By Ekrem Spahiu
(on the occasion of the 18th anniversary – June 28, 2002)
Although the communist dictatorship fell as a regime in the spring of 1991 and a democratic system began to emerge in Albania, the Albanian Royal Family was still not allowed to return home by the rulers of the time. At that time, politics justified the absurdity of keeping the decision of the communist leadership in force at the Përmet Congress, of May 24, 1944, which “forbade King Zog and the Royal Family to return to Albania.” But the real reason was who he was… The Royal Family, King Leka’s personality, could change many things on the political scene, and could even overturn the agreed statusquo. The fear of this major political factor was palpable, either in the public articulations of the politics of the time, or in the general spirit that ruled and controlled the media. In the early 1990s, even the political activity of the Legality Party at home was not allowed. The PLL was approved about 15 months after the country’s political parties were allowed to do so.
Today, at such a long distance, the return of the Albanian Royal Family may seem like a natural process, without any special burden, but as we will discuss below, it has not been easy at all. This return was made possible by the combination of a major effort by the royal / legalist factor in Albania, the intervention of King Leka’s international friends, as well as internal circumstances, which played an almost decisive role at a certain point.
King Leka – who had left a two-day-old baby in Albania on April 7, 1939 after the fascist invasion and had dedicated his entire life to the homeland of the nation – with the fall of the dictatorship, wanted to return to Albania as soon as possible, but he it was impossible due to the conjunctures of the time. But He could not stand idly by and wait for many years. In coordination and with the support of important international factors, also interested in testing democracy in Albania, King Leka decides that at the most opportune moment he will simply come and visit Albania.
The 50th anniversary of the establishment of the O.K.L.L (National Organization of the Legality Movement) at the Zall-Herri congress was considered a good occasion. November 21, 1993 marked the 50th anniversary of this important event for the royal movement in Albania. This date was considered an opportunity for King Leka to return to his homeland for the first time since leaving on April 7, 1939.
Thus, on November 19, 1993, at around 16:00, King Leka arrived in Rinas on a special plane, accompanied by his staff, Albanians and foreigners. After performing the procedures of entering the airport, he leaves for Tirana and is accommodated in the suite 214 of Hotel “Dajti”.
The news of the King’s arrival in Tirana spread like wildfire throughout the country. Thousands of royals, from all four sides, travel all night and, in the early hours of the morning, were in front of the Hotel “Dajti”, along the boulevard to the Palace of Congresses. Here, in the great hall of this building, at 10:00, the 50th anniversary of O.K.L.L. but in essence the dream meeting with King Leka would take place.
Alarmed by the extraordinary interest of the kings to meet with the King, after midnight, around 03:00, senior officials of SHIK and the State Police, go to the Hotel “Dajti” and ask to return to Rinas and leave of the King from Albania, due to “problems” with “travel documents and personal weapons”.
To avoid a possible clash between the kings and the police, King Leka respects the “request” of state officials and, at 08.30, leaves the hotel, leaves for Rinas and leaves the homeland, without filling 18 hours. This was the second traumatic departure after that of April 7, 1939.
The year 1997 comes. At a very difficult time for Albania and the Albanian people, the political parties, in the agreement of March 9, 1997, to take advantage of the credibility that the King had from the south to the north of the country (the Socialists could not go north, while Democrats could not go south), allowed “the return of King Leka I to the homeland”, and even “the holding of a referendum on the form of the regime”. The king arrived in Albania for the second time on April 12, 1997, using the same travel documents as in 1993.
The referendum would take place on June 29, 1997, the same day as the parliamentary elections. The king conducted a very dignified campaign throughout the country and won the referendum with the vote of the Albanians. The politics of the time, surprised by the surprise result, ordered the CEC not to announce the victory of the Monarchy and to prolong the counting process, until it manipulated the votes in favor of the Republic. In the face of this open manipulation, the King’s supporters, who voted for the Monarchy, stormed a protest rally in Skanderbeg Square and along Dëshmorët e Kombit Boulevard, demanding the announcement of the result. Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Friday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck, killing one and injuring several others. The prosecution is ordered to launch an investigation, accusing King Leka of “organizing and gathering illegal demonstrations to overthrow the constitutional order and illegal possession of weapons.”
