After row, Serbia says Albania not mature enough for Europe
BELGRADE - Agence France-Presse
Serbia's Stefan Mitrovic grabs a flag with Albanian national symbols flown by a remotely operated drone during the Euro 2016 group I football match between Serbia and Albania in Belgrade on October 14, 2014. AFP PhotoSerbia's interior minister said on Oct. 16 that 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 football qualifier between the Balkan nations to be abandoned.
Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic's remarks cast further doubt on a scheduled visit by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama to Belgrade next week - the first by an Albanian leader in almost 70 years.
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.
"Police have found the drone and will forward it for expert analysis to determine its producer and where it was purchased," Stefanovic said in a statement.
"Statements by leaders of the Albanian government demonstrate that they knew such a provocation was being prepared.
"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.
The countries have long had a turbulent relationship, centred on Serbia's majority-Albanian former province of Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008.
Serbia has pinned the blame on a cluster of Albanian fans in the VIP stand of the stadium, including the brother of Rama, who were granted entrance despite a ban on Albanian fans over security concerns.
The remarks are unlikely to please Albania, with Rama due to visit Belgrade on Oct. 22. The visit had been hailed as opening a new chapter in otherwise fraught relations. Both countries aim to one day join the European Union. Albania is already a member of NATO.
Europe's soccer governing body, UEFA, has opened disciplinary proceedings against the football associations of both countries.