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In a conference room in Dortmund, Germany on 9 December 2018, a group of Albanian speaking residents from the region around the city came to listen to a number of speakers who talked about recent and historical events in Albania, Kosovo and Chameria. The Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato, as well as Prime-Minister Ali Aliu, attended the event as speakers and explained the historical situation of Chameria. Furthermore, they informed the people about the current and planned activities of the government of the Republic of Chameria. The struggle for freedom and recognition of the Cham people has gained momentum by the advocacy of the president and his supporters and could force a major change in the situation in the region in the upcoming year.

The event in Germany was dedicated to the book presentation by Albanian professor Elena Kocaqi. It was the first presentation of her new book outside of Albania and offered the Albanian speakers in this part of Germany the opportunity to learn more about the content and context of the book, which is called ‘the battle of Troje’. The book, published by Emal Publishing, is a historical investigation of the Trojan war of ancient antiquity. For her book professor Kocaqi delved into the primary sources by authors like Herodotus and through a bibliographic analysis tried to create an insight into the origin and nature of the Peoples involved in the Trojan war, which in her conclusion are related to modern-day Albanians and Kosovar.

In her speech professor Kocaqi, who is also a fervent supporter of the struggle for more recognition of the Cham, explained the genesis of her latest work and how it fits in with her previous historical books. It is her firm belief that publications such as her book on the Trojan war will enable the Albanian speaking people to get a better understanding of their role in Europe’s cultural constellation in the past, but also in the present and future. An objective that has the support of many, including the president of the Republic of Chameria.

On 29 and 30 November 2018, the Eleventh Session of the UN Forum on Minority Issues was held in the Palais de Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Forum on Minority Issues meets annually for two working days allocated to thematic discussions. The Special Rapporteur on minority issues guides the work of the Forum, prepares its annual meetings and reports on the thematic recommendations of the Forum to the Human Rights Council.

The Forum aims at addressing the interrelatedness and interconnection between the promotion and protection of the human rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and statelessness. This year’s Forum had the theme “Statelessness: A Minority Issue”.

The Republic of Chameria president Festim Lato was in Geneva, Switzerland during these days to attend the Forum, present a statement, submit a report and to meet with representatives of civil society organisations and government officials in order to bring the Cham issue to the attention of the international community.

In the main hall of the United Nations in Geneva, president Festim Lato presented his statement about the Cham issue. The theme of this year’s conference, statelessness, was very relevant for Chameria. Following many meetings in Brussels during 2018, the Cham issue was placed on the political agenda through a motion for the report of the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament on Albania. The main issue of this motion is directly related to the issue of statelessness. During World War Two most of the Cham population was expelled from their homeland Chameria and sought refuge in Albania. While living as refugees in Albania they were stripped of their citizenship in 1947 and subsequently also of the legal entitlement to their properties through the law of confiscation of 1953-54. The Greek government, weary of any claim by the Cham on their ancestral territory, does not recognise the passports of most of the Cham-Albanians born in Chameria as valid travel documents.

President Festim Lato was at the United Nations to get international support for the resolution of the Cham issue. In his statement and the supporting documents, the president officially requested the United Nations to take up the Cham issue and recognise the human rights violations committed against the Cham people. The president has been in contact with the United Nations Secretariat regarding the Cham issue and expects that they will cooperate in addressing it and seek a fair and balanced solution. The Special Rapporteur will produce a report based on the communications he received during the Session and will present recommendations and proposals, which will most likely also contain information about the Cham that president Festim Lato provided to the UN. This forms a next step in internationalising the Cham issue and puts pressure on all the parties in the conflict to come to the table and find solutions.

The statement can be downloaded here and is also copied below.

 

THE STATEMENT TO THE UNITED NATIONS


The Cham are an indigenous people with a Cham-Albanian culture who lived for many centuries in the historical region of Chameria, which is now Northwestern Greece.

The citizenship of my parents and their generation was taken away by the Greek government through a special Law in 1947, after they drove us out by force into Albania during World War Two. This was described in great detail by the international community. The Albanian government did not help the Cham. Instead, they forced the Albanian citizenship upon the Cham community in 1953.

Because the Greek government took away the citizenship of the Cham we lost our houses and properties. This historical problem has not been solved and continues to limit the Cham people today.

Because the Greek government took the citizenship of my parents’ generation we also lost our political, cultural, social and economical rights. The Law of Confiscation adopted by the Greek government in 1953-54 formalised the seizure of Cham properties. In practice this means that many of the Cham are poor and are unable to cross the Albanian-Greek border even though they have valid Albanian passports.

The Greek government uses the argument that passports of people with Albanian citizenship who were born in the region of Chameria need to specifically state that their country of birth was Greece. The passports of Cham people born in the region of Chameria are completely valid documents with which they can travel to all countries in the Schengen area, except to Greece. This issue was discussed in the European Parliament this year.

Furthermore, in the territory where the Cham used to form the majority, the language is not recognised and the Cham are also not recognised as a minority.

Therefore, I call upon Greece to repeal the laws that took away our citizenship and properties. I also request the United Nations to support the Cham people and help resolve the Cham issue. We want to be recognised as Cham and we deserve the return of our citizenship and properties that were taken away from us.

On 21 November 2018, the national football team of the Republic of Chameria travelled to the southern Albanian city of Tepelenë to play a match against the city’s professional team, KF Tepelenë, which plays in the Albanian Second Division.

