Dua Lipa at the Grammys in January. Photo: David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Pop star Dua Lipa faced backlash on Sunday after tweeting a flag of "Greater Albania," showing Albania expanding its borders to include some portions of Kosovo, Serbia, Greece and North Macedonia.

Why it matters: The flag represents an ultra-nationalist idea that historically ethnic Albanian parts of the Balkans should be returned to Albanian control. Lipa, 24, was born in the U.K., but her parents are Kosovar Albanians — and Kosovo is central to much of the dispute.

The backstory: Kosovo, which is 93% ethnically Albanian, declared independence from Serbia in 2008 — a decade after rebel Kosovar Albanians fought to break away from what was then Yugoslavia in the Kosovo War. More than 1 million people were displaced in the conflict.

  • Some nationalists have advocated for the unification of Kosovo and Albania, particularly in the decade since Kosovo's independence, though little concrete action has been taken.
  • Lipa also included the definition of the word "autochthonous" in her tweet: "indigenous rather than descended from migrants or colonists." That definition, too, refers back to the Albanian nationalist argument for expansion.
Serbian defender Stefan Mitrovic tears down a "Greater Albania" flag from a drone in 2014 as Albanian defenders look on. Photo: Alexa Stankovic/AFP via Getty Images

The state of play: The flag in her tweet was flown by a drone over a 2014 soccer match between Albania and Serbia, prompting the match to be suspended after it brought the two teams to blows and sent Serbian fans spilling onto the field to join in, per the BBC.

  • Albanian fans weren't even allowed to attend the match in Belgrade, given the already heightened tensions between the two nations.
  • "If someone from Serbia had unveiled a flag of Greater Serbia in [Albania's capital] Tirana or [Kosovo's capital] Pristina, it would already be on the agenda of the UN Security Council," Serbia's foreign minister said after the incident.

The big picture: Political scientist Florian Bieber, who studies ethnic conflict in the Balkans, called Lipa's tweet "stupid nationalism."

  • "It claims that one group has more rights because it was there earlier, which is not a credible claim considering that nations are modern. ... It also suggest that migrants should be excluded or less worthy. Hardly a message for anybody who, like herself, represents the ability for the child of migrants to succeed," he added.

The bottom line: The regional tensions will get some international attention in the coming months, as the European Union moved to open formal accession talks earlier this year with both Albania and North Macedonia.

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