Category "Blog"

On 14 July 2018, the Cham House of Peace was officially opened in the town of Vërvë, overlooking Chameria. It will serve as a meeting point and peace institute for the Balkan region.

On a hilltop looking out over Chameria stand several historical buildings that have witnessed many of the sufferings of the Cham people. These buildings are in the quiet town of Vërvë which is now mostly abandoned, having less than one hundred citizens. The town hasn’t always been so peaceful. During the great exodus of the Cham people in 1944, when they were on the run from Greek militias trying to destroy everything Cham-Albanian, the town of Vërvë was the main channel through which the Cham escaped certain death. The vast majority of Cham quickly moved further north into the cities of southern Albania, while few remained in the town. One reminder of the masses of people going through the town is the Cham House of Peace, consisting of several buildings on the hilltop looking out over Chameria on one side and Albania on the other. This House of Peace served as a meeting place for Cham-Albanian interests and aided the various Cham leaders to remain committed to the dream of a free Chameria and a peaceful Cham community. However, the Cham House of Peace was soon abandoned and under Albanian communist rule any activity to support the Cham was oppressed. The town of Vërvë declined, most people moved away and many buildings were abandoned and the infrastructure neglected.

Decades later, the president of the Republic of Chameria, Festim Lato, is committed to take up the struggle of the Cham people for historical justice. He has started many activities over the years and in 2018 decided to re-open the Cham House of Peace and reconstruct the dilapidated infrastructure of the town. The property was bought by the government of the Republic of Chameria and initial assesments of the needs of the town were done. The town of Vërvë is situated at the border and overlooks large swaths of Chameria. The only route to the town leads through a small and difficult to traverse path through the mountains. Usually the road is used by people who herd their goats who only need to beware of the occasional car from one of the few remaining citizens of the town. However, this all changed in July 2018. Twenty people from the Republic of Chameria moved into the town in the first week of July to prepare for the coming celebrations intended to mark the start of the reconstruction of Vërvë and Chameria.  This move did not go unnoticed by the public and the authorities of Albania and Greece. Several television crews visited the site to film and interview the workers from the Republic of Chameria. Most of the accounts were fairly positive, however on 13 July 2018 nine Cham were arrested by the Albanian authorities when they were travelling from Sarande to Vërvë. The Albanian and Greek authorities became restless and suspect unlawful provocations from the side of the Cham. However, the nine Cham activisits were quickly released, since no crime was committed and the actions of the Republic of Chameria in Vërvë and elsewehere are completely legitimate and aimed at getting historical justice for the Cham people.

On 14 July 2018, a large number of people travelled to the town of Vërvë to witness the historic opening of the Cham House of Peace. The Cham House of Peace is one of the most outer lying buildings of the town and directly faces Chameria. The various buildings composing the Cham House of Peace were decorated with many flags of supporting nations, like the USA, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. The national flag of Chameria also waved proudly in the mountain winds. Furthermore, several meters-long photo’s of political leaders decorated the front part of the main building. American president Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as the Dutch King and Queen and Dutch Prime-Minister Mark Rutte look out over the participants of the opening ceremony, and over Chameria. These nations have, in one way or the other, supported the Cham people in their struggle.

The opening ceremony of the Cham House of Peace was attended by many Cham and their supporters. The Republic of Chameria Prime-Minister Ali Aliu was present as well as Mr. Jeroen Zandberg who in his capacity as European diplomat and assistent to the president represented President Festim Lato who was unable to attend due to security reasons. Ms. Petra Keppler from the Berta von Sutner Institute in The Hague, the Netherlands was also present as well as many others who have dedicated their professional life to getting justice for the Cham people. The opening ceremony was broadcast live by several television stations and through various socialmedia channels, including Facebook and Twitter, people could witness first-hand a historic moment in the struggle of the Cham people to return to their lands. On behalf of president Festim Lato, diplomat  Jeroen Zandberg, cut the ribbon thereby officially opening the Cham House of Peace.  The ceremony was accompanied by the sounds of music from Chameria as well as the national hymn. After the official opening there was traditional Chamerian food and drink, while several participants enjoyed a traditional dance in the afternoon sun.

The Cham House of Peace will soon be restored to its former glory. In September 2018, the most urgent renovations will have been finalised and the first major international conference will be held in the town. Furthermore, the Cham House of Peace will house a permanent photo exhibition that documents the attrocities committed aginst the Cham people between the period of 1913 and 1944. The exhibition will also be duplicated as a travelling photo exhibition that will

The Cham House of Peace intends to become a major hub for the promotion of peace and peoples’rights in the Balkan. It will serve as a meeting place and official institution of the Republic of Chameria and will be permanently staffed. Due to its historic legacy and its strategic location looking out over Chameria, the Cham House of Peace will soon regain its prominent position as a major springboard for Cham activities to get historical justice for the Cham people.

On behalf of the Republic of Chameria and all the Cham people I wish to inform you about the unlawful arrests of Cham activists by the Albanian police.

This night (Friday 13 July 2018) six Cham activists were arrested while driving from Sarande to the city of Verve, Albania. The Albanian police took the activists to the station in Sarande where they are still confined without them having committed a criminal offence.

The Cham activists are part of a large number of Cham who will attend a ceremony on 14 July 2018 to celebrate the opening of the Cham House of Peace and the start of the construction of the long road to Chameria. This event will be a major milestone for the Cham people and will be attended by thousands of people.

The Cham are a people who historically lived in northwestern Greece and southern Albania but who were killed and driven out during World War II. The Republic of Chameria is trying to bring the Cham issue on the political agenda and to open a dialogue between Greece, Albania, the EU and Chameria to put the rights of the Cham on the agenda. The Cham suffer from discrimination by the Albanian government who wants to silence the Cham people and their legitimate claims for more recognition in order for Albania to enter the EU without opposition. The negotiations between Albania and Greece to solve their disputes should take the human rights and interests of the Cham people into account. It is therefore not acceptable to change the maritime borders and agree to silence the Cham issue.

I plead for the immediate and unconditional release of the six arrested Cham activists and the end of discrimination by the Albanian government of the Cham people.

Sincerely,

Festim Lato

President of the Republic of Chameria

After decades of neglect by subsequent governments of Albania, president Festim Lato of the Republic of Chameria has laid out a strategy to develop the border region that connects Chameria with its neighbours.

On 30 June 2018, the work on the 12 km road from Konispol to Verve started when a group of infrastructure specialists and supporters of the Republic of Chameria inspected the road that runs through difficult and mountainous terrain. The road is currently only traversable with great difficulty, which means that people who live along the road are isolated from opportunities.

The new road that the Republic of Chameria is constructing through the mountains will allow for all vehicles, including big busses and trucks, to reach the, now remote, areas and allow for greater develepment.

The road leads to an important Cham building, which saw many refugees pass during the forced expulsion in World War II. This Cham building sits high in the mountains from which the village of Filat is clearly visible. The building will also be renovated and will function as the House of Peace for the Cham community. The building will serve as a museum, conference facility and meeting place for the Cham people. It will be officially opened on 14 July 2018.

The construction of the infrastructure of Chameria is funded by the Republic of Chameria, with support from Europe as well as private investors. The heavy equipment needed to lay down a modern road has been acquired by the president of the Republic of Chameria, Festim Lato.

A television item of the start of the construction can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdH5nVFBEg0&feature=youtu.be

On 25 June 2018 the Republic of Chameria president Festim Lato had a meeting with Dr. Somers, the manager of the Dutch institute on war documentation and genocide studies (NIOD), to request support for activities to make the genocide against the Cham in 1944 better known internationally.

NIOD is a very well respected and internationally oriented institution that documents and studies World War II with the main emphasis on the occupation of the Netherlands, as well as contemporary wars and genocides committed in other regions.

The genocide committed against the Cham people in 1944, when many were killed and almost the entire Cham population had to flee their homeland and seek refuge in Albania, was recognised by the Albanian government in 1994 who made 27 June The Day of Greek Chauvinist Genocide Against the Albanians of Chameria. However, the international community has not recognised this genocide and little is known about the historical injustice that befell the Cham people between 1913 and 1944. President Festim Lato is actively trying to make this part of history more known. One way in which the government of the Republic of Chameria is doing this is by organising several events in European capitals which will present the history of Chameria in an accessible form to the general public as well as to policy makers.

In 2019, the genocide will be 75 years ago and in the run up to the most important dates, several smaller conferences will be held accross Europe. On 25 March 1944, the Jews from Janina, the biggest city in Chameria, were rounded up by the Nazi’s and transported to the camps from which only a very small number returned. Several months later the Greek forces in Chameria violently attacked the Cham-Albanian citizens of Chameria and cleansed the area of its native population. These events will be extensively covered in the conferences that will be held in 2019.

Furthermore, the president of the Republic of Chameria, Festim Lato, is preparing a travelling photo exhibition that will contain pictures from private collectors who have photographic evidence of the history of Chameria and of the genocide in 1944. The travelling photo exhibition will go on a tour through the European capitals and the USA.

