On February 27, Albania and Turkey signed an agreement on military cooperation in strict confidentiality.
Albanian media suggest Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama have agreed to move 30,000 Syrian refugees from Turkey to southern Albania.
The news alarmed Greece, namely about 120,000 ethnic Greeks living in the region known as Northern Epirus. Athens fears that Ankara and Tirana agreed on such a plan to “destroy the national minority in the Albanian region,” according to Greek media.
Greece liberated the area during the first Balkan War (1912-1913), but the international powers decided to transfer it to Albania. Greek newspapers regularly report that the Orthodox Greeks in this region are “worried by Albanian Muslims.”
“Greek enterprises are being attacked, property is being confiscated on a far-fetched pretext, and religious ceremonies are prohibited,” Greek media report on the situation in the region.
In March this year, Albanian media reported that it was planned to build six refugee reception centers on the border with Greece, which could accommodate a total of 30,000 people. Buildings are needed if “Albania faces an influx of Syrian refugees from Greece.”
Since then, additional information has leaked: “Work is underway to relocate refugees to rural homes and to new special settlements in the area.” At the same time, the media draw attention to the fact that Tirana has no money to build the appropriate infrastructure.
Another indirect confirmation of the cooperation between Tirana and Ankara is the fact that against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, Albania has banned all international flights – with the exception of flights to and from Istanbul.
Theodoris Goumas, editor of the Greek news portal Himara.gr, expressed great concern in an interview with the Greek newspaper Protothema. Both local Greeks and their compatriots in Northern Epirus are extremely skeptical of the Ankara-Tiran agreement.
“The activities of the Prime Minister of Albania are suspicious. The choice of the Northern Epirus region for the resettlement of Muslim refugees means a deliberate provocation against Greece, ”said Gomas.
Vladimir Avatkov, professor at the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is confident that Albania is important in terms of the movement of refugees and blackmail of Europe in connection with the migration crisis. “Turkey believes that it is a world power and is capable of exerting pressure on a number of countries, including the developed countries of Europe.”
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There are currently 3.6 million refugees in Turkey.