Video of Greek army creates controversy in region


Greece's ambassador to Macedonia said actions on the video are not consistent with the views of the Greek government or its citizens.

By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 28/08/14


Greek army tanks drive past the Hadrian Arch in central Athens during a military parade marking Independence Day on March 25th. A video of Greek army personnel in Cyprus using anti-Macedonian, anti-Albanian and anti-Turkish messages is creating controversy. [AFP]

Greece's ambassador to Macedonia is distancing his government from a video posted on YouTube last month that appears to show Greek army soldiers chanting anti-Macedonian, anti-Albanian and anti-Turkish slogans during a military parade in Cyprus.

"The investigation will show what happened, where and when it happened. But I want to emphasise, and I said this in the ministry, what I saw on the video and what is heard is not in any way the official position of the Greek government, the Greek army or representative of the feelings of Greek society toward the citizens of your country," Ambassador Theocharis Lalakos said in an interview on Macedonian television.

Officials in Macedonia and Albania filed protests with Greece, saying such actions are not in line with European values and principles.

"Macedonia is a constructive partner and always open to dialogue. In the future, the state should make efforts to prevent such occurrences of intolerance that damage good neighbourly relations. We call on the Greek authorities to take measures to condemn such actions that are not in the spirit of European values," Gabriel Atanasov, spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told SETimes.

The Albania foreign ministry is also involved.

"We have officially delivered our concern about the video and its contents. It's not comfortable for an army of a neighbouring country, a NATO allied partner, to hold forth calls of a nationalistic character. These images do not represent the real relations and excellent co-operation between the two countries, including in the field of defence. We welcomed the commitment of Athens to uncover the authenticity and intentions of the video," Glevin Dervishi, media and communications adviser for the foreign affairs ministry in Albania, told SETimes.

Goran Ilic, a professor of international politics at the State University of Bitola, told SETimes that the incident shows the need for greater communication at the highest level between the countries involved.

"If there is a positive climate among states, these or similar situations will not occur, and if they do, they will be neutralised, " Ilic said.

Blagoja Markovski, chairman of the Balkan Forum for Safety, told SETimes that it is important to develop friendly relations among all neighbours in the region.

"Where there are unresolved problems such situations normally occur. Politicians are the ones who need to resolve this issue. They need to sit down and find a way to solve this problem and how it occurred, and it should not be repeated," Markovski said.

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Birgul Demirtas, a Balkan policy expert at Ankara's TOBB University of Economics and Technology, said if the video showing Greek soldiers chanting aggressive songs against neighbouring nations is proven to be true, it will have several implications for the political culture in Greece in particular, and in the Balkans in general.

"Despite all the attempts of regional co-operation and the common target of the Balkan countries to be part of the European international relations area, the exclusive identities still dominate the national scene as seen in the results of the latest wave of elections across the region," Demirtas told SETimes.

Correspondents Erl Murati in Tirana and Menekse Tokyay in Istanbul contributed to this report.

What impact will the video have on relations in the region? Add your thoughts in the comment area below.

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