The visit of the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti to Tetovo and Çair of Skopje brought a wave of state reactions in North Macedonia. These reactions were used by Serbian state propaganda to accuse Kurti of promoting “Greater Albania” and that even in other circumstances Kurti would attack Serbia, Montenegro, or North Macedonia itself. The information published in the Serbian media, verified by Faktoje, shows that even though the reception of Albin Kurti was used for internal politics in the Serbian Foreign Ministry, Serbia’s claims for the promotion of Greater Albania are untrue.
The visit of the prime minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti to Tetovo, North Macedonia, turned into the “apple” of the next quarrel between politicians in the Balkans and the revival of dangerous geopolitical narratives from Serbia. On the one hand, state and government officials in Macedonia raised the concern that during Kurt’s reception in Tetovo and Çair , the law on the national symbols of North Macedonia was violated. On the other hand, the president of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, called the visit “scandalous”, “promotion of Greater Albania” and “danger for the region” by Albin Kurti. The coverage of the event with nationalist tones did not escape the media either, mainly online ones.
On August 11, 2023, Albin Kurti visited North Macedonia, at the invitation of the mayor of the Municipality of Çair, Visar Ganiu and the mayor of the Commune of Tetova, Bilal Kasami, two communes in Macedonia with an Albanian majority. Kurti’s meeting agenda only included the leaders of the Albanian opposition parties. During the visit, Prime Minister Kurti was accompanied by the Deputy Ambassador of Kosovo to North Macedonia, Prindon Sadriu and the Deputy Minister of Environment, Spatial Planning and Infrastructure, Hysen Durmishi.
First, the Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti participated in the re-naming ceremony of a street in Çair with the name of the activist Adem Demaçi.
Then Kurti was received in Tetovo by the mayor of the commune Bilal Kasami in the latter’s office, before they left for the village of Vicë where, as announced on the website of the prime minister in Kosovo, the new road connecting two villages was inaugurated .
What caught the eye and “worried” the local officials was that the North Macedonian flag was missing in the receptions that the citizens gave to Prime Minister Kurti in Tetovo and Çair, and the national anthem of this country was not sung.
The same thing was noticed at the closing ceremony of Kurti’s visit, organized in the form of a demonstration in the ‘Iliria’ square in Tetovo, followed by a concert with Albanian dance and music. In the main headlines of the local media, the waving of a flag with the map of Greater Albania in the background, by a participant during the demonstration in honor of the prime minister of Kosovo, took place.
In his visit to North Macedonia, Albin Kurti gave several speeches. He held one of them in Çair during the inauguration of the new street name, Adem Demaçi. Kurti called the naming of the street in honor of the hero “Adem Demaçi” a “triumph of freedom” where he emphasized: ” 60 years later, in Macedonia there are still streets and schools named “Josip Broz – Tito”, hence the naming of a street with the name “Adem Demaçi” is also an act of persistence in the endless effort of a people for freedom “.
Kurti gave another speech in the village of Vicë where he emphasized the importance of the infrastructural connection between Prizren and Tetova in order to shorten the road and the benefits it brings to citizens and the economy. At the end of the visit, during the concert organized in Tetovo, Kurti emphasized the same message, that of the infrastructural connection between Pristina and Tetovo and the necessity to stay away from Serbia.
“ North Macedonia, the closer it is to Kosovo, Albania and Bulgaria, and the further away it is from Serbia, which is not distancing itself from either Milosevic or Putin, the closer it is, that is, the closer North Macedonia will be to joining the Union, and the safer our Balkan region will be. And for this we must help and will support North Macedonia .” – concluded Kurti.
Reactions in Macedonia
Immediately after the visit, concerns began to arise among politicians in North Macedonia, regarding the way these receptions were organized.
The first among them to speak directly on the case was the President of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski, who called the iconography used in the receptions organized as ” provocative, nationalist and promoting chauvinist ideas for big states “. Pendarovski requested the sanctioning of the mayors of the communes of Çair and Tetova for violating the law regarding the use of the flag and the national anthem.