The event was attended by the city’s dignitaries, including the mayor. The match was preceded by speeches from various persons including the chairperson of the football federation, Mr. Arben Arkaxhiu and one of the main organisers of the event, Mr. Marenglen Koçiu. Furthermore, the president of the Republic of Chameria, Festim Lato was in live contact during the opening ceremony and like the also present mayor of Tepelenë gave his blessing to the friendly game between the national team of the Republic of Chameria and KF Tepelenë.

The 90 minute match ended in a two-to-one win for KF Tepelenë. A report of the match can be viewed on the federation’s website.

The national team of the Republic of Chameria has played a series of matches against professional teams in Kosovo and Albania in the past months. A list of those matches and more information about the teams and events can be found on the website of the official Football Federation of the Republic of Chameria: http://www.footballfederationrepublicofchameria.org

In 2019 the national team will also participate in several major international tournaments in various countries in Europe. The team will also join the European Championships organised by CONIFA, which will be held in June 2019 in Artsakh.

On Tuesday 20 November 2018, a high level conference to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights took place at the European Parliament. Many leaders from international institutions who help shape the global interdependent world were present and shared their visions and ideals on a future world where the principles of human rights are genuinely accepted as universal and fundamental to peaceful coexistence of all Peoples. The Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato also attended this event.

The president of the European Parliament, Mr. Antonio Tajani and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs of the European Union, Ms Federica Mogherini, opened the conference with introductory speeches about the role that the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights has played in the history of the EU. The Declaration was adopted on 10 December 1948 by the UN General Assembly and this treaty has set the standard for many of the world’s national, regional and international agreements as well as the constitutions of many States. The Declaration as a ‘standard of achievement’ also stands at the heart of the core values of the EU. Mr Tajani mentioned that the protection of the political, economic and social- and cultural rights within the framework of European cooperation is a central pillar of the work by the European Parliament and the other European institutions. Ms Mogherini also pointed out that the Declaration should be seen as a manifesto and that we always need to have a forward looking vision on how to improve our interconnected lives by finding new ways to improve the implementation of human rights in our international institutions.

The conference is part of the Human Rights Week (19 – 22 November 2018) that the European Parliament, in close cooperation with the European Commission and the European External Action Service, organises to bring together hundreds of civil society representatives, human rights defenders and international institutions in order to share experiences and extend and deepen the global network of all those who seek to promote the multilateral system which is based on the respect and protection of human rights.

Another important speaker was the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rigts, Ms Michelle Bachelet who provided an overview of the historical succes of the Declaration. Many countries have modelled parts of their constitution to the Declaration. Countries who have implemented the Declaration to a greater extent are usually better able to solve the many social issues that they face. The positive speech by Ms Bachelet also warned not to be complacent because despite the many successes there is still much work to be done.

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Ms Fatou Bensouda, was also present. In her speech the Prosecutor explained the genesis of the ICC and the role that the Rome Statute plays in holding individuals accountable for crimes that would otherwise go unpunished. The Prosecutor’s Office considers itself the motor behind the strengthening of international law and justice.

Many dignitaries and others were part of the debate during the day. The Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato was also an active participant and was able to inform several high ranking individuals of the plight of the Cham community. The president sees it as a vitally important task to increase his international network with representatives of institutions who are able to make a difference in the lives of the Cham. For example, the event also provided the opportunity to present a document on the human rights violations of the Cham to the EU Special Representative on Human Rights, Mr. Stavros Lambrinidis.

Prime-Minister Ali Aliu and Diplomat Jeroen Zandberg accompanied president Festim Lato at the conference.

Several links to the event:

European Parliament to host Human Rights Week

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20181116IPR19218/european-parliament-to-host-human-rights-week

United Nations

https://www.unric.org/en/latest-un-buzz/31186-human-rights-week-at-the-european-parliament-a-call-to-celebrate-70-years-of-universality-and-address-new-challenges

 

 

On 7 November 2018, the Republic of Chameria president Festim Lato discussed the Cham issue with the High Representative for Foreign Affairs of the European Union, Ms Federica Mogherini.

President Festim Lato and his delegation have been in contact with the European External Action Service (EEAS) for over a year and have had several closed door meetings with policy advisors at the EEAS who are experts on the Balkan region. At those occasions the president was able to explain the political and human rights situation of the Cham community and the workings and objectives of the Republic of Chameria.

The EEAS is the EU’s diplomatic service and manages the diplomatic relations and foreign and military policy of the EU. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Ms Federica Mogherini leads the EEAS. In this capacity she coordinates the external relations of the EU and acts as a ‘foreign minister’ of the European Union.

On 7 November 2018, president Festim Lato participated in a high level conference in the European Parliament with, among others the president of the Socialists & Democrats, Udo Bullman, and the president of Burkina Faso. Many other dignitaries were also present, as was High Representative Ms Federica Mogherini. Before and after the conference, president Festim Lato exchanged views with Ms. Federica Mogherini about the Cham issue and what the role of the European Union could and should be in helping resolve it. At this occassion the president also offered Ms Mogherini additional material about the Cham issue and the activities that he and his government have implemented in recent months.

At the conference, Ms Mogherini showed that she is a political leader who is driven by the vision of making the world more peaceful and using the European structures to improve the lives of migrants, minorities and  all those who are currently unjustly excluded. President Festim Lato is hopeful that Ms Mogherini and the EEAS will play an increasingly more public role in addressing the Cham issue and to get it on the political agenda.

