Prime Minister Rama’s meetings during his regional tour, which were announced in preparation for the Berlin Process Summit scheduled for October in Tirana, have become a subject of misinformation due to how the media interpreted his statements. His response about a potential meeting with Albin Kurti and Bilal Kasami, the mayor of Tetovo, has left some online media outlets puzzled and has attracted clickbait seekers.
Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama, embarked on a Balkan tour in July, during which he met with the leaders of governments from Western Balkan countries, with the argument that the tour was in preparation for the upcoming Berlin Process Summit scheduled to take place in Tirana in October.
This journey came during a period of tense relations in the region due to the clashes in northern Kosovo between the blue-uniformed officers and the Serbs of Kosovo, as a result of the partial elections in municipalities with a Serbian majority. The positioning of the Albanian government in this conflict was that of a mediator, as Prime Minister Rama decided to propose to the international community a draft for the creation of an Association of Serbian communes in Kosovo, without consulting the latter.
This led to straining the relationship between the two Albanian prime ministers, particularly after Rama canceled the scheduled joint meeting of their governments. In response, Kurti reciprocated with a similar gesture, refusing to meet with Rama during his Balkan tour. It is precisely because of this refusal by Prime Minister Kurti that misinformation about what Rama said during the joint conference with the Macedonian prime minister started circulating on social media.
On July 6, some media outlets reported that Rama had stated he did not request a meeting with Albin Kurti, hence the latter’s refusal was pointless.
- Lajmi.Net – Rama’s tone has a hint of mockery: “Kurti refused me? I didn’t even ask for a meeting.”
- Rtv21.tv – Rama stated, “Kurti refused me, assuming I might request a meeting.”
- Gazeta Express – Rama: Kurti refused me, presuming I would seek a meeting.
- Ekonomiaonline.com – Rama playfully teases from Skopje: “He refused in advance, thinking I might request a meeting.”
- Botapress.info – Rama playfully teases from Skopje: “I never asked for a meeting with Kurti; he refused in advance.”
- Gazetablic.com – Rama mockingly remarks, “Kurti refused me, but I never sought a meeting.“
Indeed, a fact-check by “Faktoje” reveals that Prime Minister Rama’s response, initially reported as directed at Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, was aimed at the mayor of Tetovo, Bilal Kasami.
During the conference with Macedonian counterpart Kovačevski, which took place on the same day, journalists asked Rama about the refusal of meetings with both Kosovo Prime Minister Kurti and the mayor of Tetovo, Bilal Kasami. In response to Bilal Kasami, Rama clarified that he had not requested a meeting. As for his fellow countryman Kurti, he explained that his refusal to meet was based on the principles of the Kanun of Lekë Dukagjini.
Journalist: A comment from you regarding the fact that Prime Minister Albin Kurti refused to meet with you, announcing that Bilal Kasami, the leader of the Besa Party, and he himself declined to meet with you today? And how do you see Kurti’s refusal to comply with the U.S. requests? Can it be said that this jeopardizes the positive image that Albanians have among our strategic partners in the region?
Rama: I did not seek a meeting with him. He pre-emptively declined, thinking I might request one. Bilal is a good man; I would never take him away from Tetovo’s affairs for NATO matters.
Journalist: And regarding the other part of the question, concerning Albin Kurti and his refusal towards international partners?
Rama: We’ll address that among the Albanians in Kosovo when I visit there. I still hope Albin hasn’t forgotten the tradition [kanun] that when someone knocks on your door, you open it, even if this someone is your enemy, and it’s forbidden to take him out before he is done speaking.
Despite this clarification, some media outlets have “preferred” to interpret the response given for Kasami as intended for Prime Minister Kurti, even though Rama had already announced that during his regional tour, he would meet with his counterparts.
*This article was produced as part of the regional initiative Western Balkans Counter Disinformation Centre
Editor: Viola Keta & Aimona Vogli