On the other hand, the media in Macedonia cited the reaction of the cabinet of the Macedonian Prime Minister, Dimitar Kovacevski on the organizations in Tetovo and Çair. According to Libertas.mk, the prime minister’s office is quoted as having condemned the use of the map of Greater Albania in the ceremony, announcing that the law enforcement bodies in Tetovo are working to identify those responsible. The reaction of the Prime Minister’s office also emphasized that it is reprehensible that the national anthem of Macedonia was not sung during the reception and the flag of this country was not used.
Initiation of investigations
Four days after Kurti’s visit, the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Skopje announced the launch of an investigation into the two mayors of Tetovo, Bilal Kasami and Çairi, Visar Ganiu, on charges of violating the law on the use of state symbols.
“ During the demonstrations organized on that occasion, the national anthem was not sung and the national flag of the Republic of North Macedonia was not hoisted, thus violating Article 30 of the same law “, it was stated in the announcement of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Skopje.
At the same time, the Ministry of the Interior announced that they are looking for the person who waved the flag of the so-called “Greater Albania”.
Internal political conflict
Apart from the reactions related to the implementation or not of the law in North Macedonia, what stands out is that both the government and the presidency in North Macedonia emphasized that relations with the Kurti government are excellent and that it is the organizers of the ceremonies who broke the rules.
That’s what Kovacevski said when he declared that Kurti was used in the politics of the day by the two heads of communes with an Albanian majority. Regarding the rhetoric of Greater Albania, Kovacevski said: ” Archaic concepts and the era of national romanticism for big states is over in the Balkans. We are NATO member states and these dreams of the 80s are already gone.”
On the other hand, according to Express Newspaper , the Presidency of North Macedonia has also stated that its reactions were not addressed to Prime Minister Kurti, but to the organizers of the receptions that were held for him.
“ The president’s reaction was addressed to his hosts, who are now building new political opposition entities and are using symbols to build their profile among potential voters ” – the spokeswoman of the presidency in North Macedonia is quoted, continuing: “ During his visit and in his statements in Çair and Tetovo, the president said that he cannot identify the wording with which Mr. “Kurti insulted Macedonia or the Macedonian people .”
How the issue was manipulated and propagandized in Serbia
Despite the fact that the political debate in North Macedonia was about local politicians, the “idea” of nationalism for Greater Albania was maintained by the president of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic.
In a television interview for the Serbian media RTS, Vucic called the situation “scandalous” and accused Kurt of promoting “Greater Albania” and that this was clearly shown in his visit to Macedonia.
“ The policy of creating ‘Greater Albania’ is a process that will continue and Albin Kurti will not stop. “. – said Vucic.
During another interview for TV Pink, Vucic took the rhetoric to another level.
“ If we weren’t so strong, so many times stronger, more powerful in technique, weapons, do you know that Kurti would have attacked us in every part by now? He would not only attack central Serbia, Macedonia, but also Montenegro ,” said Vučić in the interview.
This message of Vučić was distributed in the media, mainly in Serbia and Macedonia.
In response to the situation created in Macedonia, Prime Minister Albin Kurti confirmed the good relationship with Macedonia and emphasized that “they were not meetings and gatherings against anyone”. On the other hand, the President of Kosovo, Vjosa Osmani, called the display of the flag of Greater Albania as ” a citizen’s movement and not something organized “.
In another interview with the Greek media ‘To vima’, the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, when asked by journalists, emphasized that although Albania and Kosovo are one nation, they are two states. Asked if he supports the union of Albania with Kosovo, Kurti emphasized :
“At the moment, the Constitution of Kosovo does not allow this and we are focused on the protection of our country, its territorial integrity and sovereignty”.
The debate created in North Macedonia after the visit of the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, was completely focused on the internal Macedonian politics. According to the majority, Kurti’s visit was used by the leaders of the opposition parties to “gain political points among the citizens”. On the other hand, for the investigation launched against the mayors of the municipalities of Tetova and Çairi, the latter accused the government of blackmail.
Despite the lack of accusations against the content of the meetings or Kurt’s visit to Macedonia, the “old song” of Balkan nationalism “raised its head” in Serbia, where President Aleksandar Vučič himself accused Kurt of promoting Greater Albania, endangering the region and, finally, for the desire to attack Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro. Based on the public records of Kurti’s visit to North Macedonia, but also the reactions after the created situation, it turns out that at no time did Kurti express himself in favor of the union of Albania with Kosovo, let alone a “Greater Albania”.