President Festim Lato is hopeful that in cooperation with the Dutch genocide studies institute and other similar organisations in European countries, the history of the Cham people and the genocide will get its rightful place in the hearts and minds of the international community. The events that will be organised by the Republic of Chameria in cooperation with these institutions will contribute greatly to this greater awareness.

Ali Aliu (prime minister), Erik Somers (NIOD), Festim Lato (president)

Jeroen Zandberg, Erik Somers (NIOD), Festim Lato (president)

On 19 June 2018, in Brussels, Belgium, the Antall József Knowledge Centre and the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies organised a conference to discuss the challenges of the young generation in the Western Balkans.

A great number of representatives of civil society organisations and local and regional governments from the Western Balkans participated in the conference and the numerous workshops held simultaneously during the day. The event was opened by a speech from the European Commissioner Navracsics followed by two panel discussions of youth leaders from the region who debated how the Western Balkans could be more integrated in the European Union and how the brain drain could be stopped and reversed. A series of successes and best practices provided examples of how the countries in the region can become a hub for innovation.

The president of the Republic of Chameria Festim Lato also participated in the event and shared his view on the perspective of the Cham community and its relationship with the European Union. The Cham are one of the most European-minded people in the Western Balkans and would benefit greatly from closer cooperation and integration in the EU.

In the afternoon a panel discussion of parliamentarians from the European Parliament highlighted several practical steps towards integration. A focus on combining soft connectivity (for example, expanding the Erasmus+ program to include the Western Balkans) and hard connectivity (for example, investing in infrastructure and flight connections) between the EU and the Western Balkans was discussed.

During the debate with the parliamentarians the president of the Republic of Chameria Festim Lato also had a remark and question about the role of the EU in resolving the lingering Cham issue that Albania and Greece try to play down. The parliamentarians responded with reassuring that the EU is also a community of values and that the reconciliation in the region is a vital element for further integration into the European community.

The Prime-Minister Ali Aliu, Minister of Justice Elena Kocaci, President of the Football Federation Arben Arkaxhiu and Advisor Jeroen Zandberg also attended the event.

Festim Lato and Jeroen Zandberg during one of the workshops

Prime-Minister Ali Aliu, Minister of Justice Elena Kocaci and President Festim Lato

Jeroen Zandberg and Festim Lato

Today, 14 June 2018, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Chameria was established.

At the first General Meeting held in The Hague, the Netherlands, the charter of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Chameria (CCI Republic of Chameria) was formally presented and unanimously adopted by the participants. Following the adoption of the charter the new president of the CCI presented her vision of creating a succesful business environment in the Republic of Chameria and attracting many foreign investors. The Republic of Chameria has great economic potential that is currently underused and neglected. Investments in tourism, agriculture and many other sectors will provide foreign investors a significant return on investment.

The CCI Republic of Chameria was initiated by the president, Festim Lato, who sees the establishment of the Chamber as a very important step towards greater self-determination of Chameria. Improved economic development enables the Cham community to better their lives and prepare the Republic of Chameria for full integration into the international community.

On 8 and 9 June 2018, the 175th year of the birth of Bertha von Suttner was celebrated with a two-day conference in The Hague, the city of Peace and Justice. Bertha von Suttner was the first woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905 for her relentless work on peace and justice.

Speakers from many countries shared their visions of peace and how international law and its institutions help to make the world a safer place. Special emphasis was placed on the role of Bertha von Suttner, whose work as a writer and activist had a significant influence on the institutionalisation of international law at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.

The former Austrian president Heinz Fischer held a speech that linked the work on peace and an interconnected world, that Bertha von Suttner strived for all her life, with the upcoming EU presidency of Austria in July 2018.

Sculpture

A sculpture to celebrate the 175th year of Ms Von Suttner was also unveiled at the event. This sculpture will be placed in the Bertha von Suttner building in The Hague, the Netherlands. It was sculpted by the Albanian artist Agon Qosa and funded by the Republic of Chameria president Festim Lato. It depicts a youthful Bertha von Suttner.

President Festim Lato is a great proponent of peace through justice and believes that the institutions in The Hague, like the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration, can support an environment that promotes the self-determination of the Republic of Chameria and its citizens. It was therefore an honor for him to fund the sculpture of Bertha von Suttner.

For more information about Bertha von Suttner and the conference please visit the following website: https://www.peace-institute.com/

On 27 May 2018, Festim Lato, the president of the Republic of Chameria, organised an international conference in Tirana, Albania. This conference brought together a dozen experts from various fields to discuss the past, present and future of Chameria.

At the main conference hall in the Tirana International Hotel, several hundreds of participants listened to the insights of the speakers and engaged in discussions on how to best move forward in the struggle to get greater recognition for Chameria.

The title and topic of the conference was ‘past, present and future of Chameria’. The various speakers each provided an aspect of Chamerian history, which has been long and produced great achievements, but also saw much suffering and injustice.

Several speakers at the international conference highlighted the activities that are currently being done by Cham activists in Albania and abroad. Especially the activities of Festim Lato, the president of the Republic of Chameria, received a positive response from the audience.

The event provided a great opportunity to inform the Cham community of all the political advocacy work that president Festim Lato has done in the past years and the great leap forward that has been achieved in the past six months.

President Festim Lato has been able to meet and inform the political leaders of all the major European political parties in the European Parliament and get support from several highranking parliamentarians. The president is also in contact with the offices of the relevant European Commissioners about the discrimination of the Cham. Furthermore, the petition that is currently being signed by many thousands of Cham will be presented to the leaders in Europe, which will be another step towards the recognition of the suffering of the Cham and a solution to the continuing injustice.

At the same time that the conference was held, a large demonstration of Cham supporters walked through the streets of Tirana in order to protest the inaction of the international community and to let everyone in Tirana and elsewhere know that the case of Chameria is alive and that it needs to be resolved in order to get true justice and reconciliation in the Balkan.

The video registration of the conference can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/o_WBUSGH0dY

Prime-Minister Ali Aliu and Jeroen Zandberg

Today, 24 May 2018, the Football Federation of Chameria became a member of CONIFA, the Confederation of Independent Football Associations.

CONIFA is the biggest international football federation outside FIFA. It has a membership of over 40 underrepresented nations who compete in a European and World tournament. Every two years the World Championships are held.

The 2018 World Cup is held in London from 31 May until 9 June 2018. This major sporting event brings together the best national teams outside FIFA and will be a major spectacle where underrepresented nations will have a platform to show their professional skills.

The Football Federation of the Republic of Chameria was established by president Festim Lato in order to bring Chameria onto the global stage of sports. The national team of Chameria has played a number of matches againts other national teams and won the 2017 UNPO Cup in The Hague, the Netherlands. Now that the Football Federation of the Republic of Chameria is a member of CONIFA it will play in the various tournaments and individual matches against other national teams.

On Monday 21 May 2018, the Republic of Chameria president Festim Lato attended the launch of the EU Green week in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

The event was opened by the Mayor of Utrecht, Mr. Jan van Zanen and the European Commissioner for the Environment, Karmenu Vella, who explained the importance of a clean environment for the health and prosperity of the people in Europe.

A major topic of the start of the EU Green week was the way that cities can take the lead in making our world greener and cleaner. This is especially relevant considering that three-quarters of the European population lives in cities. A panel discussion with the Mayor of Utrecht and the Mayor of Tirana, Mr. Erion Veliaj, provided many examples of good governance.

At the event the Chamerian president had a long discussion with the Mayor of Tirana, Mr. Erion Veliaj, about the situation of the Cham community and informed him about the upcoming conference in Tirana on 27 May 2018.

On 3 May 2018, World Press Freedom Day, the Republic of Chameria president Festim Lato participated in the European Parliament conference on the situation of the media and freedom of expression. It was opened by the president of the European Parliament, Mr. Antonio Tajani and featured many high-profile politicians and directors from the European Commission, Parliament and NGO’s. The conference delved into the state of the freedom of the media, especially in Turkey, and what options there are for the European institutions as well as NGO’s and individuals to promote this freedom.

Today, 2 May 2018, Republic of Chameria president Festim Lato was in Luxembourg to exchange views with its Prime-minister, Xavier Bettel, on the future of European cooperation and the digital agenda.

The various topics included new policies to combat cyberthreats, continuous digital education, especially for those outside the main centers of Europe, and investment plans drawn up by the European Commission to increase the digital competitiveness of Europe.

The Luxembourg Prime-minister also explained that their government has set up a digital embassy that functions as a complete version of the governmental institutions and acts as a repository and backup. President Festim Lato intends to use the same plan for the Embassy of Chameria where it will become the full repository of all the institutions of government. The small, but very succesful country of Luxembourg lies at the heart of Europe and is very open to European cooperation and to find a solution to the Cham issue within the EU framework.

On 25 April 2018 the Republic of Chameria president Festim Lato met the president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, after a major conference in the European Parliament. At this occasion Chamerian president Festim Lato had the opportunity to explain the situation in which the Cham community finds itself. The historical struggle of the Cham for recognition of their rights and the current activities to find justice for the community were discussed. As the president of the European Parliament, Mr. Antonio Tajani, represents the main democratic body in Europe that can make a major difference in the lives of the Cham.

