Virtually all Albanians in Albania would vote for their country to unite with Kosovo. Recent research, however, shows that about 80 percent supports unification, and that 16 percent opposes the union with Kosovo, but if these numbers were translated into a referendum result, we would get acclamation. On the other hand, in Kosovo, there is also a high support for this idea, although it must be noted that it is smaller, about 64 percent (early 2020).
Every rational story about all-Albanian unification ends mostly on this, because any step further, that is, building a political mission on these data, leads either to distant history or to the sphere of the unreal. In general, this data, no matter how convincing, has no use value.
In Albania, they are fully aware of that. In the same questionnaire where almost everyone said they would like to live in the same country with Kosovo, a huge number of them (more than half) said it was not feasible. We do not know whether they are sad or indifferent because of that, but it is clear that they gave an honest answer to both questions. We don’t even know how many Albanians in Kosovo think that unification is feasible, but there are many reasons to believe that they are less realistic than their compatriots from Albania.
This can be proved to some extent by the reflection of the ruling policy of Tirana, that is Pristina, on the issue of unification, and especially on the feasibility of such a concept. Edi Rama with his attitudes represents the views of his voters to the smallest detail. First of all, he reluctantly spoke about this topic at the recent press conference after the conversation with Albin Kurti. He received a question about that from a Kosovo journalist with astonishment, and even resistance – “Is that some kind of a provocation?” However, he revealed that he would vote “yes” in the matter of unification in an imaginary referendum. It would be a sensation (and political suicide) if he answered differently, because 80% of his citizens think so. However, Rama puts three dots after his first answer and adds that – he does not know when that unification could happen.
This continuation of the sentence contains all the difference in how they view unification in Tirana, and how in Pristina, and that difference is big, essential. Whether Edi Rama’s position is the result of listening to the views of his constituents, or their position is based on the policies of their prime minister, is less important and is probably a combination of both. For the most part, Albanians in Albania do not hide that they would like to live together with Kosovo, but they are very aware that such a thing can only happen when (or if) they enter the European Union. Unification with Kosovo, at least as far as Albania is concerned, does not seem like a political, let alone a state-building concept, it is an intimate desire that few want to support politically, and almost no one wants to tie their destiny to its realization.
In Pristina, things are different. They believe with full force in the unification with Albania, and in that, accuracy of every policy is sought. Albin Kurti is just one of the “unifiers” there, although until he came to power, in the West, he was considered all that he was not – a liberal, a modern leader uninfluenced by war and history. He showed in full light that the strength of his nationalism does not differ at all from his predecessors, Ramush Haradinaj, for example, and others who treated the unification with Albania as a national task.
Kurti also demonstrated his ambitions to erase borders in action. Not only did he vote in Tirana, in the last parliamentary elections, but he even nominated his “Self-Determination” list to enter the Albanian parliament. Of course, he did not get any mandate, which he may have hoped for, but he did not even get the understanding for this adventure of his, and even a provocation, which he certainly did not hope for. He exaggerated to such an extent that even his fan Viola von Cramon, the Rapporteur for Kosovo of the European Parliament, was disappointed. Kurti was well understood in Tirana, but because of that, they disapproved of his behavior. Albania is simply not thrilled with the 19th century romantic concepts of national unification. They are interested in the 21st century, and in their prime minister, who “pushes” for cooperation in the region, as a way to get the nation out of economic problems. And in that, he dares to cooperate most closely even with Serbia, knowing that one day he will be in a state union with it, called the European Union.
On the other hand, Kurti speaks of the unity of “history, people and language”, as arguments for the political project of unification, and attributes the blame for the separation of Kosovo and Albania to the “current situation”. He thinks seriously about state unification, and so do his voters. Altogether, this naturally creates tension between the two Albanian groups, on both sides of the border line, and a potentially serious intra-ethnic knot, which could turn into a real family quarrel. Exclusively thanks to Kosovo and its leaders, because their absence of statehood and the sense of the epoch in which they live cannot be hidden.
Albania and Kosovo, in many ways, still function as one economic and social entity. Since Kosovo declared independence, the two governments have signed as many as 80 cooperation agreements in all areas, which is probably a record number in international relations. Only at the recent joint session of the two governments, held in Elbasan, Albania, they signed 13 agreements, some of which concern easier flow of goods and passengers, facilitations in obtaining residence permits and similar things that really make life easier on both sides. The impression is that this rhythm is dictated by Tirana, because on the one hand it wants as much opening as possible, but without interfering with stories about common sovereignty, state unification or some similar concept from the time of the birth of nation states 200 years ago. If only Pristina were asked, things would probably look different; it is possible that a unification agreement would be written first, and only then some “worthless” agreement on social security and similar decisions of far lower national significance.
The dream of the so-called “Greater Albania” is dreamed on both sides of Prokletije, with the difference that on one side they are aware that it is just a dream and nothing more, and that after waking up they return to real life where things are different. In Kosovo, however, such dreams last for 24 hours, so waking up will not be pleasant.