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Albania-Serbia nationalist tensions rise

Albania-Serbia nationalist tensions rise
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Several small businesses owned by Albanians in the Serbian cities of Novy Sad and Vrsac were attacked on Thursday night by unknown assailants. This reflects rising tensions in the Balkan region.

In Sombor and Stara Pazova, bakeries owned by Albanians were attacked with a hand grenade and petrol bomb.

The Albanian embassy in the Montenegrin capital Podgorica was also vandalised, earlier. Three people were arrested.

The day before, on Tuesday, an incident wrecked an Albania-Serbia football match being played in Belgrade.

A remotely piloted drone flew over, carrying a map of a “Greater Albania” including Kosovo and parts of Macedonia. It symbolised nationalist ambitions.

The European Championship qualifier was abandoned in the 41st minute — no goals scored — with each side blaming the other.

Fireworks were lit, objects were thrown and fans rushed the field.

Both football authority UEFA and the European Union condemned the disruption.

Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the EU, said: “We reject any suggestions made in some Serbian media that EU had played any role in this, and most importantly we consider that politics should not be driven by stadium provocations and in this context stress particularly the importance of regional cooperation and the planned visit of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama in Serbia in the coming days.”

Prime Minister Rama, whose brother was at that stadium in Belgrade, said he was still definitely going on the 22nd of October.

He ruled out any involvement of his brother in the drone scandal.

It will be the first visit by an Albanian head of government to Belgrade since World War Two.

The visit is aimed at improving relations between the two countries, which have been notably strained ever since the former Serb province of Kosovo declared its independence in 2008. Neither the Serbs nor their Russian allies have recognised that.

The match drone came just before President Vladimir Putin (on his way to Milan) passed through Belgrade to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the city from the Nazis — in which the Red Army played a key role.

Both Serbia and Albania aim to one day join the EU.