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Protocol of Corfu

Protocol of Corfu

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The Protocol of Corfu signed on May 17, 1914, was an agreement between representatives of the Albanian Government
Principality of Albania
The Principality of Albania refers to the short-lived monarchy in Albania, headed by William, Prince of Albania and to the state after the First World War, until the abolition of the monarchy in 1925, when Albania was declared a republic.-Principality:The Principality was established on February...

 and the Provisional Government of Northern Epirus, which officially recognized the area of Northern Epirus
Northern Epirus
Northern Epirus is a term used to refer to those parts of the historical region of Epirus, in the western Balkans, that are part of the modern Albania. The term is used mostly by Greeks and is associated with the existence of a substantial ethnic Greek population in the region...

 as an autonomous region within the Albanian state. The protocol granted to the Greeks
Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 of the two southern districts of Albania which form Northern Epirus wider religious, educational, cultural and political autonomy. However the protocol’s terms were never implemented because of the politically unstable situation following the outbreak of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, and after the final cession of the region to Albania in 1921, it was totally ignored.

Background


During the First Balkan War
First Balkan War
The First Balkan War, which lasted from October 1912 to May 1913, pitted the Balkan League against the Ottoman Empire. The combined armies of the Balkan states overcame the numerically inferior and strategically disadvantaged Ottoman armies and achieved rapid success...

, the Greek Army
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 defeated the Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 forces and pushed north through the region of Epirus
Epirus
The name Epirus, from the Greek "Ήπειρος" meaning continent may refer to:-Geographical:* Epirus - a historical and geographical region of the southwestern Balkans, straddling modern Greece and Albania...

, reaching a line from Himara in the Ionian
Ionian Sea
The Ionian Sea , is an arm of the Mediterranean Sea, south of the Adriatic Sea. It is bounded by southern Italy including Calabria, Sicily and the Salento peninsula to the west, southern Albania to the north, and a large number of Greek islands, including Corfu, Zante, Kephalonia, Ithaka, and...

 coast to Prespa lake by February 1913. Pending the final abjudication of the Great Powers as to the new borders between Greece and the newly-established Albanian state, the region remained under Greek military occupation. On 17 December 1913 however, the Protocol of Florence ceded the northern part of this occupied area, which became known as "Northern Epirus
Northern Epirus
Northern Epirus is a term used to refer to those parts of the historical region of Epirus, in the western Balkans, that are part of the modern Albania. The term is used mostly by Greeks and is associated with the existence of a substantial ethnic Greek population in the region...

", to Albania. This turn of events was highly unpopular among local Greeks, who decided to declare their independence
Northern Epirote Declaration of Independence
The Northern Epirote Declaration of Independence occurred on February 28, 1914, in Argyrokastron , against the decision of incorporation of Northern Epirus to the newly established Albanian principality....

 and secure the region against any opposing threat. The Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus
Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus
The Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus was a short-lived, self-governing entity founded on February 28, 1914, in the aftermath of the Balkan Wars, by the Greeks living in southern Albania ....

 was thus proclaimed in Argyrokastro (Gjirokastër
Gjirokastër
Gjirokastër is a city in southern Albania with a population of 43,000. Lying in the historical region of Epirus, it is the capital of both the Gjirokastër District and the larger Gjirokastër County...

) on February 28, 1914, while Georgios Christakis-Zografos
Georgios Christakis-Zografos
Georgios Christakis-Zografos was a Greek politician, minister of foreign affairs and president of the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus .-Studies & early career:...

, a distinguished Epirote politician from Lunxhëri
Lunxhëri
Lunxhëri is a municipality in the district of Gjirokastër, Gjirokastër County, Albania. The municipality consists of the villages Qestorat, Dhoksat, Këllëz, Mingul, Nokovë, Erind, Gjat, Kakoz, Karjan and Valare....

, became the head of the Republic.

Meanwhile, the Greek army evacuated the region, and on 1 May, Korçë
Korçë
Korçë is a city in southeastern Albania and the capital of the Korçë District. It has a population of around 105,000 people , making it the sixth largest city in Albania...

 was ceded to the newly formed Albanian Gendarmerie. Serious disturbances broke out in a number of places between the Autonomist forces and Albanian Gendarmerie and irregulars. An International Commission formed by the Great Powers to secure stability and peace in the region was unable to achieve an agreement between the two sides.