Prime-Minister Ali Aliu, diplomat Jeroen Zandberg and Mr Rexhep Abazi, who is representing the Albanian community in the Presjevo region, also participated in the event.

 

 

A resolution calling on the Albanian government to remedy a discriminatory measure that targets the Cham community was published in a report of the Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) of the European Parliament.

The persistent discrimination against the Cham people is a great concern for president Festim Lato. One crystal clear violation of the human rights of the Cham people is the refusal of the Greek border police to let Cham-Albanian citizens who were born in Chameria to cross the border. This human rights issue causes much grief to elderly Cham who are unable to visit their places of birth.

On 20 February 2018, a group of thirty elderly Chams who were born in Chameria tried to cross the Greek border, but were denied entry. This is due to the fact that the Greek government uses the argument that passports of people with Albanian citizenship who were born in Chameria need to specifically state that their country of birth was Greece. Most of the passports of people born in Chameria are completely valid documents with which they can travel to all countries in the Schengen area, except to Greece.

The Albanian government is also not supportive of the Cham community by on the one hand bowing to Greek pressure to recognise Chameria as Greek, as can be seen by the implementation of the 2014 passport law, and on the other hand not properly implementing these regulations for the Cham people by not distributing the proper documents. A detailed explanation as well as links to the official government documents is here.

Following this clear human rights violation, president Festim Lato set about trying to find political and legal means of addressing the issue and solve it as soon as possible.

One strategy has been to address it in the European Parliament. Since February 2018 President Festim Lato has met many parliamentarians who are a member of the foreign affairs committee (AFET) with the specific request to help solve this human rights issue. Fortunately, there were several Members of the European Parliament who were very open to help solve the issue.

Several key members of the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament drafted a resolution calling on the Albanian government to solve this issue and provide the Cham people with the same rights as all other Europeans. This resolution was included in the report of amendments by MEP Knut FLECKENSTEIN, who is the rapporteur on Albania and bi-annually produces a report about Albania’s progress on implementing European values.

The resolution reads as follows:

“Reiterates the importance of freedom of movement of Albanian citizens among the EU countries; calls on the Government to ensure that Albanian citizens born in Greece, holding valid Albanian passport, cross the GreekAlbanian border without any restriction; calls hence on the Government to update the passports of those citizens replacing as place of birth the name of the village/city with the name of the country;”

The report can be viewed here (see page 77 of the report) and on the website of the European Parliament as well.

 

President Festim Lato is grateful to all the members of the foreign affairs committee who supported the resolution. His special thanks goes to the parliamentarians Ms. Monica MACOVEI and Mr. Ivan JAKOVČIĆ who proposed to include the resolution to address the human rights violation of the Cham people into the report of amendments.

President Festim Lato hopes that the elderly Cham who are not allowed to cross the Greek border will soon benefit from international pressure and be allowed freedom of movement to visit the places of their birth and childhood.

30 October is an important date for the Cham people. It is the date of the establishment of the Republic of Chameria. Today, 30 October 2018, marks the second anniversary of the declaration of independence and it is therefore another milestone in the history of Chameria.

Since its declaration in 2016, the president of Chameria, and his government advisors and partners, have rolled out a large number of government services and have started numerous international political activities.

The second anniversary of the declaration of independence was celebrated in many places where Cham people reside. There were parades in various cities in Albania and Kosovo and the main event in the Netherlands, in which the president addressed his people directly, was broadcast live and seen by a large part of the Cham community.

In the past year the president has met many of the world’s leaders and was able to inform them of the plight of the Cham people. He has met with all the leaders of the major European political parties; the presidents of the Liberal Party, the Socialists and Democrats and the European Peoples Party. He also met the Secretary General and the president of the European Parliament. On all those occasions he was able to inform them about the Cham situation. Something they did not know before, but they were very open to help solve the long forgotten struggle of the Cham.

The president, his assistents and government officials also frequently visited the European Parliament and participated in meetings and conferences when it was useful for getting the Cham issue on the political agenda. The president is the first person to publicly raise the Cham issue in the European Parliament and was able to get a resolution in a report by the European Parliament.

The president travels frequently to many European capitals to ask for support and in the past year has expanded his  international political network exponentially.

Furthermore, there has been intensive contact with the European Commission about the Cham issue. It gained importance by the launch of the Western Balkans Strategy of the European Commission in February 2018. The president also met with Commissioner Johannes Hahn and the vice-president Frans Timmermans.

President Festim Lato and the various speakers also described the planned activities of the Republic of Chameria as well as the grand vision for the Cham people to live in peace and freedom in Chameria.

The various speakers included prime-minister Ali Aliu, author and Chamerian minister Rrustem Geçi, well known academic Elena Koçaci, historian Koço Danaj, representative of the Presjeve region Redzep Abazi, UNPO representative Lucia Parucci and Diplomat and assistent to the president Jeroen Zandberg.

Following the various speeches president Festim Lato and the Prime-minister Ali Aliu inspected a team of UÇÇ rebels in an official  military ceremony, which concluded the succesful event.

During a three day visit to Israel, president Festim Lato went to the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) and met with a number of Israeli officials. The objective of the visit was to inform key political, religious, business and community leaders of the situation of the Cham community and receive support for its resolution.

During his meetings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in the fourth week of October 2018, the president explained the human rights situation of the Cham people as well as the political activities the Republic of Chameria is implementing to promote the wellbeing of the Cham community. Furthermore, the great economic potential of Chameria as well as its citizens was discussed. With the proper leadership as well as international support, Chameria can become a succesful and prosperous part of Europe. The visit strengthened and expanded the president’s network of influential Israeli and Jewish leaders around the world.

