Serbia says Albania not mature enough for Europe, after soccer row

“Football should not be mixed with politics,” says Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati

Serbia says Albania not mature enough for Europe, after soccer row

World Bulletin/News Desk

Serbia's interior minister said on Thursday Albania was "not mature enough" to join the European community, stepping up a war of words over a drone stunt that forced a Euro 2016 soccer qualifier between the Balkan nations to be abandoned.

Nebojsa Stefanovic's remarks cast further doubt on a visit by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama to Belgrade on Oct. 22, the first by an Albanian leader in almost 70 years.

Rama's visit had been hailed as opening a new chapter in otherwise fraught relations, centred on Serbia's former province of Kosovo, which has an ethnic-Albanian majority and declared independence in 2008.

Both Serbia and Albania aim to one day join the European Union. Albania is a member of NATO.

A remote-controlled drone trailing a flag of "Greater Albania" triggered a brawl between players and a pitch invasion by home fans during the Group I qualifier in Partizan Belgrade's stadium on Tuesday.

On Thursday, the Albanian Embassy in neighbouring Montenegro was pelted with stones, breaking windows, and in the Serbian towns of Sombor and Stara Pazova bakeries owned by Albanians were attacked with a hand grenade and petrol bomb.

Stefanovic said police had found the drone and, through "expert analysis," would determine its producer and where it was purchased. Such drones, known as quadcopters, can be bought online for several hundred euros.

"Statements by leaders of the Albanian government demonstrate that they knew such a provocation was being prepared," Stefanovic said.

"If Albania believes that European values are the values of so-called 'Greater Albania', then the Serbian Republic cannot share them by any means, and hence we believe that they are not mature enough as a state to join the European family."

The Serbian Football Association (FSS), which also blamed the Albanians for the incidents but said would press for charges to be brought against home fans who invaded the pitch, called the drone stunt an act of terrorism.

"The Serbian FA is appalled by the provocation and also fears that this was a pre-arranged scenario amounting to a terrorist act aimed primarily against our country, the Republic of Serbia," the FSS said.

The match was abandoned at 0-0 in the 41st minute, with the two sides blaming each other. Serbia summoned the Albanian ambassador on Wednesday and issued a formal protest.

Serbia has pinned the blame on a cluster of Albanian fans in the stadium's VIP stand, including Rama's brother, who were granted entrance despite a ban on Albanian fans over security concerns.

Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati put the blame of the incident on Serbian authorities.

"Football should not be mixed with politics. If there is a mistake with the proof, then it should be submitted to the court and the last word should be given by the judiciary," he said.

Bushati also mentioned about Prime Minister Edi Rama's visit to Belgrade on October 22.

"Albania's European Union membership has an important role in the region and, therefore, Edi Rama's visit should be considered in this context," he said.

Bushati said the incident at the Partizan Stadium was “incompatible with football."

"Albanian citizens were not allowed to enter the country at the Belgrade airport before the match. I wanted to discuss this with Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, but when I got a negative response from him, the Serbian ambassador to Albania was called to the foreign ministry," he said.

The Albania national football team returned home Wednesday morning and was welcomed by President Bujar Nishani and Albanian Football Federation President Armando Duka.

Europe's soccer governing body, UEFA, has opened disciplinary proceedings against the football associations of both countries.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 16 Ekim 2014, 15:25