King Leka, in order to avoid conflicts and provocations, is forced to leave his homeland again on July 12, 1997, after three months, with the promise that he was ready to return at the moment that the Albanian people would demand.
One of the main priorities of the Legality Movement Party has been the return of the Royal Family to the homeland. The first, very important moment of this process was the drafting and signing of a resolution on 04.06.1998 by the leaders of all parties (right and center right) of the parliamentary and non-parliamentary opposition, where, among other things, they demand: “… We call on King Leka I to return to his homeland, as the lawsuit against him is a political farce of the left-wing coalition”.
Meanwhile, the best moment comes to realize the return of the Royal Family to the homeland. In the years 2001-2005, the Legality Movement Party was at the peak of its political power and with great credibility in the electorate, not only because it was a parliamentary party, but also because of the attitudes held and the compactness of the parliamentary group. In short, PLL was a real factor in Albanian politics.
At the initiative of the PLL parliamentary group, in the spring of 2002, the preparation of the appropriate institutional infrastructure for the return of the Royal Family to the homeland began. After a strong lobbying with the leaders of the parliamentary parties, a political agreement was reached where the presidents of the 9 parliamentary groups of the Albanian Parliament, on June 17, 2002, signed a joint document, which read, among other things: “Respecting the Albanian Royal Family “We are convinced that we respect the establishment of the modern Albanian state by King Zog I. With the return of the Royal Family to the homeland, an injustice caused by the fascist occupation and the communist dictatorship ends.”
The statement of the parliamentary groups was accompanied by the request of 74 signatory deputies (out of 140 that the Assembly had), where it was requested: We, the deputies of the Albanian Parliament, based on our assessment of the history of the Albanian State and its legal continuity, as and in today’s democratic developments, we present our request that Queen Mother Geraldina and the Albanian Royal Family come and live forever in Albania ”.
Why did the firm of 74 deputies need it?
The Socialist Party had a majority and led the Government and the Assembly, while the opposition had a total of 53 deputies. King Leka continued to be indicted for the July 3, 1997 incident, and the farce trial continued. In these conditions of uncertainty, in order to avoid voting in the Parliament where there could be an outflow of votes, with many negotiations it was possible to get 74 signatures = 52.9% of the number of deputies of the Assembly, making an unnecessary formal vote unnecessary.
Although many years have passed, in my capacity as a former MP and group leader, but also as a former PLL chairman, I take this opportunity to thank all the signatory MPs for that political and patriotic act, but also human at the same time.
Following this great political achievement, the Legality Movement Party, with all its structures, began organizing and preparing for a dignified reception for the Royal Family. On Friday, June 28, 2002, thousands of different legalists and citizens from all over Albania and the Albanian territories came to Tirana in the early hours of the morning. The organized start to Rinas was made from “Mother Teresa” square. At Mother Teresa Airport, the atmosphere was extraordinary – a national holiday. With national and Legality flags, with banners in their hands, with various national costumes, to the music of the wind and folk orchestra, with songs and dances, the audience celebrated and welcomed the Royal Family in the homeland. At 11:15 a.m., the Boeing 727 of Million Air, which was transporting from Johannesburg’s Lanceria Airport, the Albanian Royal Family consisting of: Queen Mother Geraldine, King Leka I, Queen Suzanne, the Crown Prince, landed in Rinas. crown Leka II and Countess Virginia (sister of Queen Mother Geraldine).
King Leka, as soon as he landed in Rinas, told the numerous media:
I want to thank the Albanian people, the Albanian state that gave us this opportunity to return to our homeland “.
The long convoy of cars of the sympathizers of the kingdom accompanied from the airport “Mother Teresa” to Tirana, members of the Royal Family, who were greeted by many citizens along the way. The exaltation reached its peak when the Royal Family arrived at Villa no. 4 and family members got out of the cars to be accommodated in this residence, which was right behind the Hotel “Rogner”, 100 meters away from the headquarters of the Albanian government and one of the most modern buildings in the capital.
Thus, after 63 years of forced exile in different parts of the world, the Albanian Royal Family finally returned home with all due respect, as it deserved, not just for the extraordinary contributions it had made to the Albanian state and nation. but also for the future of Albanians./Memorie.al
former MP & chairman of PLL