Israel is a safe, succesful, democratic country which is able to promote the interests and wellbeing of the Israeli population. Israel is also an example for the Republic of Chameria in another way. The Jewish people have an age old history of persecution and have been expelled from their traditional homeland almost two-thousand years ago. Over a hundred years ago several Jewish leaders had a dream for their people to return to the promised land and despite much hardship the state of Israel as the homeland of the Jews was created in 1948 and many could return to their ancestral lands.

Chameria is the homeland of the Cham people from which they were expelled. Through president Festim Lato’s dedicated political action, it is hoped that the Cham diaspora will eventually all be able to return and make Chameria a shining beacon for the world and a safe haven for the Cham people.

East Med Pipeline

East Med Gas Pipeline

President Festim Lato visited Israel with the knowledge that the country is becoming increasingly important in the southern Balkans. The Israeli Prime-minister Benjamin Netanyahu has met his counterparts of Cyprus and Greece on several occasions in the past year as part of the planned East-Med pipeline. This pipeline will connect the gas fields in the Israeli territorial waters with Western Europe. The pipeline will go through (the waters of) Cyprus and Greece and land in Chameria. From Chameria the pipeline will go to southern Italy where it will be connected to the existing European oil and gas infrastructure. The situation of Chameria has therefore also become a major geostrategic issue. An important opportunity that the president will turn into an asset for the Cham people.

Expanding the network

During his visit to Israel, the president was able to inform political and business leaders of the opportunities that the Republic of Chameria can offer. Several organisations and persons agreed on varying degrees of cooperation and partnership.

Finally, president Festim Lato also met with Israelis who trace their origin to Albania and Greece where a large Jewish diaspora used to live.

The increasing support for Chameria that comes from Israel and international Jewish leaders is a vital source of hope and inspiration that the Cham will soon no longer be a victim but will have the future in their own hands.

Today 11 October 2018, the Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato visited the Council of Europe in Strassbourg, France, to discuss the situation of the Cham community and seek support for the president’s actions to remedy the continuing marginalisation of the Cham people and their human rights issues. The president was accompanied by the Prime-Minister Ali Aliu and Mr. Jeroen Zandberg.

President Festim Lato was glad to hear that the Council of Europe is positively inclined towards helping solve the current human rights issues of the Cham community, which are a legacy from historical injustice, and secondly that there might be openings for the Council of Europe to help put the Cham issue on the political agenda in the near future.

President Festim Lato very frequently visits the European Parliament in Brussels and participates in political dialogue to bring the Cham issue into the European political arena.

The Council of Europe shares the flag and anthem with the European Union. However, the Council of Europe is a completely different organisation from the EU. It was founded in 1949 and has 47 member states, instead of the 28 states of the EU.

Unlike the EU, the Council of Europe cannot make binding laws, but it does have the power to enforce select international agreements reached by European states on various topics. The best known body of the Council of Europe is the European Court of Human Rights, which enforces the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Council’s two statutory bodies are the Committee of Ministers, comprising the foreign ministers of each member state, and the Parliamentary Assembly, composed of members of the national parliaments of each member state. The Commissioner for Human Rights is an independent institution within the Council of Europe, mandated to promote awareness of and respect for human rights in the member states.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe holds four sessions each year. The fourth and final session of 2018 is from 8 to 12 October 2018.

The Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato visited the Council of Europe in Straatsburg, France, and met with several persons to discuss support on a political as well as a human rights level.

The Parliamentary Assembly is a body made up of parliamentarians from the 47 member states and has the ability to table any political issue it deems relevant for the work of the Council of Europe. President Festim Lato is hopeful that, following an official request from his government of the Republic of Chameria, the Council of Europe will provide support to the governments of Albania and Greece to place the Cham issue on the political agenda in order to get greater peace and stability in the Western Balkans.

President Festim Lato has been communicating with several parliamentarians from the Parliamentary Assembly in the run up to this autumn session and he is hopeful that the Cham issue will be raised in a formal setting during the next session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Furthermore, during his visit to Strassbourg president Festim Lato also made it a priority to focus his attention on improving the immediate human rights situation of the Cham community and to seek assistance in stopping their discrimination and marginalisation. During a meeting with the office of the Commissioner for Human Rights the president provided detailed information about some of these human rights violations, including the discrimination against those Cham who were born in Chameria and are unable to cross the Greek-Albanian border due to an unfair law and its subsequent implementation.

The office of the Commissioner for Human Rights was very interested and receptive to the calls for help and provided president Festim Lato with a great deal of information about other mechanisms as well as several options for the Council of Europe to move the resolution of the issue of the human rights of the Cham people forward. Several specific measures that the Commissioner could take to help the Cham community and other minority groups in Greece in the near future were discussed.

The upcoming roundtable conference in December 2018 in Helsinki, Finland, organised by the Commissioner will bring the main human rights organisations of Greece together, where they will discuss with her the most pressing human rights issues.

The Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunya Mijatović, assumed office this year and her mandate runs until 2024. She is herself from the Balkan region and understands the importance of improving peace and stability in the Western Balkans.

The Commissioner holds official country visits to all of the 47 member states in order to discuss the human rights situation in those countries, as well as to collect information on the ground about the current situation. The first three visits in her mandate were to Albania (21-25 May 2018), Estonia (11-15 June 2018) and Greece (24-29 June 2018), which provides an indication that she is on top of the situation in the Western Balkans and sees the resolution of the lingering issues, including that of the Cham, as a priority for Europe.