On Monday 23 April 2018, the president of Kosovo, Mr. Hashim Thaci visited The Hague, the Netherlands to participate in an open debate organised by the Netherlands International Political Affairs Institute, Clingendael. The event also marked the launch and presentation of a book that authors from The Times had written about Mr. Thaci and the political struggle of Kosovo.

In his opening speech Kosovo’s president Hashim Thaci mentioned that Kosovo is recognised as a country that continuously improves its democratic record year-by-year and that it is working hard to improve relations between the various peoples in the region. After decades of oppression, a devastating war in 1999 and a subsequent struggle to establish a modern democratic state that reflects the interests of its citizens, Kosovo currently is an example for good governance in the region. As part of the extended Albanian cultural realm it offers many hopes to the Cham community as well that one day their dreams and aspirations will become a reality.

The Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato also participated in the debate with the Kosovo president in order to get a greater insight into the political activities of Kosovo and how this affects the situation of other peoples in the region, like the Cham community. There is great support among the people of Kosovo for the plight of the Cham community. The Republic of Chameria president Festim Lato hopes that the governmental institutions in the region will be able to officially support the Cham community in the near future as well.

The debate with the president of Kosovo was followed by a speech from Ms. Suzy Jagger, one of the authors of the book: “New State, Modern Statesman: Hashim Thaçi – A Biography”. Miss Jagger mentioned in her speech that the modern history of Kosovo cannot be separated from the life and activities of Hashem Thaci. Mr Thaci played a vital role at many of the critical junctures in Kosovo’s history of the past 20 years. From one of the main student leaders who rallied the people against Serb aggression in the late 1990’s to lead negotiator, premier and eventually president of the new independent republic of Kosovo. The political life of Mr. Thaci is an inspiration to many, and to the president of the Republic of Chameria, Festim Lato, as well.

The Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato today, Thursday 12 April 2018, met several of the main European political leaders in Hamburg, Germany.

At a high level conference in Hamburg, Germany, political leaders from the Social-democratic family discussed the current human rights situation in Europe, with a specific focus on migration and borders.

President Festim Lato had the opportunity to discuss the Cham issue with Udo Bullmann, president of the S&D Group in the European Parliament and Knut Fleckenstein, the S&D Group Spokesperson for foreign affairs. They showed their willingness to look into the Cham issue and provide support for greater human rights and justice. President Festim Lato looks forward to cooperate with the S&D Group, the second biggest political group in Europe, in the coming weeks and months.

President Festim Lato also met other political leaders including Frans Timmermans, the first vice-president of the European Commission.

Knut Fleckenstein, Foreign Affairs spokesperson of the European People’s Party

Frans Timmermans, the first vice-president of the European Commission

 

 

 

 

On 31 March 2018, a group of Cham took to the streets of Vlorë, Albania to raise awareness of the plight of the Cham community and the continuing struggle for greater respect for human rights and self-determination for Chameria.

The demonstration carried the flags of all the supporters of the cause for Chameria, as well as many boards and signs of the leader of the nation, Festim Lato, the president of the republic of Chameria.

Many youth participated in the demonstration, showing the viability, vitality and great support that the movement for a free Chameria has among the Cham people and their supporters among the Albanian population. Besides the political message that demonstrations like this has it also shows the richness and durability of the cultural heritage of the Cham. Traditional song and dance were an integral part of this peaceful demonstration. In the past months many demonstrations have been organised and this activism will continue until the objectives of a free Chameria have been achieved.

The Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato visited the Dutch parliament today (7 March 2018) for meetings with several diplomatic advisers and parliamentarians. The president also participated in a meeting with the Israeli Ambassador to the Netherlands and representatives of the main Dutch political parties.

A key topic of the main meeting was the move of US president Trump to relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem. The debate focused on the consequences of this move and what the European countries should do to improve peace and security in the region and to honor the rights of peoples.

The Netherlands is supporting Israel and the Palestinians in areas of their expertise; mainly energy, water and border crossings.

A recurring issue raised by the ambassador was the lack of recognition of the facts, and the historical rights of the Jewish people to their land and identity. This has many similarities with the lack of international recognition offered to the Cham people.

Just like the Israelis, the Cham follow an independent strategy to come to a just and fair place for the Cham people in the international arena. Free from oppression.

From a position of strength and sense of historical justice the Republic of Chameria works on all the facets of nation-building. The way that Israel established itself is an inspiration to all and also provides a model, especially where it comes to the main elements of what makes a nation, like language, culture and an independent political economy.

Furthermore, President Festim Lato had several other discussions at the parliament about the Cham issue, especially where it came to the recognition of the historical rights of the Cham people and how this can be progressed with additional support from Dutch parliamentarians and institutions.

The Netherlands is a modern nation and the Dutch government is internationally very active and capable. It also has in its constitution the duty to promote international law and human rights. There are many institutions, politicians and activists who support issues like that of the Cham.

For many years the Netherlands has been open to the struggle of a free and democratic Cham people. The Republic of Chameria was established at a conference in The Hague and it has held many events and demonstrations there; since it is the international capital of law and peace as well as the seat of the Dutch government. The Embassy of the Republic of Chameria is also located in The Hague.

The Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato is convinced that the network he is currently expanding in the Netherlands will be an important pillar of the struggle for freedom of Chameria.

On Monday 5 March 2018 Dr. Paul Meerts, senior associate at Clingendael Institute and board member of Process of International Negotiations, visited the Embassy of the Republic of Chameria in order to discuss the various strategies to improve the negotiations between Chameria and Greece.

In his discussions with the Republic of Chameria president Festim Lato, Dr. Meerts shared his decades’ worth of expertise and experience in international negotiations and offered some insights into possible strategies that the Republic of Chameria could follow to bring the negotiations with Greece to a succesful outcome.

The Cham issue has been a major point of contention in the southern Balkan for many decades. It has been 74 years since the mass-expulsion and genocide of the Cham in 1944. Those Cham born in Chameria (i.e. before 1944) are still blocked from returning to their homes due to discriminatory measures by the Greek authorities, as was again proven when the border control denied elderly Cham to cross the border on 20 February 2018. Tackling discriminatory actions like these by the Greek government are an important issue that the various international institutions will have to address as they play a key role in the peace and security in Europe. Dr. Meerts provided several insights into the possibilities for the OSCE, Council of Europe and the EU to become actively involved in the negotiations regarding Chameria. He also opened up his network in order to be able for president Festim Lato to expand his coalition for greater recognition of the Cham cause.

Other major issues that still plague the relations between the various peoples in the region are the lack of recognition of the Albanian language, the still pending reparations for the expropriated houses and property of the Cham and the acceptance of the historical injustice done to the Cham community and the genocide committed against them in 1944. Dr. Meerts shared his negotiation expertise in offering president Festim Lato several scenario’s that could be played out in getting these issues addressed favorably.

Dr. Meerts also pointed to the Accession Talks with the Western Balkan nations that the EU has relaunched in February. These Talks are both a blessing and a curse since they provide counterproductive incentives to Greece and Albania to downplay the Cham issue and actively oppress the activities for greater recognition of the Cham people and their rights.

The meeting of the Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato with Dr. Paul Meerts was very productive and the start of a new campaign to come to a successful outcome of the negotiations between Chameria and Greece.

Dr Paul Meerts at the European Parliament conference on Nagorno Karabagh, 28-2-2018

On 1 March 2018, the Republic of Chameria president Festim Lato and Prime-minister Ali Aliu had a meeting with one of the main parliamentarians of the European Parliament, Ilhan Kyukchuk. He is the Vice-president of the European liberal party (ALDE) in the Parliament and a vocal advocate for human and minority rights inside and outside the EU.

The President and Prime-minister were invited to the European Parliament in order to inform Mr. Kyukchuk of the distressing situation of the Cham people. The discussion focussed on the discrimination and harassment of the Cham by the Greek authorities. The president explained how the Greek and Albanian government target the elderly Cham by hindering them to visit their places of birth. Furthermore, the president elaborated upon the historical injustice still being done to the Cham people and how the Republic of Chameria is working towards a solution to have the rights and identity of the Cham recognised.

Mr. Ilhan Kyukchuk had not heard of the issues of the Cham before but proved very interested in working together with other parliamentarians on finding solutions that would do justice to the Cham people. The Republic of Chameria president Festim Lato is optimistic about working together with Mr. Kyukchuk on addressing the Cham issue in the Parliament and beyond.

The Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato together with the Prime Minister Ali Aliu participated in a European Parliament conference on Nagorno Karabagh. The conference was organised by the AGBU, EuFoA and the EPP on the occasion of thirty year after the start of the Nagorno Karabagh conflict. Many parliamentarians and other high-level participants were present at the conference.

A main topic of the conference was the role that the European Union could and should play in the conflict in the Caucasus. The conflict entered its 30th year and the role of the EU as a peace broker has been very marginal over the past decades. The negotiations to come to a peaceful settlement are formalised in the Minsk group consisting of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, USA and France, without a role for the EU. The many parliamentarians and others at the conference expressed their desire for more EU involvement, not just in the form of humanitarian aid.

