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.