Unfortunately, there are several obstacles that the various bodies of the Council of Europe face in supporting the case of the Cham. Firstly, the resolutions of the more political Parliamentary Assembly are not binding. Secondly, Greece has signed but not ratified the specific treaty and thirdly, cases can only be brought before the European Court of Human Rights when the legal procedures in the member countries have been exhausted.

Nevertheless, the Council of Europe has a good track record in being a promoter for bringing greater cohesion in Europe and addressing the human rights issues that violate the European values. President Festim Lato is therefore convinced that the Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the various parliamentarians and their assistants with whom he has discussed the political issues, will be a champion for the cause of the Cham people. The president will continue to be in touch with them and work with the bodies of the Council of Europe in his strategy to get freedom for the people of Chameria.

On the pictures:

From left to right: Mr. Jeroen Zandberg, President Festim Lato, Ms  Patricia Ötvös of the Office of the Commissioner of Human Rights and Prime-Minister Ali Aliu.

Prime-Minister Ali Aliu, President Festim Lato, Mr Matthieu Birker and Ms Patricia Ötvös of the Office of the Commissioner of Human Rights.

After several days of fruitful meetings with representatives of academic institutions and non-governmental organisations the president and his delegation visited the Norwegian Parliament, the Stortinget, in Oslo on 21 September 2018 in order to inform the democratic political parties of the Cham issue and to see what possibilities there are for the Norwegian lawmakers to support the cause for peace in the Balkans and to get the Cham issue on the international political agenda.

President Festim Lato and his delegation consisting of Prime-Minister Ali Aliu and Diplomat Jeroen Zandberg, visited the Norwegian parliament and amongst others met the political advisor of the conservative party who was very knowledgeable about international political affairs and open to the possibility of a political dialogue whereby the Cham issue can be discussed in a democratic and open framework. The discussion focussed on the need for recognition of the other’s existence as well as the various options to work towards a future whereby the past supports the peaceful development of nations and peoples in a win-win environment. There are many activities that the various political parties have planned for the near future, which might provide openings for the Cham issue to be peacefully resolved.

The Norwegian government has been an important international political actor for decades. It has a clear and independent voice in international affairs. Furthermore, it is widely respected as a peacebroker and mediator who proved capable of resolving international conflicts that seemed unsolvable. It is the deep desire and belief of the Republic of Chameria president Festim Lato that the Cham issue will be taken to the next level with the help of a country like Norway, which can be a mediator for peace.

The Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato and Prime-Minister Ali Aliu travelled to the Scandinavian country of Norway this week to inform the Norwegian government, parliament, academia and civil society about the Cham issue and to find support for the activities of the Republic of Chameria.

Norway is a prosperous Northern-European country, and although not part of the EU nevertheless very involved in European affairs. The large number of private- as well as government organisations who promote peace, stability and development makes Norway one of the main exporters of peace. Conflict prevention and resolution are ingrained in Norwegian culture and are an example of hope for the rest of the world. Furthermore, Oslo is the place where each year the Nobel Peace prize is awarded to an organisation or individual who has dedicated his life to bringing peace to the world.

President Festim Lato started his campaign to get historical justice for the Cham people almost two decades ago and has always kept his focus on promoting a democratic and peaceful Balkan in which all the peoples can live in peace and harmony. Norway is a great example of a country where all its citizens and organisations agree on the fundamental importance of peace and justice for all. Norway is thereby a great inspiration for president Festim Lato.

On 19 and 20 September 2018 the president and prime-minister had meetings with many organisations and individuals from civil society and academia in Norway. The University of Oslo and the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights are several of the organisations the president visited during these days. Many of the people whom the president met had very little or no knowledge about the Cham issue. Fortunately, the presentations by the president changed this for the better. Furthermore, many of the people reacted positively to the inquiries about possible cooperation, which will undoubtedly take the quest for historical justice for the Cham community a step forward.

President Festim Lato believes that by simply providing reasonable people with the facts about the Cham issue is in itself a powerful tool to get support for a peaceful resolution of the Cham issue.

The journey to Norway also provided the president with the opportunity to meet with Cham-Albanians and supporters of the cause, thereby expanding and strengthening the network of the Republic of Chameria.

President Festim Lato is thankful to all the Norwegian organisations and individuals who took the time and effort to receive his delegation and discuss the Cham issue. The positive response that many of these meetings generated gives the president great hopes for more extensive cooperation in the near future. The president expects to return to Norway soon in order to closely work with the many professional, peaceloving and dedicated people of Norway to move the Cham issue forward.

On Thursday 6 September 2018, the Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato attended a high profile event in The Hague, the Netherlands, with many prominent political leaders present. At this yearly event the German Minister of Economy and Energy, Peter Altmaier, delivered a speech and engaged in an interactive dialogue with the audience.

Minister Altmaier is a senior member of the cabinet of Chancellor Angela Merkel. He has served in all of her cabinets and is considered to be her most trusted advisor and support in Germany’s most difficult political issues, like the immigration crisis and the energy transition.

The German Minister showed himself a genuine European with an international and humane view of local, national and international politics. In the modern era even Germany is a relatively small country and needs to be part of a coalition to be successful in securing its interests. The Minister explained his views as well as provided several examples of how he tries to implement political actions based on this win-win situation where Germany acts together with its allies in making the world a more proseprous and safe place.

