If the photos were not posted on his official Facebook page, few would have known that Albanian President Ilir Meta was on a two-day visit to Bitola and Prespa. Apart from a courtesy meeting with the Minister of Culture, Asaf Ademi, the senior guest from Tirana spent the rest of his stay in direct contact with the local Albanian population. The occasion for the visit of the Albanian Alphabet Theater in Bitola, as well as the villages of Nakolec and Medzitlija, is the 110th anniversary of the creation of the Albanian alphabet in Monasteri, that is, Bitola, as Albanians call it.
“A very sincere meeting with the Albanians from Medzitlija, the most remote village bordering on Greece. We share the belief that better times are coming for them, with the new prospects for Macedonia’s membership in NATO and the start of negotiations with the EU. Thanks to all those who were in difficult times as Albanians and proudly retained the national language, whose alphabet was founded in Bitola to unite Albanians everywhere,” Meta said in one of his Facebook posts.
Ademi did not ask Meta about Gruevski
The quiet weekend-visit of the Albanian president occurred shortly after media in Tirana reported of his involvement in the escape of former Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. Minister Ademi, however, as he claims himself, did not consider it necessary to ask his guest whether the speculation was true, in fact, he preferred not to ask anything connected to Gruevski, not wanting to spoil the pleasant conversation.
While the Macedonian authorities remain silent, refusing to take responsibility, their Albanian colleagues are looking for alternative channels to leak information about the escape of the former leader of the VMRO-DPMNE, who traveled to Hungary, and got there by going through Albania. And that was his first destination after leaving Macedonia. In addition, apart from the secret services, he allegedly also got great help from an Albanian businessman who was influential in the political circles.
Albanian analysts are trying to calm the situation and do not want to make any hasty statements and conclusions formed after unconfirmed news, but they remind that two years ago in the Albanian media, the scandal blew up over suspicious assets that were transferred from Russia through the Czech Republic to the current power officials in Albania, that is, former officials in Macedonia. Following the trace of this information, which never received confirmation or any legal resolution, a friendship between Meta and Gruevski was involved, but more importantly: among businessmen, who have been receiving a lot of money for their deals throughout the years, which helped the former prime minister enter Albania safely, and then leave this country through Montenegro.
Meta has so far made one announcement after Gruevski’s escape, pointing out that he does not want to interfere, but that his fleeing from Macedonia is a sign of weakness and admitting guilt in a way.
“Every politician, especially a politician with great responsibility as it is the case, should not run away from justice or from the political battle. We too have cases in Albania, imprisonments that were considered political, but they all faced it,” Meta said.
Albania’s voting body disappointed
Whether connected to the authorities or not, Gruevski’s escape stunned the Albanian public in the country, who already had very little understanding of the policies of the long-time Macedonian prime minister and which had a large share in his final decline.
“If we look back to 2016, we will see that at least 40,000 ethnic Albanians voted for SDSM in the parliamentary elections, and the media then put great pressure on all Albanian political parties, to not for a coalition with VMRO-DPMNE headed by Nikola Gruevskia t any cost. All this was done because of belief in the fight against corruption, the establishment of a law-abiding state, and the taking of responsibility among politicians who have been dishonest and stole,” said political analyst Robert Nesimi.
According to Nesimi, all expectations and hopes fell through because of suspicions that Gruevski has directly cut a deal with incumbent Prime Minister Zoran Zaev to provide him with conditions for an easy escape.
“Of course it is contrary to all the beliefs that the Albanians had, and this will be reflected in all the parties in power: both SDSM and DUI. I do not think that Ali Ahmeti’s party stands out of the story. If there was an agreement, for which there are assumptions but there is no evidence, it is quite possible that someone from DUI actively participated in this escape. I do not know if it was personally Ali Ahmeti or, for instance, Musa Xhaferi, but the fact is that DUI and VMRO-DPMNE were very close partners for ten years and they certainly established solid contacts. Add the information confirmed by Ahmeti for meetings with VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski, and the announcements from DUI that they would support amnesty for the involved in the events on April 27th, you could put together an interesting mosaic. But even if there is no agreement, then we are talking about the absolute inability of the government that greatly disappoints the Albanian voting body and that will be felt by the parties in power,” Nesimi concludes.
According to information from the Albanian police, Gruevski illegally entered their territory, probably through an illegal border passage near Debar. Using only his ID card, he left the country on November 11th around 19.11 o’clock at Skadar Lake and entered Montenegro.
Prosecution seeks recordings from Montenegro
The prosecution for prosecuting organized crime has demanded Montenegro to provide us with footage from the cameras set at the border crossings where Nikola Gruevski spent. The authorities in Podgorica confirmed that the former Macedonian prime minister entered Montenegro from Albania with a valid ID card, and in the same way left the country and entered Serbia.
The prosecutor’s office also ordered a check of telephone calls in the country in order to determine whether and who helped Gruevski flee from Macedonia.
For ten days the Macedonian authorities have still not explained how could a convicted person, who also used protection from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, escape and avoid serving a two-year prison sentence for the luxury Mercedes.