environment, and for the state which would be its product? Finally, what would be the potential implications for the international relations of the new state?

[i] Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Albania, Platform for the Resolution of the Albanian National Issue, Tirana 1998. (Hereafter ‘Academy, Platform’.)

[ii] Bota Sot. 2018. “Edi Rama: Kosova dhe Shqipëria do ta kenë një president të përbashkët të Unitetit Kombëtar”. Accessed on: 18/02/2018

[iii] 2018. “Serbia me tre fytyra, Shqipëria e Kosova me një fytyrë, kuq e zi” Accessed: 20/05/2020

[iv] Academy, Platform p. 41.

[v] The first joint meeting of the two governments, considered an historic development, was arranged in Prizren, emphasizing the link between this first joint meeting and the symbolism of the movement for national unity, represented by the League of Prizren formed there in 1878.

[vi] Zeri. 2019. "Edi Rama paralajmëron bashkimin e Kosovës me Shqipërinë!" Accessed on 20/05/2020

[vii] Shehu, Bekim 2019. “Heqja e kufirit Kosovë-Shqipëri bashkim apo lehtësim i procedurave?” Radio DW, 12/02/2019

[viii] Fevziu, Blendi. 2018. “A është qëllim bashkimi i Shqipërisë me Kosovën?” Opinion, TV Klan. 20/09/2018

[ix] Mapo. 2018. "Bashkim Kombëtar deri në 2025-ën: Rama shpalos projektin Kosovë-Shqipëri" Accessed on 20/05/2020

[x] The Economist. 2020. "For Europe, geopolitics starts at home." The Economist, January 18, 2020

[xi] Demi, Agron and Blendi Ceka. 2019. “Kosova-Albania Interaction, Knowledge, values, beliefs, cooperation and unification.” Kosova Foundation for Open Society / Fondacioni Shoqëria e Hapur për Shqipërinë ,Tirana 2019, p. 12.

[xii] Ibidem.

By TTimes November 6, 2020 13:41