The organisers of the conference drafted a proposal to pave the way for peace and have an important part to play for the EU. The speakers and audience participated in a dialogue about these ten proposals.

  1. The EU should designate key staff empowered to visit Nagorno Karabagh on a regular basis and to report on the situation on the ground.
  2. The EU should initiate a shuttle diplomacy trialogue between Baku, Stepanakert and Yerevan.
  3. Create a space for civil society exchanges
  4. The EU should support projects to benefit the populations that suffer from the consequences of the war close to the contact line, in Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabagh.
  5. The EU should support the publication of a report on hate speech in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabagh.
  6. The EU should support demining in the region.
  7. The EU should provide support to human rights monitoring in the context of the conflict.
  8. The EU can help broker an agreement between the parties to allow for humanitarian flights between Stepanakert and Yerevan.
  9. The EU should cooperate with, and provide support for a team of experts to carry out an inventory of endangered cultural heritage in the region.
  10. The EU should broker a dialogue on environmental issues, such as water use, fire prevention and other between authorities in Stepanakert and Baku.

Nagorno Karabagh is a region which has been inhabited by an Armenian speaking population since time-immemorial. It has seen many foreign rulers. In the final days of the Soviet Union the Karabagh people advocated for self-determination and international respect for their nation. When Soviet rule disappeared, a conflict with Azerbaijan broke out which tried to incorporate the region. With support from Armenia the people in Nagorno Karabagh were able to fend off the attacks and establish their independent country. The country has been independent since 1991 and tries to get recognition from the UN.

The many professionals, diplomats and parliamentarians present at the conference provided the Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato the ability to enlarge the network of support for his peace plans for Chameria. Furthermore, the situation of Nagorno Karabagh bears many similarities to that of Chameria. Both have been the victim of historical injustice and try to be recognised as a peaceful, independent nation through negotiations. There were many professionals present at the conference who have played an important role in the conflict and in the negotiations.

On Tuesday 20 February 2018 the Greek border control denied a group of elderly Cham, who planned to visit their places of birth, entry into Greece.

In 1944 most of the Cham population were expelled from Chameria and sought refuge in Albania. In 2018 there are still those in the Cham community who remember this human rights’ catastrophe as if it were yesterday. Of those who can still remember the violence and genocide committed against the Cham community, many have never been able to return to their places of birth; not even for a short visit.

On 20 February 2018 a group of over thirty Cham who were born in Chameria took the bold step and tried to visit their homes that many of them hadn’t seen since 1944. Elderly Cham from Vlorë, Dürres, Sarande and Tirana went on an organised bus tour and drove south to the border between Albania and Greece. The participants came together on Monday evening and stayed in a hotel in Sarande. From there the bus tour took off on early Tuesday morning. All the documents had been prepared and the people on the bus were anxious and happy that they could finally visit Chameria once more. Several camera crews were present to film the departure of the bus tour which is a historic occasion.

When the bus arrived at the border, they were greeted friendly by the Albanian customs. However, this was not met with equal hospitality. They were stopped by the Greek authorities and denied entry into Greece. After many hours of waiting, the elderly Cham, most of who are in their eighties, returned to the bus and headed back north. The hopes of visiting their places of birth one last time drifting further away. It becomes ever more likely that many of the people from this generation, like those who went on this tour, will never be able to visit Chameria in their lifetime.

Harassment and discrimination

The harassment and discrimination by the Greek authorities towards the Cham community continues to remain strong. Even today it is not possible for Cham who were born in Chameria to cross the border; unlike others who have Albanian citizenship. This discrimination still places a heavy burden on the relationships between countries and peoples in the Balkan.

The Albanian government is also not supportive of the Cham community but instead is providing the Greek authorities means to harass the Cham community. Under pressure from the Greek government, the Albanian government decreed a law in 2014 (Nr. 555 of 27.8.2014) which states that the country code should be placed after the city of birth. To the Greek authorities this means that all those born in Chameria need to have the letters “GRC” behind the place of birth in their passport, so as to acknowledge the Greek dominance over Chameria and that it was always Greek. Passports prior to September 2014 do not fulfil the Greek criteria and therefore provide an excuse to deny the Cham entry into Greece. Furthermore, although this law was passed in 2014 it has not been fully or correctly implemented in many cases. Several Cham had passports dating after 2014, which did not have the “GRC” letters printed.

Although all the Cham have valid Albanian passports, most of the elderly Cham only have the city of birth in their passport. This administrative technicality allows the Greek authorities to continue to harass the Cham people. What existential threat could eighty-five year old people who wish to visit their places of birth have to Greece?

Action

In the coming weeks the Republic of Chameria president Festim Lato will meet with many high-ranking officials in Europe to put this issue on the political agenda and make sure that it will not be too late for those who went on the bus tour to visit their places of birth and to ensure that these true leaders of the community pave the way for all those of their generation to freely visit their places of birth.

In the Dutch parliament building on 15 February 2018, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) organised an event to honor one of its former High Commissioners, the late Mr. Max van der Stoel (1924-2011).

Many Dutch and international diplomats were invited to receive the highly anticipated biography of Max van der Stoel, the first and longest serving High Commissioner on National Minorities of the OSCE. He was appointed as the first OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities in 1992 and served until 2001.

President Festim Lato was also invited and he was given the opportunity to discuss the Cham issue with the first vice-president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans.

European Commissioner Frans Timmermans was the Senior Advisor and Private Secretary of Max van der Stoel from 1995 to 1998 when the latter was High Commissioner on National Minorities. During these years Mr. Timmermans got to know the High Commissioner as a person who struggled against any form of oppression and dictatorship. He stood firm in support of the values of human rights and democracy and for the plight of national minorities in Europe and elsewhere.

In 2001 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands introduced a biannual prize to an individual or organisation whose extraordinary achievements have improved the position of national minorities in Europe. This Max van der Stoel Award is one of the main beacons of hope that the OSCE provides to those communities who are struggling to get their grievances addressed and their rights accepted.

The situation of the Cham community living in exile from their original homeland bears many resemblances to the many issues faced by the late High Commissioner on National Minorities.

In his speech the first vice-president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans showed himself a genuine heir to the ideals of the late High Commissioner. He too is relentlessly advocating for the rights of all to be recognised.

During the event the Republic of Chameria president Festim Lato discussed the political situation of Chameria with Commissioner Frans Timmermans. He explained the historical injustice done to the Cham community and their expulsion between 1913 and 1944. The president also gave the Commissioner a detailed written description of the history of the Cham community as well as the advocacy campaign to get the issue on the political agenda. The Commissioner proved very open and receptive to the Cham claim for justice.

The objective of all the political forces in Europe should be to cooperate in bringing this issue to a righteous solution. The Commissioner has shown himself to be a strong and vocal advocate for the values that hold Europe together. President Festim Lato is confident that the Commissioner will show resolve and support the quest of the Cham to get justice and that there will be many more meetings and cooperations in the near future.

On 8 February 2018, the Center for European Policy Studies and Mr. Maciej Popowski, Deputy Director General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations of the European Commission, invited representatives from international institutions for the first public discussion after the presentation of the new Strategy Paper on the Accession Talks with the Western Balkans. The president of the Republic of Chameria Festim Lato was also invited, which provided an opportunity to inform the Deputy Director General and the other participants of the Cham issue.

At the meeting, the Deputy Director General explained the views of the Commission and provided an overview of the steps taken to come to this new strategy. This new framework provides an incentive for the applicants to reform and meet EU standards. It gives them a genuine opportunity and perspective to join the EU, without placing a fixed deadline on when an applicant can become a new member.

In the strategy presented on 6 February 2018 the Commission made a clear statement that the EU will not accept new members who have unresolved and lingering issues with their neighbours.

A major challenge for Chameria is the fact that the Cham issue is unresolved due to the political position of an established EU Member State, namely Greece, and not an aspiring one, Albania. In that sense the Cham issue is very comparable to the Macedonia issue. Greece has blocked Accession Talks with FYROM for many years in order to prevent it from adopting the name Macedonia and thereby claiming part of the perceived exclusive Greek historical heritage. The situation of Kosovo is another example, where several countries, like Spain, don’t recognize its independence in fear of it becoming an example for separatist groups in their country.

This topic was also brought up in the discussions with the Deputy Director General. Following the question on what the role of the EU will be in the case of Chameria and the clash of interests between the applicant Albania and the established Member State Greece, several responses were put forward; some more diplomatic than others.

A representative from a Greek organisation commented that it was not for the Greeks to solve the Cham issue but that it was for the Cham to offer their apology for not standing by the Greeks. Repeating the narrative of historical inaccuracies that subsequent Greek governments have used to deny the Cham community their rights as victims of injustice.

One extreme position that was taken is that the EU has an obligation to follow the Member State. This would mean that any of the 27 EU countries can say that they will not accept the opening of negotiations until their views are fully implemented by the applicant country, even if they are unreasonable and not in the interests of the EU as a whole. Another position takes a more collaborative approach. What will the EU say? There is a compromise on the table and you have to accept it?