Negotiations


Soon however, to avoid direct confrontation, Prince William of Wied of Albania asked the International Commission to initiate negotiations. Under such circumstances, on May 6, Georgios Ch. Zografos received a communication from the Commission asking to proceed to negotiations and reach an agreement. These were carried out in the island of Corfu, where, on May 17, 1914, Albanian and Epirot representatives signed an agreement that it became known as the Protocol of Corfu.

The Protocol is prefaced by a signed agreement of the Commission:

Terms


According to its terms, the two provinces of Korytsa and Argyrokastro that constituted Northern Epirus would become autonomous under Albanian sovereignty and under the auspices of Prince William of Wied – who, however, was granted no effective power whatever.

The Albanian government had the right to appoint and dismiss governors and upper rank officials. Other terms included the proportional recruitment of natives into the local gendarmerie, and the prohibition of military levies from non-indigenous people of the regio. In Orthodox schools, the Greek language would be the sole medium of instruction, except for the three first classes. Greek was also made equal to Albanian in all public affairs.

As for the coastal area of Himara, the Ottoman-era privileges were renewed, and a foreigner was to be appointed as its "captain" for 10 years. Moreover, the Protocol, stated that the city of Korçë which was under control of the Albanian gendarmerie has to came under automonist administration. The Great Powers would guarantee for the implementation of terms of the Protocol.

Approval and reactions


On June 1 the Great Power (including Italy and Austro-Hungary) approved the results of the negotiations and on June 23 the terms of the Protocol were officially approved by the Albanian Government.

The Greek Government without being involved in the situation was aware of the negotiations and the possibility of a final agreement. Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos
Eleftherios Venizelos
Eleftherios Venizelos was an eminent Greek revolutionary, a prominent and illustrious statesman as well as a charismatic leader in the early 20th century. Elected several times as Prime Minister of Greece and served from 1910 to 1920 and from 1928 to 1932...

, advised Georgios Christakis-Zografos
Georgios Christakis-Zografos
Georgios Christakis-Zografos was a Greek politician, minister of foreign affairs and president of the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus .-Studies & early career:...

 to approve the protocol’s terms without asking for even wider form of autonomy.

The Northern Epirote representatives in the following Panepirotic Assembly of Delvino had to take the final decision whether to accept this agreement or not. The Protocol was finally accepted; however the representatives of Himara found the terms too humiliating, arguing that the only viable solution would be union with Greece and not autonomy inside the Albanian state.

Political situation and outbreak of World War I


Soon after the outbreak of World War I (July 1914), the situation in Albania became unstable and political chaos emerged. While the country became split into a number of regional governments, Prince William departed the country in September 1914. On 27 October, after approval from the Great Powers, the Greek army re-entered the area. The provisional government formally ceased to exist, declaring that it had accomplished its objectives. The region was de facto annexed to Greece until 1915, when Italian troops evicted the Greek army from the area.

When peace was restored in Europe, the region was finally ceded to the Albanian state but contrary to the Protocol of Corfu, and the country’s commitment to the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 (1921), the Greek minority didn’t acquire any form of local autonomy. As an eminent consequence Greek education was limited and for a time virtually eliminated (1935).

Legacy


The Protocol of Corfu is often mentioned by Northern Epirote and human rights organizations when referring to the discrimination of the Greek minority in Albania and the possibility of asking about certain human and minority rights. On the other hand, in the Albanian historiography this agreement is scarcely mentioned or its interpretation is often grounded on different positions. Notably, during the 1960s, the Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

 asked the communist leader of Albania Enver Hoxha
Enver Hoxha
Enver Halil Hoxha was a Marxist–Leninist revolutionary andthe leader of Albania from the end of World War II until his death in 1985, as the First Secretary of the Party of Labour of Albania...

about giving autonomy to the minority, but this initiative was without any result.

Sources


Further reading


The full text of the Protocol: