Albanian Daily News
Debate over Kosovars transit route

Feb 01, 2000

TIRANA - The signing of an agreement between Albania and Germany to transit Kosovar refugees from Germany to Kosovo has ignited controversy over government’s capability to respect the deal.

Minister of Public Order Spartak Poci has signed in Berlin two agreements, including Albania’s approval to transit some 15,000 Kosovar refugees, sheltered in Germany during the Kosovo crisis. According to an agreement signed late last week, Kosovo Albanian refugees in Germany and scores of asylum seekers demanding refugee status over there the last decade, will be flown to Rinas airport, near Tirana, or shipped to the port of Durres and then escorted to Kosovo.

Albania’s poor infra-structure and the incompetence of the police have raised doubts over the ability of the country’s structures to respect the commitment. The mountainous road connecting central Albania to the border passages with Kosovo makes it hard for police to escort Kosovars home.

"The Albanian police do not have the manpower to protect the convoys of refugees from probable attacks by armed bandit gangs," daily Gazeta Shqiptare said in an article, when the deal was in the making.

The easiest route to transit the refugees to Kosovo would be through Macedonia: Kosovars would first be flown to Skopje and then transported to Kosovo through a much more viable highway; but political and economical costs may have ruled out this option.

The Macedonian government tends to get as much as it can for itself when it comes to Kosovo, conditioning with economical support every concession to the west.

Albania it’s a different story. The government feels it cannot negotiate hard with respect to its ethnic Albanian kin in Kosovo.However, this latest undertaking may strain relations with Kosovars, which have in their relatives working abroad their main source of income.

Poci also signed in Germany an agreement to provide aid to the Albanian police and army. An Albanian Defense Ministry spokesman said that Germany has sent $3.5m worth of military equipment to Albania "in recent years," but observers note that much of the aid comes from stocks of the former East German army.