The position of the Cham is that it is the obligation of Member States, Applicant States and the EU to work towards a framework in the Balkans and elsewhere that does justice to all nations and peoples and which is based upon the European values of human rights, democracy, the Rule of Law and the acceptance of minority rights.

Important challenges for the Commission will be to find a way to balance the interests of the various Member States, Applicant States and the collection of values that make up the core fabric of the Union. Furthermore, the Commission also has to keep an eye on the geopolitical threats and opportunities that linger in the struggle to keep the Balkans within the European family. The Cham issue is one of the main unresolved issues in the Western Balkan and it will undoubtedly be a topic in the upcoming negotiations between the various political actors.

On 31 January 2018, the Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato and the Prime Minister Ali Aliu joined other political leaders in Europe at a high-level conference in the European Parliament. The meeting focussed on the topic of a fair and balanced European Union in which young people have the opportunities to find jobs and build a career.

There are many institutional mechanisms that provide the wrong incentives to corporations and politicians and which disadvantage ordinary citizens and especially young professionals. This has resulted in a large brain drain from countries along the Mediterranean towards the north and west of Europe. This emigration is not out of free will but out of a necessity to survive. The divergion in Europe has impacted Chameria to a great extent as well.

The participants at the conference evaluated various options on making the European Union more inclusive and providing the countries and regions in the south more opportunities to become competitive and social. The Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato contributed to the event with an analysis of the situation of Chameria and the lack of opportunities for Cham people, as well as offering possible remedies.

On the sides of the event the Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato also had several meetings and discussions with political leaders and presented them the historical Cham issue. One of these political leaders is Mr. Dimitrios Papadimilous, who is the EP vice-president and a Greek European Parliamentarian from Syriza. Eventually, the Cham issue will be resolved through a political dialogue involving the Republic of Chameria, Greece, Albania and the European Union.

The conference comes at a time when the Albanian government signed an agreement with Greece giving away territory that legitimately belongs to Chameria. This and other likeminded agreements endanger the future for young Cham even further. The Republic of Chameria therefore joins all the democratic forces in the region to undo these poor political decisions and make Chameria a prosperous and peaceful place for the Cham.

PRESS RELEASE

The Republic of Chameria Condemns Edi Rama’s New Deal With Greece

Today, 30 january 2018 Albanian Prime minister Edi Rama signed an agreement changing the maritime borders between Greece and Albania in favour of the former. The Government of the Republic of Chameria condemns this deal that sees Greece gain 12 miles of territory at the expense of Albania.

We call upon the Albanian government to withdraw from this agreement and think of future generation Chams and Albanians who are disadvantaged through this agreement.

Giving away Albanian territory to Greece is another concession in a string of bad decisions made by the Edi Rama’s administration in just a month. It follows the changing of history textbooks in favor of Greece, the offer to build additional cemeteries for Greek soldiers and to support the Greek Minority within Albania. All these onesided concessions are not reciprocated by the Greek government.

The government of the Republic of Chameria calls upon the Edi Rama administration to include the same rights for the Cham as they are willing to give to Greece. The Cham issue still lingers and places unjust pressure on the victims who have been denied justice for decades.

The Edi Rama Administration should not sell out all its assets and crown jewels to Greece in order to prevent them to block the resumption of the Accession Talks with the European Union.

We believe that Albania and Chameria should become an integral part of Europe and gain membership of the Union as quickly as possible. However, becoming part of Europe means accepting the European values of human dignity, human rights and democracy. The actions by the Edi Rama Administration show disrespect for these values and are an example of capitulation in order to remain in power at the expense of future generation Chams and Albanians.

We call upon the Edi Rama Administration to withdraw from the agreement and instead focus on getting justice for the Cham by opening a political dialogue on the return of Cham lands, properties and the use of the Albanian language in Chameria.

Sincerely,

Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato

Click here to read the letter sent to Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama

On 24 January 2018, President Festim Lato attended a high-profile gala in Brussels with the leaders of the European Peoples Party (EPP) and the European Parliament. The gala was held in one of the most prestigious halls in Brussels and the topic that most of the participants addressed was at least as ambitious, namely what the future of Europe will be and what the role of the Union can be in world affairs.

The focus of the evening was on success and how the historical achievements made in making Europe more united, prosperous and safe can offer an inspiration to the new class of politicians and activists to continue with the European project. Talking about the future often leads to talking about the past, but Europe has much to contribute to the 21st century.

Chameria also places its hopes on the European Union and its values of human rights, dignity, democracy and the Rule of Law. For that reason president Festim Lato attended this gala event and was able to discuss the options for getting justice for the Cham people with many of the top leaders in Europe. The EPP is the largest political group in the European Parliament and consists of the Christian democratic and conservative parties in the Union. In politics bigger is better and gaining support from the EPP is therefore high on the agenda of president Festim Lato.

President Festim Lato met with the president of the European Peoples Party, Mr. Joseph Daul, who was very responsive to the calls to bring Chameria on the political agenda and make it a European issue that should be resolved based on European values and methods.

President Festim Lato also met with the Secretary General of the European Parliament, Mr. Klaus Welle, to present the Cham issue. The Secretary General is a strong proponent of a European identity backed by the EU institutions which bring freedom to all its citizens. The hope is that the issue of Chameria can soon become an issue in these institutions.

EPP President Joseph Daul and the Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato

 

Secretary General of the European Parliament Klaus Welle and The Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato

On 23 January 2018, Festim Lato, the president of the Republic of Chameria, met several key political leaders from the social-democrats in Europe. In the European Parliament in Brussels president Festim Lato attended a conference and had several meetings and discussions with parliamentarians and policy analysts and advisers. These meetings are part of the campaign to garner support for the cause of the Cham and put the issue on the political agenda.

President Festim Lato met Mr. Sergei Stanishev, the former prime-minister of Bulgaria and now the president of the PES, the party for the Socialists and Democrats in Europe. During their meeting, president Festim Lato explained the current and historical situation of Chameria and presented president Stanishev with documentation of the Cham issue.

The body of support for the Cham issue is growing and the Socialists and Democrats headed by president Stanishev have a social and European heart. Undoubtedly the Socialist and Democratic political family in Europe will support the campaign to get historical justice for Chameria. The Socialists and Democrats are the second biggest political family in Europe and they have a large presence both in the European Parliament as well as in most national parliaments all over Europe.

The Socialists and Democrats are heading the Progressive Alliance which aims to bring together all parties and movements with a social view of European- and world affairs in order to make an impact. The Republic of Chameria is strongly in favor of making Europe more social and inclusive and will gladly work with the groups within the Progressive Alliance.

The President of the Socialists and Democrats, Mr. Stanishev is also the former prime-minister of Bulgaria and they are for six months heading the European Presidency. One of the main issues of the Bulgarian Presidency is the further integration of the (Western) Balkans into the European Union. Accession talks with those countries in the Balkan who are not yet a member have restarted and will enter a new phase during the next couple of months. The issue of Chameria is an integral part of these talks. If there is something that the history of the Balkan has shown is that only when all issues are addressed in the open and justice includes all the regions peoples’ can there be peace in the Balkan. The president of the Republic of Chameria, Festim Lato has a fully packed agenda to put the Cham issue on the agenda during the Bulgarian Presidency.

Today, 20 January 2018, a large crowd of Cham took to the streets in Dürres to raise awareness for the Cham cause and to protest against the visit of the Greek foreign minister Kotzias who is on an official visit to Albania to meet with the Albanian government. The Cham people, lead by the president of the Republic of Chameria Festim Lato planned an organised protest, which was deliberately hindered by the Albanian police.
The many Cham people in Albania are closely following the political relations between the Greek and Albanian government and had been preparing for a peaceful protest on 20 January 2018 on the occasion of the visit of the Greek foreign minister Kotzias to Albania.
The activities of the Cham have always been in the open and in compliance with the laws of Albania. Many peaceful demonstrations organised by the president of the Republic of Chameria Festim Lato to gain freedom for Chameria have been held in the past years, months and weeks. However, today the Albanian police received orders from the government to hinder the democratic rights of the Cham to hold peaceful protests.
Cham from a dozen cities had planned to come to the city of Dürres to join their fellow Cham activists to hold one of the biggest protests of the year. However, the police stopped many busses from other cities like Vlorë from taking off. The Cham from those cities were therefore unable to participate in these demonstrations and had to watch the news to see their fellow brethren demonstrate on the streets of Dürres.
Despite the fact that many Cham were unable to come to Dürres, several thousand Cham activists waving flags from Chameria and supporting countries like the USA and Holland made the voice of the Cham people heard; the Greek and Albanian government should show that they are truly European by respecting the European values and open a political dialogue to resolve the Cham issue and bring peace and justice to the region.
Festim Lato, the president of the Republic of Chameria, will continue his struggle for historical justice for Chameria.

On Tuesday 9 January 2018 Chamerian president Festim Lato, prime-minister Ali Aliu and Mr. Jeroen Zandberg participated in a conference organised by the European liberal group. The conference titled ‘The State of Democracy, the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights in the EU – Safeguarding a community of values’ brought together many parliamentarians from the liberal family in Europe.

