ALBANIA IN THE BEVIN-SFORZA TALKS
Reporting at the Cabinet session of February 17, 1950, on his short exchange of views with Mr. E Bevin during the latter’s stay in Rome, Italy’s Foreign Minister Carlo Sforza also mentioned the Albanian question.
In particular Count Sforza affirmed that he had a talk with the head of the Foreign Office dealing with “several delicate questions, such as that of Albania, where a new political situation seems to be maturing.” (see “Nuova Stampa”, Turin, February 18, 1950).
This laconic and not too clear allusion to our country leaves us Albanians filled with perplexity and anxiety. We know only too well the dramatic situation of our homeland today, and we fear the even more dramatic developments that this situation may have.
For the last six months the international spotlight has been turned on tiny Albania, which has become the subject of sensational reports and articles in the largest papers of the world. Up to now we believed this was only a device to keep the cold war going or an attempt to test the reactions of the eastern adversary in case the contagion of Marshal Tito’s defection should spread to other Soviet satellites too. The official announcement, however, that the situation in our country has been the subject of careful examination by Minister Bevin and Minister Sforza, who represent two European states both greatly interested, although in different ways, in the Albanian events, appears significant to us and leads us to suppose that we are on the eve of important events that may alter the present political situation of Albania.
Will such a declared interest of Italy and Britain in the Albanian issue be a reason for satisfaction or preoccupation for us Albanians?
Let us try to set forth the various aspects of the many-sided Albanian problem.
This problem appears today extremely delicate and complicated. the liberation of Yugoslavia from the Kremlin’s control, which has led to the disruption of the whole Balkan-Danubian system of Soviet satellites, had immediate consequences also in Albania, as we have already seen. By closing the Greek-Macedonian border, Tito allowed the Greek regular army to route Zachariade’s Cominfor-sponsored guerilla brigades and to establish itself at the border with Albania. All territorial continuity between Albania and the Russian dominated countries ceased from that moment. This present insularity of the Albanian Cominformist Government places Enver Hoxha’s regime in a precarious position. The supplies of food-stuff, arms and ammunition that the Russians shipped to Albania by sea from the far ports of the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea are becoming scarcer and scarcer every day, also because Soviet interest in Albania has diminished after the end of the guerilla warfare at the Greek borders. Soviet interest, however, has diminished, not ceased. The Channel of Otranto is a strategic position of main importance in the Mediterranean and the Russians will not give it up easily.
Now, which is the new situation that may be maturing in Albania, according to the Bevin-Sforza talks?
Knowing the possible developments of the present political situation, which is centered on a Communist rule rigidly controlled by a number of able and decided Soviet experts placed in the key positions of the civil administration and military organization, we believe that one of the following four issues may eventually come from a change:
Hoxha, the petty Hamletic dictator, when he recently went to Moscow to obtain aid and more efficacious support, was humiliatingly reproached and forced to go back to Tirana without the mutual assistance pact he had requested and with only vague promises of shipments of food goods and other essential goods. Now he may delude himself to imitate Tito, by doing a right-about-face and coming to an agreement with the Anglo-Americans. Hi game, however, has small probability of lasting, even if it succeeds. Once freed from the terror inspired by the Moscow emissaries, not by their Albanian Cominformist henchmen, who follow orders blindly, the Albanian people would soon do exemplary justice on Enver Hoxha and his most trusted aides. This would create a dangerous situation of anarchy and disorder which would lead to military interventions from the North and the South.
If Marshall Tito obtains a free hand towards Albania from the western Allies, he may smuggle into Albania his anti-Cominform guerilla bands now ready along the Albanian-Yugoslav border line and stir up a general uprising, overthrow Enver Hoxha’s regime and replace it with a Titoist one, headed by some faithful Albanian pro-consul. Such a solution is deprecated by the true Albanians, who in a sense consider it even worse than the present political situation; besides being artificial and against history, it would endanger the vital interests of Italy in South Adriatic, would displease the Greeks and would in a near future appear to the Anglo-Americans themselves unfortunate and prejudicial to European order and world peace, which has often been endangered by ill-settled Balkan questions.
Division of Albania between Tito and the Greeks. This idea was hinted at by several organs of the world press, with sequels in the London House of Commons. The division of the Albanian state would most dangerously complicate the Balkan hodge-podge of nationalities by eliminating the moderating action between contrasting peoples so far exerted by the Albanians, who have always been, even during the most difficult periods in their history, a sort of outpost against the attempts at expansion of the Ottomans, Serbians, Bulgarians and Greeks.
Albania’s return to the family of the European peoples, free from compulsion inspired and bolstered by the East, and re-establishment of the government rules inspired by the western democracy. We hope that, when mentioning the new situation looming in Albania, Mr. Bevin and Mr. Sforza, who both have a deep knowledge of the Balkan questions, meant this, which is the natural, advantageous, logical solution of the Albanian problem, because it is the only one founded on perpetual historical and geographical factors and in accordance with the will of the overwhelming majority of the Albanian people.
The Albanian people, who have ethnical characteristics of their own amidst the intricacy of Balkan peoples and who possess peculiar features, traditions and exigencies, have a right to receive support, without armed interventions from the North and the South, in freeing themselves from all Communist regimes, no matter their color and to be safeguarded in their independence and territorial integrity by their admission within the spiritual boundaries of western civilization.
In this grave, confused period of history the coincidence of Albanian and Italian interests is clearly evident. Count Sforza acknowledged it with his incisive statements in reply to a Communist senator a few months ago.
We are therefore sure that any initiative of Count Sforza can but follow such interests.
Also Britain, with its centuries long Mediterranean experience, will not abandon its traditional policy favorable to the desires of the true Albanians, as such desires are identical with the British interests considered far-sighted in the frame of the ensemble of problems of the whole Balkan-Danubian area.