Greece Says Deaths of Four Albanians Not Tied to Extremism

(File photo: Eurokinissi/Yiannis Panagopoulos)

ATHENS – The deaths of four Albanians in Greece in the weeks following the shooting death of a Greek man in Albania are not signs of extremism, the government said, despite claims by officials in the neighboring country that the far-right, including the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party in Greece were behind them.

“The generalizations being attempted by the Albanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, connecting different criminal cases and attributing them to an ‘unwaged campaign of hate and violence,’ have no relation to reality and are unacceptable,” Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexandros Gennimatas said.

That came after Albania called on Greek authorities “to denounce and put on a break any effort from Golden Dawn or other extremist segments to violate Albanians’ security and dignity.”

Four Albanians died in Greece in the past two weeks including one killed by an alleged Golden Dawn Greek supporter, another shot by Greek police while trying to illegally cross the border transporting drugs and a third who died in prison, according to the Associated Press.

Albania’s statement came after the killing of an 18-year-old Albanian national in the northern Greek city of Kavala, though police have said that a Greek-Albanian teenager has come forward and confessed to accidentally shooting the victim.

Albania needs to “act responsibly,” Gennimatas said, adding that Greece is still waiting for the final report after Albanian police shot dead Konstantinos Katsifas, an ethnic Greek resident of a village in southern Albania, who was celebrating the Oct. 28 Oxi Day marking when Greece refused an Italian ultimatum to surrender at the start of WWII and battles pushed Italian troops through Albania.

One of the Albanians was shot dead by Greek police while trying to illegally cross the border transporting drugs. An Albanian prisoner and an 18-year-old were found dead in suspicious circumstances, though police said that a Greek-Albanian teenager had come forward and confessed to accidentally shooting the latter.

After defending the killing of of Grigoropoulos, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said he expected to soon meet with Greek Premier and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras to discuss that and other issues of contention between the countries.

“It’s expected that we will meet soon. I don’t know whether it will be in Tirana or Athens but it’s expected soon,” Rama told the Athens-Macedonia news agency on the sidelines of a conference in Tirana on news agencies and fake news.

“We are in middle of a very intensive dialogue on many issues, some that have existed for years and others that have never been addressed with full intention and decisiveness for a solution,” he said. “I think we are close to solving all those [issues] and that would be great.

Rama described as “historic and traditional” bilateral ties, which were tested recently. “As always happens with neighbors, things don’t always go well,” said Rama, without noting he had backed Albanian police for killing Katsifas but now saying that he was “very eager to improve this relationship.”

“Now (the relationship) is good and the most important thing is for there not to be hostility between peoples,” he said. “Greeks love Albania, Albanians love Greece. The rest is just politics,” he added.

He ignored that Albania’s Interior Ministry banned 52 Greeks from entering the country for what it said were anti-Albanian activities at Katsifas’ funeral.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)