Guy Verhofstadt, the political leader of ALDE opened the conference with an outline of the challenges that Europe faces and ways to implement the liberal values in the European institutions as well as in the national and local governments.

The speakers at the conference each focussed on specific areas of society where threats, challenges and opportunities for the liberal values come to the fore. Many countries within the European Union are deviating from the common values that hold the European project on course for a future of greater freedom and prosperity. The speakers at the conference made it clear that it is the task of every individual to stand up for the rights of all European citizens and where these rights are violated, specific actions must be taken. Several examples of these actions, from individuals as well as institutions, were presented.

Sophie in‘t Veld, the vice-president of ALDE chaired the meeting and emphasised that article two of the treaty is the core of what the EU is all about. The strong focus on the Rule of Law within the EU shows that it truly is a political union which makes moral choices and is constructing a community of values.

President Festim Lato also attended this important conference, which directly impacts the lives of the Cham people. Greece is a member of the EU but is violating the rights of the Cham. At this conference president Festim Lato was able to bring the issue of Chameria into the halls of the European Parliament and discuss it with several important parliamentarians and specialists from international institutions.

Mr. Jeroen Zandberg was also able to have a contribution at the event to highlight the dire situation of the Cham people. The accession talks that the EU is currently having with the Western Balkan countries should increase the European values in this volatile region. However, in some respects these accession talks make it harder for the Cham people to get justice since many of the Balkan countries who are already a member of the EU, especially Greece, place pressure on the Albanian government to make it harder for the Cham people to organize themselves and advocate for the return of their properties and citizenship. The accession talks should of course not be misused to downgrade the European values, but instead be an opportunity to enlarge the European family and deepen its common values.

A television item (in Albanian) of the participation of President Festim Lato can be watched here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQzSM-GautY

On 15 December 2017, The Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato submitted a claim to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). This legal claim seeks to address the unresolved human rights violations against the Cham people. The illegal expropriation of land, the denial of the Cham language and its heritage, as well as the absence of the recognition of the genocide committed against the Cham people are in this claim to the ECHR.

The president of the Republic of Chameria has started the legal case. As with all international legal cases of this magnitude it will take time, effort and dedication to get justice. The Cham people have been working for decades on the struggle for recognition of their historical rights and they have never relinquished their goals or identity. Justice for Chameria will come and an important step on its path has been taken today.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is an international court established by the European Convention on Human Rights. It hears applications alleging that a contracting state has breached one or more of the human rights provisions concerning civil and political rights set out in the Convention and its protocols. Applications can be submitted by an individual, a group of individuals or one or more of the other contracting states, and, besides judgments, the Court can also issue advisory opinions. The Convention was adopted within the context of the Council of Europe, and all of its 47 member states are contracting parties to the Convention. The Court is based in Strasbourg, France.

 

On 14 December 2017 Chameria president Festim Lato was in Brussels to attend several seminars and meetings with EU officials and politicians relating to the social and economic development of the Balkan and Mediterranean region. During these meetings the Chamerian president presented the case of Chameria to a receptive audience. Especially those who had not heard of the Cham people and the many human rights violations committed against them, were eager to learn more about the issue.

Someone who definitely knows the Cham issue and is aware of the political sensitivity that it has in Greece is European Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Johannes Hahn. Following a request from Greek MEP Maria Spyraki to Commissioner Johannes Hahn back in September 2016 about supposed irredentism by Albania, the latter responded in a way that touched upon a taboo in Greek politics, namely the existence of the unresolved human rights issue of the Cham people. Commissioner Hahn replied that the existing Cham issue is a matter that needs to be resolved between the two countries involved, Albania and Greece. Commissioner Hahn: “The Commission welcomed the fact that both countries are discussing the establishment of a joint mechanism to be convened periodically for the resolution of the outstanding bilateral issues. This includes … the rights of persons belonging to minorities and the Cham issue.”

The Greek government replied as stung by a wasp: “As we know, the Cham issue does not exist and therefore has never been accepted as negotiated between the Greek and Albanian governments,” … “Commissioner Hahn with his false answer shows that he is not exercising his role and functions under the principle of impartiality to promote the common interests of the Union.”

On 14 December 2017 Chameria president Festim Lato had a meeting with Commissioner Johannes Hahn in the capital of Europe, Brussels. It was a very important occasion to let the voice of the Cham community be heard again in the halls of Brussels.

Chameria president Festim Lato presented a file on the present situation of the Cham people and explained the current and planned activities to get the most pressing Cham issues tackled, namely the recognition of the genocide against the Cham people and the return of properties that were taken by the Greek government after the expulsion of the Cham people. The many diplomatic and political activities that the Republic of Chameria, in cooperation with many politicians and diplomats,  has planned in the coming weeks and months will certainly provide more forward momentum to get justice for the Cham victims. The Commissioner recognized the fact that the Cham issue is still a very hot topic. It is an issue that needs to be resolved.

The European project stands for human rights, justice and solidarity. The Cham people are true Europeans and place their faith on the dreams and aspirations of a Europe united through shared and universal values. It provides great motivation to know that history is on the side of the Cham people and that the main political powers in Europe recognize this fact.

A news item about the meeting as shown on Albanian television on 14 December 2017: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1607800499277779&id=911311405593362

On 10 December 2017 a manifestation and conference to gather and inform the Cham people about the activities of the government of the Republic of Chameria was held on the central square in Vlorë, Albania. It was organized by the Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato.

A large crowd of over a thousand people from all over Albania and Kosovo came to listen to speeches by the cabinet members of the newly established government of the Republic of Chameria. The speakers included among others Prime-Minister Ali Aliu, Minister of Interior Affairs Rrustem Geci, Minister of Justice Elena Kocaqi and Mr. Jeroen Zandberg representing president Festim Lato. The event was broadcast live on many Albanian television stations. It provided the president an excellent opportunity to explain his political campaign for the freedom and self-determination of the Cham people. This campaign involves raising the human rights issue of the Cham, promoting the language and culture and to create a network of political support among the international community in order to put pressure on the Greek government to open negotiations and to work towards historical justice.

The half-day event also integrated the cultural heritage of the Cham through song and dance. Several famous cultural groups made outstanding performances and the reactions from the gathered crowd show that the Cham culture is still very much alive and vital.

 

 

 

 

On 1 to 3 December 2017 the Republic of Chameria president Festim Lato joined a range of high-profile political leaders from all over Europe for a three day congress to discuss the political challenges ahead for 2018.

The three-day event was organised by the ALDE political group which brought the liberal parties in Europe together for its annual congress. This time it was held in Amsterdam and featured a large number of prime ministers and Commissioners from the European Commission as well as many parliamentarians from most of the European countries.

President Festim Lato was able to meet a number of important political decision makers, including the ALDE president Hans van Baalen, and explain the Cham issue to them. He received a warm welcome and many of the participants were supportive of the advocacy activities for the Cham. The event was an excellent occasion to discuss with politicians from various European countries and plan for future activities at the various national parliaments in 2018.

ALDE holds its 38th Party Congress in Amsterdam

More than a thousand delegates from all over Europe are attending the ALDE party congress in Amsterdam. Among those delegates are many with top level political positions in Europe, including five liberal prime-ministers. Several European Commissioners, European Parliament members and national parliamentarians are also contributing to the three-day long Congress.

From the start of the opening of the 38th ALDE Congress it is clear that the political group is feeling bold and that the recent electoral successes of many liberal parties across Europe have provided new political energy. In many European countries liberals play a key role. Whereas in the past, liberal parties were at times kingmakers, it is now often the rule that it is the liberals themselves who become the new kings, or from a more liberal perspective, prime-minsters.

If big is beautiful in politics, than by the scale of the dreams put forth by the speakers and the reactions from the audience, it is quite certain that the ALDE party is currently the most beautiful girl in town.

The ALDE President Hans van Baalen opened the Congress with a passion and drive from someone who knows he is on the best team, part of the fastest growing family and on the right side of history. The many electoral national successes over the past year should be a stepping stone for more. The ALDE president painted a grand picture of the near future where the liberals could become the biggest party at the European Parliament elections in 2019. A new wind is blowing through the institutions in Brussels and no longer is it the two old crocodiles, EPP and S&D, who have divided the shares for so long, that determine the outcome of the political discussion. Mr. Van Baalen called out to the audience to remind them that the liberal political successes in national elections should also be used to appoint liberals in the various European institutions which are now almost exclusively being held by conservatizes and socialists.

The ALDE president was followed by the ALDE party group leader Guy Verhofstadt who in his characteristic enthusiasm for an open and free society looked back as well as forward to the many political challenges. At the close of 2016 the prospects for the liberals looked dim with populism rising everywhere. Many thought that after Trump and Brexit there would be a domino effect. However, in 2017 politics took another turn. Populists didn’t win in The Netherlands, France or Germany. Instead, it was the liberals who gained momentum. There is now a liberal government in The Netherlands. In France, president Macron, who is in many respects a liberal, might join forces with ALDE after the 2019 EP elections. ALDE should take the initiative and become again the main driving force to remodel the European institutions in order to become more effective; European-wide electoral lists, democratic decision-making instead of unanimity and institutional reform. The biggest threat is not the rise of populism but the fear of change. We should believe in a better future and not be nostalgic about the past. After the defeat of nationalism, socialism and conservatism it is up to the values of liberalism to determine the future. From the reactions of the audience it appears that they are ready.