Afterwards, there was time to discuss the various international political issues, among which the situation of the Cham community. President Festim Lato was able to briefly describe the political and human rights situation of the Cham to Minister Altmaier. Since he is a leading member of the German government it is very important that there is greater awareness of the Cham issue with them. President Festim Lato is glad to have been able to bring up the Cham issue to the Minister in their conversation and derives hope for greater support by the German government from the Minister’s positive response towards the application of European values in all political issues. Germany plays a key role in making the Cham issue a political topic in the relations of Greece and Albania with the rest of Europe. President Festim Lato is confident that Germany will take its responsibility as a European leader and bring peace and justice to the peoples of the Balkans.

 

At a conference on 4 September 2018 the S&D Group in the European Parliament together with Culture Action Europe and Freemuse presented a report on the state of artistic freedom around the world. President Festim Lato attended the conference to be the voice of Cham culture that still clings on and is vital among the Cham community, but is deliberately oppressed and neglected by the Greek government.

Artistic expressions are essential to a humane society and are one of the core values of the EU. According to the president of the European Economic and Social Council in his presentation there are a number of major challenges that effect artistic freedom in Europe. Firstly, populism, because it promotes a version of monoculturalism that goes against core European values. Secondly, the economic crisis which means that less funds are available. Thirdly,the aging population. Europe is gradually aging and thereby loses part of its dynamism needed for a vibrant culture. Fourth is the digital revolution which means that the intermediaries that used to be the carrier of culture are often no longer needed because people can have direct interactions with the specific exponent of culture. Fifth is the shrinking civil space in Europe with decrease in funding and more regulations that are aimed at limiting certain artistic expressions.

The Executive Director of Freemuse presented the report on The State of Artistisc Freedom in 2018. The elaborate report provides an overview of the many violations aganst artists. Many of the prison sentences of artists were due to them opposing governments. Especially the charges of hate-speech are rising. The report also shows that the West is increasingly cracking down on artistic oppressions similar to what nonwestern countries have been doing for a long time.

The debate in the second part of the conference focussed on the trends and how NGO’s, governments and international institutions can promote a safe and conducive civic space that can ensure that Europe’s vibrant culture is kept alive and promoted.

A topic of main concern for the Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato is the combination of oppression of new cultural expressions and the neglect of the Cham-Albanian age-old cultural heritage. The Greek government deliberately ignores the major cultural role that the Cham-Albanians played in Chameria. For example, the castle of Ali Pasha in the mountains near Parga could be a major tourist attraction but instead suffers from a lack of maintenance and is ignored by most touristic organisations. Furthermore, its historical importance is deliberately downplayed by the Greek authorities.

President Festim Lato aims to cooperate with the many NGO’s and other organisations who support the promotion of cultural expression in making sure that the Cham-ALbanian culture is kept alive in Chameria as it still is in Albania where many of the Cham currently reside.

The Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato was at the European Economic and Social Commitee today, 3 September 2018, to attend a public hearing by the Study Group on Justice, Rights and Values Fund. This Study Group consists of representatives of the European Commission, European Parliament and independent experts who have taken the proposal which was made by the Commission in May and try to shape it in ways that best reflects the interests of all the parties concerned.

The Fund aims to combine the existing programs of the Commission to support the promotion of the EU’s fundamental rights within the European Union. The Fund has a budget of €947 million euro for seven years and will come into effect in 2021. It will provide funding to NGO’s, universities and public administrations who implement programs to promote the rights and values of, and in, the EU. Beneficiaries of the Fund also include organisations who work in partnership countries like Albania. Unfortunately, the budget is limited and much less than what the EU spends at promoting its values abroad.

The speakers explained the workings of the current funding schemes as well as provided an outline of the proposed Fund, which will be even more accessible to smaller, grass roots organisations who lack the scale to act at a European level.

The rights of the Cham and their struggle for justice are a clear example of what the Fund is trying to support. The issue is especially relevant since it involves the rights and values at, and accross, the borders of the EU and therefore it has the chance of falling outside the scope of any EU program.

President Festim Lato is trying to get as much international support for the Cham issue as possible and was pleased to hear during the formal and informal question and answer session with the representatives of the Commission and the Parliament that the Justice, Rights and Values Fund will also be open to activities involving the promotion of the rights of the Cham community.

The Study Group will have several other meetings and the proposal will most likely be tabled for a vote at the European Parliament before the end of the Session. President Festim Lato is ready to attend an upcoming public consultation when he receives another invitation for that event.

More about the Justice, Rights and Values Fund: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-18-3975_en.htm

On Wednesday 29 August 2018, the Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato attended a conference at the European Parliament which focussed on Russian military aggression in Georgia in 2008 and the lessons that the West should learn when it comes to the crisis and potential conflicts in the Ukraine and the Western Balkans.

The European Parliamentarians Ms. Anna Fotyga and Mr. Kolma Zlotowski organised a conference at the European Parliament to reflect on the 2008 war and subsequent occupation of parts of the territory of Georgia by Russia. The conference was also aimed at offering lessons on how to deal and not to deal with Russian aggression in Europe.

The organisers of the conference are a former foreign affairs minister and a senator of Poland, which is one of a few countries who from the start strongly opposed Russian military aggression against its neighbours and the covert interference and interventions in the sovereign and free countries who were formerly oppressed by the Soviet Union.

Parliamentarian Fotyga opened the conference with mentioning that a resolution against Russian aggression was succesfully adopted by the European Parliament in the July session, but that it required intensive lobbying and pressure from many presidents and prime-ministers from European countries who are most aware of the threat that Russia poses to peace and security in Europe.

