JOURNAL OF THE CONSTANTIAN SOCIETY
|Randall J. Dicks, J.D.,
Governor and Editor
|840 Old Washington Road
McMurray, Pennsylvania 15317-3228
U. S. A.
Telephone (412) 942-5374
Copyright 1997 Randall J. Dicks
All Rights Reserved
Volume XXIV, Numbers 4 -5
Founded 1970 - Unity, Stability,Continuity
KINGS IN THE BALKANS
It has been a year of tantalizing possibilities in the Balkans, yet the realization of those possibilities remains somewhere beyond the horizon. Restoration of one monarchy was put to the vote; one king is freer than ever before to visit his country another Royal Family is taking a new role in its country; yet the region continues to be beset by economic and political problems and ethnic tensions.
The Times of London said last spring, after King Leka had returned to Albania to a "tumultuous welcome", after monarchists made a strong showing in Bulgaria's general elections, and after King Michael, his nationality and passport restored, had made an emotional return to Romania : "Monarchy, it seems, has never been so popular in the Balkans. The three pretenders [King Michael, King Simeon, King Leka] are presetting themselves as unifying figures at a time of economic and political turbulence. After the collapse of communism, all were rebuffed in their initial attempts to reclaim their thrones. But all have recently stirred a new interest in their homelands. Monarchist parties have been formed, crowds have mobbed the men once reviled as relics of a bourgeois past, and politicians have been eager to invoke their aura and overseas prestige". In evaluating short-term prospects for restorations, the Times concludes that "The three men, even if they do not ascend the throne, can still do much to help their struggling countries". This may be the best that can be achieved for the time being, an active rôle in the service of their countries. While there are those monarchists who say "now or never", there are also many who believe that "it is too soon", after more than four decades of communist repression, for people long unfamiliar with democracy to make informed choices.
King Leka returned to Albania in April, for the first real visit he has made to his native country after a lifetime of exile. He was enthusiastically welcomed, at a time when President Sali Berisha was at the height of unpopularity. Berisha agreed to include the question of restoration of the monarchy in general elections already planned for late June. The King campaigned and traveled throughout the country, and was well received everywhere. When the election came on June 29th, the Prime Minister, the BBC, Italian and Turkish television, and international press agencies all announced that the monarchy had won by a majority of the vote. Yet when the official results were announced, the monarchy had achieved only 33% of the vote. Some violence did break out, but the King did everything he could to curb these demonstrations. The King says that the Albanian crisis will deepen rather than disappear, and his concern is that the country itself may disappear, partitioned among its neighbours. Whether the election was actually stolen or not, even 33% of the vote represents a significant portion of the electorate, and is a worthwhile achievement after hardly more than a month of campaigning. King Leka does not wish to contribute to the possibility of further unrest, and has returned to South Africa. But he has announced his intention "to pursue by all legitimate and pacific means the restoration of the Albanian monarchy in accordance with the wishes of the Albanian people". With the election of Emil Constantinescu as President of Romania a year ago, King Michael regained his citizenship and passport, and has made three extended visits to the country. He has been well received, with some crowds as large as 35 to 50 thousand. Unfortunately, the King's new liberty has its disadvantages. He is no longer the victim of the government's injustice, there is not the same element of controversy in his presence in Romania, and his visits do not have the same news value, in the judgment of the press. The King is welcome to visit Romania, but must pay his own way, and Romanian monarchists are having difficulties in raising funds in the new circumstances. "We have much to fight for", says a Romanian monarchist leader who appeals to us for financial support. Another Romanian monarchist reports that the government views the Royal Family with respect, "but not with enthusiasm". The current government is a three-way coalition, and although two of the parties have some sympathy for monarchy, they also hold that only a referendum can decide the question, and that now is not the time. Romania faces grave economic problems, with the average worker maLing $90 per month. The Romanian monarchist says that if the King could change the economic reality of Romanian life, if he could bring in massive foreign investment, the monarchy would be restored; "I know that this is not the main role of constitutional monarchy", he says, "but this is what the people want first."
King Simeon II made a brief visit to Bulgaria a few days before parliamentary elections in April, elections in which an opposition coalition committed to reform scored a clear victory, and in which monarchists made a good showing, as well. A few weeks later, the King's second son, Prince Kyril, a London investment banker, visited Sofia, in the capacity of economic advisor to President Stoyanov. He is the first of the younger generation of the Bulgarian Royal Family to visit Bulgaria, and says that he thought the day would never come, and that his appointment removes the perceived threat, a holdover from the communist era, whereby any contact with the Royal Family could lead to recrimination. This appointment enables Prince Kyril to participate in Bulgarian affairs without being accused of meddling in domestic matters, and without creating jeopardy for those with whom he comes in contact.
Prince Kyril says that he, his brothers, and King Simeon "have always been very realistic about the enormous complexities and obstacles surrounding the restoration of the monarchy, not least since the monarch himself cannot be seen to take an active role in forwarding the cause".
Immediate prospects for restorations in the Balkans may be slight, but the three Kings, as well as Crown Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia, continue to make themselves available, and are willing to serve their countries in any helpful capacity. King Michael has served as Romania's emissary to lobby for the country's early entry into NATO. He hopes to establish a residence in Romania now, and there is a movement to return some property to the Royal Family; his eldest daughter, Princess Margarita, already spends part of the year in Romania, overseeing the valuable humanitarian efforts of the foundation which bears her name. The Bulgarian Royal Family now has a connection to the country's struggle for economic revival. King Leka has become acquainted with his country for the first time, and many Albanians have become acquainted with him, and believe that he should play a role in the country's future. The Times observes that "Stability, continuity, and a peaceful focus for national ideals are desperately needed in the Balkans at present". Although some monarchists are disappointed that the fall of communism did not lead to immediate royal restorations, the Kings of the Balkans, in any active rôles, can still do much to help their troubled countries survive this period of transition and change.
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