The following speakers were as upbeat about the opportunities for the liberal parties as the ALDE leaders. Alexander Pechtold, the political leader of the Dutch political party D66, shared his ambition to adapt the EU to the 21st century. He provided a list of concrete and specific actions that need to be taken to make the EU a world leader in the fight against climate change and to be the starkest defender of democracy. D66, meaning Democrats 1966, has been a defender of democracy for its 51 years’ history. It battles enemies from within, like Geert Wilders and his populist PVV, and from without. Always with the conviction that the liberal values provide the life essence for an open and free society. Among the specific actions that Mr. Pechtold mentioned is the idea to use the seats that will become vacant in 2019 due to the leave of the UK, for European-wide electoral lists.

EC Commissioner Margrete Vestager asked the audience how to renew democracy. According to Ms. Vestager we need to renew the re-use of the institutions we already have in place. Europe is the best place to live in for minorities as well as for majorities. The foundations of the institutions that shape our society are sound and are even more important than the immediate views of the majority. People can be swept away by emotions and make the wrong decisions in the process. Our institutions are there to safeguard our future success from our inevitable, occasional and very human mistakes. As the Commissioner for Competition Ms. Vestager is dedicated to harnessing the forces of globalization so that they work for all and not just for the very few.

Prime-minister Xavier Bettel of Luxemburg had a personal message where he clearly showed what it means to be a European and to be part of a social and political project that has brought peace and prosperity to hundreds of millions of people. He himself has four grandparents from four different religions and nationalities. Even that generation considered itself in a fundamental way to be European. Prime-minister Bettel told the audience that in order to win the upcoming elections it will be important to have solidarity and unity between the parties. The liberals are the bloc against populism.

The question on how to renew democracy was the subject of the plenary debate that followed the key note speeches. This debate offered strongly felt views on the nature of liberalism and how modern democracy should be defended against anti-liberal views and standpoints. Several of the speakers also made their case to have liberalism and populism as opposing forces. Whether or not populism deserves to be on the same ideological level as liberalism with its long and successful history is however doubtful. The fact is nonetheless that in many of the recent elections the liberals were the strongest and most vocal opponents of the populists.

Bart Somers, the mayor of Mechelen and the president of the Committee of the Regions was clear about his political vision. The age-old frame of left versus right is not working anymore. The 21st century needs a new debate with new answers. These answers should come from the liberal values that lie at the core of the European project. Populism is the enemy of liberalism. The populists reject diversity and have as their purpose to destroy our freedom, values and the EU. In their fight against these values they use the narrative of the open society, but they mean exactly the opposite. It is reminiscent of George Orwells 1984, where the Ministry of Peace is only working on war. Mr. Somers made a clear point that the essence of liberalism is that it makes different identities possible. You can be Flemish, Belgian, European, liberal and father at the same time. Populists main goal however is to reduce everyone to one identity. You have no freedom without diversity and no diversity without freedom.

Albert Rivera, the political leader of the Spanish party Cs sees a great future for his liberal party. Although they currently have 13 percent of the electorate behind them, the polls are much more favorable. Furthermore, the party doesn’t just talk to its supporters. It talks to the majority. The Cs party is not business friendly but market friendly and is honest about the EU. The EU means better services for lower prices. It serves the ordinary people and provides them opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise. It is Mr. Rivera’s vision that people are waiting for the truth and not the post-truth of the populists. They say the past is better than the future. Liberals say the opposite. We should think with our dreams and not with our fears. Populists say what language you need to speak and what flag to support. Liberals believe in free choices. In order to win the 2019 European elections the liberals should focus on values and not on left or right politics. We are also pro-EU and want the market to work for the citizens.

EC Commissioner Margrete Vestager was the third person on the panel and she also had many things to say about the workings of the EU and how to deal with the many political challenges. One main point that stood out was her position that liberals should not see the populists as enemies. Competitors maybe. We should meet them in an open space and convince the electorate that the solutions offered by the populists are not realistic. We must confront the populists and the general electorate with the confidence that our values are the basis of a fair and just society that brings peace and prosperity to all. No-one wants to be told what to do and we should not tell people that the EU is good for them. We need to show them. With 500 million citizens we can stand up to the big multinationals and have them play by our, democratic, rules. It is also good to make it clear to those who criticize the EU that it is more democratic than most national democracies and that it works in the best interests of the citizens of Europe.

The president of the Committee of the Regions, Mr. Bart Somers closed the panel debate with an example of his experience as the mayor of Mechelen. Groupthink is the most destructive force in politics. Left and right make caricatures of each other. They refuse to see the positive role models that would weaken their monolithic views of the situation. Liberals are more honest and rise above these caricatures. Liberals are not part of the left versus right debate. For them it is the question of an open versus a closed society that is driving the liberal political standpoints. We will win the elections in 2019. Liberalism is the project of the future.

For more information about the congress please visit the website of ALDE at www.aldeparty.eu. The homepage for the event can be accessed here: https://www.aldeparty.eu/events/alde-party-congress-amsterdam-2017

On 31 October 2017 several hundred Cham supporters and activists came to The Hague, the Netherlands to celebrate the one year anniversary of the declaration of the Republic of Chameria on 31 October 2016. The main cabinet members and advisers held speeches, as did the president of the Republic, Festim Lato. Many activities have been done and many more are being planned. The embassy is functioning well and the body of support has significantly grown since the declaration of independence. The upbeat conference provided additional motivation and an incentive to work even harder for the recognition of Chameria and to make sure that the human rights of the Cham are fully recognised.

The event was proceeded by a demonstration through the city center of The Hague on 27 October 2017 in order to bring more attention to the Cham issue.

On 20 September 2017, the Chamerian president Festim Lato participated in a conference in Brussels organized by the ALDE party and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.

The event with Estonian Prime-Minister Jüri Ratas focused on the Estonian Presidency of the EU, which is currently half way. The Prime-Minister shared a positive and hopeful vision of the current and future state of the EU. It is the mission of Estonia to increase the diplomatic ties between the members of the Union and focus on the shared values that bring the European nations together. As a nation that lived under Soviet rule for decades, Estonia remains sensitive and open to the partner countries who are at the moment outside of the European Union. The Estonian border is that of NATO and the EU. The EU will not leave the Eastern Neighborhood partnership out in the cold. The prime-minister said that what we should do is to make the points that we want to reach more practical and realistic. Concrete steps are good. There is an Eastern Partnership Center in Estonia, where we work with local government and others. These are very concrete things. There will be an Eastern Neighborhood Partnership summit in Brussel in November where we hope to find new steps.

In response to a question on the violation of the rights of Chameria to their own identity, the prime-minister emphasized that he is a strong proponent of implementing the rights of nations and peoples to become fully European and enlarging the community, thereby strengthening Europe. We need to move forward and leave anti-liberal views behind.

An important part of the speech of the prime-minister focused on data, access to information and cybersecurity. Estonia is a leader in this field and actively works on creating a digital Europe. The future is digital. It is the coal and steel of this century. In this vision it is crucially important that the digital single market becomes a reality. A digital Europe should be based on a fifth freedom; that of the freedom of movement of data. Estonia is very much in favor of the EU strategy on cybersecurity and welcomes the act regulating the free movement of data.

The event was followed by a short reception where Chamerian president Festim Lato had the opportunity to discuss with the prime-minister in preparation for the upcoming meetings in Estonia in October.

For more information on the event please visit the websites of the organizers:

https://www.aldeparty.eu/news/estonian-prime-minister-juri-ratas-our-future-will-be-digital

https://www.freiheit.org/digital-pur-der-eu

Chamerian president Festim Lato organized a conference in The Hague, the Netherlands where the new constitution of the Republic of Chameria was unveiled and the new government officials were presented.

On 9 September 2017, at a well-attended ceremony in The Hague, the Netherlands, the new constitution of the Republic of Chameria was unveiled. This document sets out the jurisdiction of the government of Chameria and defines the rights, duties and obligations of the appointed and elected government officials. It also provides a framework for the rights of Chamerian citizens who can from this day onward turn to the constitution for their inalienable rights as a global and national citizen and human being.

Following the declaration of independence on 31 October 2016, a constitutional assembly chaired by Festim Lato held a number of sessions during the year of 2017 to prepare the articles that form the basis of the constitution of the Republic of Chameria. This fully democratic constitution contains over a hundred articles that lay out the structures of government and the rights and duties of its subjects.

The new leaders of the Republic of Chameria signed an official certificate of establishment showing their commitment to the government and their willingness to abide by international regulations that outline the rule of conduct between nations.