The invited speakers of the conference were directly involved in the political and diplomatic decision-making proceess during the war in 2008. Mr. Matthew Bryza was the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia, Ms. Eka Tkeshelasvili was the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia and Mr. Batu Kutelia was the Ambassador of Georgia to the United States. They provided many examples of the way in which Russia manipulated the international community and took advantage of the lack of resolve by the West.

Once it gained freedom from the Soviet Union, Georgia took immediate action to come closer to the West. It knows that its interests lay in the integration of international and western institutions that guarantee freedom and cooperation. Russia has always seen this move as a threat to its interests and actively pursues a policy of undermining its neighbours in order for them to remain dependent upon Russia.

The invasion of Georgia by Russian forces in 2008 was not an isolated incident but was part of a grand strategy by Russia. Before the actual war of August 2008 there were many provocations by the Russians, which were meant to test the West’s resolve in standing by their allies and values. Unfortunately, the United Nations as well as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe reacted in a way that proved favorable to Russia. For example, when Khodori was bombed and the UN decided to investigate they came to the conclusion that ‘someone came from somewhere’, thereby letting Russia get away with its military attacks. Furthermore, when the Russians tried to destroy a radar station in Georgia the OSCE did not react. These, and other, actions provided the Russians the asurance that an international red line is not that red after all.

Several of the speakers emphasised that it is not enough for individual countries to step up to Russian aggression but that institutional responses were necessary to provide peace and security and prevent Russia from imposing its predatory world view. Unfortunately, Europe and America failed history with their weak reactions against Russian aggression towards Georgia. This led to the situation that Russia learned a lot, Georgia learned a little and the West learned nothing from the events in 2008. The failure of the West to recognise and respond appropriately to the grand strategy of Russia paved the way for the annexation of the Crimea and the war in Eastern Ukraine.

However, it is never to late to learn. Russia still has the same world view as it has had for decades. The Russian meddling in the Western Balkans is an important and timely issue. The Russian-backed attempt to overthrow the government in Montenegro in 2016 in order to prevent them from integration into NATO is an example of Russia’s attitude towards the Western Balkans. The activities of Russian secret agents in Northern Macedonia in 2018 who tried to start violent clashes in order to prevent Greece and its neighbour to come to a resolution regarding the name Macedonia is another poignant example.

The Cham issue is another issue that hangs like a dark cloud over the integration of the Balkans into European structures. President Festim Lato attended the conference on Russian aggression since he is well aware of Russian interests in the Western Balkan region and the impact it has on the Cham issue. The Cham-Albanian community has long been the most vocal supporter of the US and the EU in the region and considers itself to be truly European. The European Commission presented its Strategy in February of this year and made it a precondition for the integration into the EU that all the countries resolve their issues. The Cham issue is one of the most important possible conflicts that still exist in the Balkans. It presents an open wound that can be exploited by Russia to prevent the region from permanently joining the European community of values. President Festim Lato therefore made a case to resolve the Cham issue as soon as possible by putting it high on the European political agenda, thereby preventing Russia from implementing its will and world view of the region and instead come to peace and justice for all.

President Festim Lato discussed the Cham issue further with several of the participants of the conference later in the day. He is optimistic that those who support the European values and are opposed to the Russian world view understand that it is crucial that the political weight of the European leaders comes behind the resolution of the Cham issue thereby getting historical justice for the people of Chameria.

President Festim Lato participated in a political event organised by the Dutch liberal party D66 in Nijmegen, the Netherlands on 27 August 2018.

The event provided the opportunity to discuss the upcoming European elections with the candidates for the Party’s leadership. In an interactive dialogue with the audience the potential leaders of the Liberal Party’s list for the European elections shared their vision of how the EU should function clear.

Three political heavyweights are in an electoral struggle for the leadership of the Party at the European Parliament elections of May 2019. The current leader and seasoned veteran Ms. Sophie in ’t Veldt is also the vice-chairperson of ALDE in the European Parliament. The second candidate, Ms Marietje Schaake, also has considerable experience at the European Parliament. She has played an important role in the negotiations of the EP for TTIP and is an advocate for digital rights and freedoms in Europe and worldwide. The third candidate is Mr. Felix Klos who has made a name for himself as a speech writer of Mr Pechtold, the political leader of the liberal party D66 in the Dutch parliament.

The Republic of Chameria president Festim Lato seized the opportunity to talk to the three potential leaders to explain the Cham situation and how the Liberal Party in Europe could support the issue and force a breakthrough in the frozen conflict that needs to be peacefully resolved in order for the peoples in the Balkan to become truly part of the European community.

President Festim Lato is certain that the winner of the Party elections will defend the rights of the neglected communities of Europe and help bring justice to the Cham people.

The Republic of Chameria has launched an official television channel that will broadcast events, interviews and documentaries related to the activities of the president and his government. The channel is named: Republika E Çamërisë Televizion (RÇTV)

In one of the first interviews of RÇTV, the Republic of Chameria president Festim Lato, standing in front of the International Criminal Court, declares that he will stand up for the rights of the Cham community who are discriminated against by the Albanian government. https://www.facebook.com/2073966969281181/videos/2085300398147838/

Activities by the Republic of Chameria are deliberately hindered by the Albanian government, which was made clear by the arrests of nine people on 13 July 2018. They were peacefully preparing for the grand opening of the Cham House of Peace in Vërvë. Despite this attempt to stop this momentous occasion for the Cham people, the Republic of Chameria went through with the event which marked the start of a new chapter in the struggle of the Cham community to return to their rightful place.