The Chamerian nation is now presented by a government consisting of the following officials:

  • President: Festim Lato
  • Prime-Minister: Ali Aliu
  • Minister of Interior Affairs: Rrustem Geci
  • Minister of Justice: Elena Kocaqi
  • Minister of Economy and Finance: Idajet Jahaj
  • Minister of Education and Social Affairs: Ilda Prifti
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs: Jona Mustafa

The event attracted a diverse audience from all over Europe who witnessed the installation of the first official government of Chameria based on the new constitution.

The day started with a ceremony followed by a number of speeches that highlighted the struggle of the Chamerian people who have endured great hardships and have, through endurance and visionary leadership, come to a point where they can become a fully active member of the international community.

The various cabinet members were inaugurated and shared their perspectives on the history and politics of Chameria with a strong focus on the road that lies ahead.

The new constitution and the formation and inauguration of the government of the republic also made it possible to start with the procedure to grant citizenship to all the individual Cham people. The event was therefore also a launchpad for this process.

Furthermore, the struggle for recognition of Chameria as an independent nation among nations continues with the plan to set up diplomatic posts in many of the worlds capitals before the end of the year.

PROGRAM

13.30                                    Registration and coffee and tea

14.00                                    Introduction, Elena Kocaqi, Government of Chameria

14.20                                     Presentation, Jeroen Zandberg

14.45                                     Presentation, Ali Aliu, Prime-Minister of Chameria

15.00                                     Presentation, Festim Lato, President Chameria

15.20                                     Official signing of establishment of the Republic of Chameria

15.30                                     Appointment and swearing in of the Cabinet of the Republic of Chameria

15.50                                     Presentation of the constitution

16.00                                     End of ceremony.

On 1 September 2017, Chamerian president Festim Lato participated in a conference in the Dutch parliament organized by the Atlantic Commission on the challenges of UN peacekeeping. In an interactive setting the Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations of the United Nations Jean-Pierre Lacroix presented the views of the United Nations and discussed challenges for today’s peacekeeping with the participants of the conference.

The main challenges to peace keeping according to the Under Secretary General are: 1. Peacekeeping supports finding political solutions, but the increasingly diverging views on what describes a fair and just political solution make this very difficult; 2. The increasingly difficult security environment; 3. The pressure on the resources and budget of the United Nations.

Public image of peacekeeping

The Under Secretary General emphasized that although the public image of UN peacekeeping is not good the UN missions are nevertheless vital to peace and security around the globe. For example, without the UN mission to Mali, MINUSMA, the country would probably have disintegrated causing more hardship for the people and for the region as a whole.

The UN tries to be as open and transparent about its actions as possible and also tries to manage expectations, since usually the mandate given to the UN is greater than the actual resources at its disposal. The UN hopes that this strategy will be successful in showing people the importance of peacekeeping missions and that it reaches maximal results with minimal means.

Partnerships and regional focus

Another part of the debate focused on the evolving nature of conflicts around the world. Whereas in the past many conflicts were within individual countries, most conflicts today have a regional character, whereas the peacekeeping missions are always in just one country. A good example is Mali, where the UN currently has the MINUSMA mission. Although the peacekeeping mission is in an individual country the UN actively tries to involve all the players in the conflict. In the Malian conflict this is done in the G5 Sahel group, where the neighbors are active partners in trying to resolve the conflict.

Following this debate the Under Secretary General also mentioned that the UN actively tries to get partnerships running with regional organisations, like the European Union and the African Union. This global approach of outsourcing the spread and management of peace is a priority for the current Secretary General.

Chamerian president Festim Lato is a great supporter of the strategy of regional cooperation and creating partnerships with likeminded groups and is itself engaged in promoting dialogue and peace between groups.

As part of the global diplomatic effort to get international attention for the cause of Chameria, a delegation led by Chamerian president Festim Lato travelled to Italy for a ten-day mission to meet with government officials. The delegation visited the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Italian Senate. Furthermore, the delegation travelled to the independent countries of Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican where the Chamerian president Festim Lato presented diplomatic letters to the governments of the various republics.

For many years Chameria was completely unknown to most people. The opponents of the rights of the Cham people were highly successful in deleting the centuries’ old history of Chameria from the international collective consciousness. Efforts made by individuals to re-organize the people around the Cham issue during the past few decades resulted in some successes, especially in Albania and among the Albanian- and Chamerian diaspora. The declaration of independence on 30 October 2016 led to a much needed internationalization of the Chamerian struggle. This brought the issue for the self-determination of Chameria to the next level.

The crucial step towards international diplomatic and political recognition of the historical rights of Chameria continues with this ten-day mission in August 2017 to Italy, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican. The delegation led by Chamerian president Festim Lato, met with various government officials.

In the Principality of Monaco the Chamerian president Festim Lato visited the Prince’s palace and was able to meet with the Prince’s Chief of the Guard and Senior Commander who represents Monaco as the second ranked official after the Prince. The Chamerian president Festim Lato presented an official diplomatic letter about the situation of Chameria, requesting assistance from the Prince in getting the case on the international agenda. The Chamerian president Festim Lato was also invited to sign the official diplomatic guest book of the Prince.

In Rome, the Chamerian president Festim Lato visited the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the Senate, to inform politicians and government officials of the struggle of Chameria and request for their assistance. The Chamerian president Festim Lato was given the opportunity to explain the situation in great detail and was met with great curiosity about the specific historical events and claims surrounding Chameria. This is also very important in light of the fact that there is a large diaspora of more than a million people of Albanian and Chamerian descent living in Italy.

In the mission to get as much international support for the cause of Chameria as possible, the Chamerian president Festim Lato also travelled to the Vatican. The Chamerian president Festim Lato was warmly welcomed there by a representative of the Pope. The diplomatic letters, as well as the book on the history of Chameria, written by Chamerian president Festim Lato and Mr. Rrustem Geci, were presented to the Inspector General. He informed the Chamerian president Festim Lato that the Holy Father would read the diplomatic letters and that there would be a possibility of a private audience at a later date.

Finally, the Chamerian president Festim Lato visited the mountainous country of San Marino, which is one of the oldest republics in Europe. The Chamerian president Festim Lato had meetings with government officials from various ministries to discuss the strengthening of political and diplomatic ties within the European Union and between San Marino and Chameria. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister responsible for European Affairs as well as the Director of Economic Affairs were so open to accept the diplomatic letters presented to them by the delegation and prepare their agenda’s for follow up meetings. This concluded a highly successful mission to get international support for Chameria.

 

On 16 to 19 July 2017, Chamerian president Festim Lato headed a 5 person delegation to Israel. The Chamerian president Festim Lato had several meetings with representatives of the municipalities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as well as with government officials from various ministries, among which the prime minister’s office. This planned official visit laid the groundwork for cooperation on multiple levels of governance and is another step in expanding Chameria’s global network of political and diplomatic partnership for peace.

Chamerian president Festim Lato presented historical documents about Chameria, as well as diplomatic letters to government officials in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The positive reception of Chamerian president Festim Lato and the planned follow up meetings is a clear sign of a future partnership in making the world more inclusive and just.

Israel is one of the world’s senior democracies and is dedicated to upholding the values of democracy and human rights. Furthermore, it’s Jewish character makes it an unique partner for more global awareness for peaceful identity politics and diplomacy. Added to this is the fact that there is a substantial Jewish cultural influence on the Chamerian people. For example, the mother of the Chamerian President is herself of Jewish origin.

Chamerian president Festim Lato sees the country of Israel, as well as its major cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as an important global partner in striving for world peace and recognition of neglected human and cultural rights of unrepresented peoples.

On 26 to 28 June 2017 president Festim Lato participated in several conferences in Edinburgh, Scotland. These conferences were organised by several Scottish political parties and took place in the Scottish parliament. The first conference on 26 June was titled: Sharing Perspectives on the Rights of the Unrepresented, while the second conference on the 27th of June had as its title: Self-Determination in the Globalised Age: Building Solidarity among the Unrepresented. Both of these conferences focussed on the role that unrepresented nations, like Chameria, play in the current age and how the rights of oppressed and ignored peoples can be promoted.

The conferences coincided with the General Assembly of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation. The UNPO is a membership organisation of underrepresented peoples, nations and states, which was established in 1991 to promote the rights and self-determination of its members. Among its members are nations like Tibet, Abkhazia, Taiwan, West Papua and the Kurds. President Festim Lato attended the General Assembly as a result of a membership application that Chameria made to the UNPO.

On the first day of the UNPO General Assembly on the 27th of June, the members voted in favor of the Chamerian application for membership and Chameria was officially taken in by the organisation as a new member. President Festim Lato held a speech addressing the Assembly, thanking the participants for recognising the plight of the Cham people. He expressed the hope and desire to collectively work towards a better and more equal world in which the rights of all nations and peoples are recognised. 27 June is an important date for the Cham people since it is the day of remembrance of the genocide committed against the Cham people in 1944. President Festim Lato requested the audience to honour this day and hold a minute of silence.

The various events in Edinburgh, Scotland were an excellent opportunity for president Festim Lato to get acquanted with leaders of other unrecognised nations and to look for ways to cooperate on future activities that will be helpful to the people of Chameria and others.

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