The president is now lobbying the international institutions to address the discrimination and harassment of the Cham by the Albanian government.

RÇTV will closely follow his activities and share it with the people.

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 Saturday 14 July 2018 the Republic of Chameria organised a congress in Sarande to officially kick-off the construction of the infrastructure of Chameria. Up to one-thousand Cham travelled from all over the region to be part of this historic event. More than a dozen tour busses lined the street in front of the meeting hall. They were greeted by several television crews who filmed the event and broadcast it live.

The Congress started with a speech from the Republic of Chameria president Festim Lato who inspired the audience with his vision of building Chameria to its former glory. It is his vision to make Chameria a modern European nation where economic development is distributed fairly and where people can enjoy the highest living standards. Much of the infrastructure of the region has not been developed and the Republic of Chameria has taken up the task to deliver these essential services.

Ten official speakers each held a speech about an aspect of Chameria. Firstly, Prime-Minister Ali Aliu took the stage and explained about the activities of the government and the actions that have been taken. The speech of the Prime-Minister was followed by a presentation by the diplomat Jeroen Zandberg who presented the international political activities of the president of the Republic of Chameria, Festim Lato. Many activities have been done in Europe, the USA and Israel where president Festim Lato met many top political leaders and presented his case to several foreign affairs and international relations committtees. After the summer the president will continue with his activities for Chameria and will focus on the United Nations as well, where he will participate in several meetings and will hold a speech at the UN.

Minister of Justice Elena Kocaqi, Salman Berisha and Rexhep Abazi presented a cultural and historical view of Chameria where they connected the history with the present and a bright future. The president of the football federation of Chameria, Arben Arkaxhiu, explained the situation of the national football team of the Republic of Chameria. The team had just played two matches against professional Albanian teams in the past days and is preparing for more official matches in September.

Ms Petra Keppler from the Bertha von Suttner peace institute in The Hague, the Netherlands also took part in the conference and offered her views and support for the peace inititiatves that the president of the Republic of Chameria has started.

The Congress also served as a kick-off for the preparations for the 75th year of the commemoration of the genocide of the Cham people in 1944. The main event will be next year, 27 June 2019, and in the run up to this historic day the Republic of Chameria has scheduled several major events like international conferences, demonstrations and meetings, as well as a travelling photo exhibition.

The Congress concluded with the moderator presenting certificates to many of the main active supporters of the Republic of Chameria. Each person received a certificate signed by president Festim Lato showing gratitude for all they have done.

On 12 and 13 July 2018, the national football team of the Republic of Chameria played several friendly matches against Albanian teams from Tirana and Vlorë; Sporting Tirana and Oricum. These teams play in the highest Albanian league. Both matches were won by the Chamerian team with a score of two to one.

The national team of Chameria consists of professional players who compete in Albanian’s highest division. They are honored to be selected for the national team of Chameria and will present the nation at the upcoming international events.

The football federation of Chameria is a member of CONIFA, which is the international football federation for national teams who are not part of FIFA. The qualification matches for the European Championship of 2019 will start in September. The national team of Chameria is preparing for these qualification matches which will take place in France, Italy, Germany and several other European countries. The trainer, Arben Kassoli, and the footbal federation president, Arben Arkaxhiu, of the national footbal team of Chameria are convinced that the current talented players who make up the Chamerian national team will enable Chameria to advance to the final stages of the European Championships with a realistic chance of reaching the finals and taking home the Cup.

More information about the two matches in Tirana and Vlorë will follow. Below are some pictures.

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.

On 14 April 2018, a group of Cham again 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 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 Wednesday 20 December 2017 the Republic of Chameria president Festim Lato participated in a conference in the international city of peace and justice, The Hague, the Netherlands. The conference was organised  in the run up to the 2018 membership of the Netherlands and Sweden of the United Nations Security Council.

“Under the Charter, the Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. It has 15 Members, and each Member has one vote. Under the Charter, all Member States are obligated to comply with Council decisions.

The Security Council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression. It calls upon the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement. In some cases, the Security Council can resort to imposing sanctions or even authorize the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security.

The Security Council also recommends to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary-General and the admission of new Members to the United Nations. And, together with the General Assembly, it elects the judges of the International Court of Justice.” http://www.un.org/en/sc/

The conference brought together a range of experts who are directly involved in the organisation of the UN Security Council membership of Sweden and the Netherlands. The focus was on the priorities of the two countries and what the challenges for them would be. An important focus of the 2018 membership will be to include civil society actors in the peace and security agenda.

The relevance of the United Nations Security Council for the Republic of Chameria lies in the fact that the Council is the most important international political body that settles disputes between countries and nations. President Festim Lato, as the legitimate representative of the Republic of Chameria, is trying to internationalise the Cham issue in order to come to a fair and balanced solution that will bring justice to the region and the Cham people. In the debate during the conference the president brought the Cham issue to the table.

The president requested the task force leader from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs when and how it would be possible to bring the Cham issue before the members of the Council.  The hope for the government of the Republic of Chameria, as for the Cham people, is that the Cham issue will be discussed at an upcoming Council meeting in 2018.

Finally, the participation of the president offered a good opportunity to expand the network of the Republic of Chameria with representatives of the Dutch and Swedish government as well as academics and representatives from international organisations and NGO’s.

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.

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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