Politico: W Balkan pro-US states taking in Afghan refugees, Montenegro won’t

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Source: Reuters/Stringer/File Photo

The Politico portal said that Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia are the first European countries to say they’ll provide temporary shelter for Afghans bound for the US after fleeing the Taliban, adding that most of the refugees are civilians who worked with US or international missions.

It said that Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani said she was contacted by President Joe Biden last month with a request to temporarily house Afghan refugees. “Without any hesitation or single conditioning, I have given my consent to such humanitarian operation,” Politico quoted her as saying in a Facebook post.

On Monday, Pristina said it would take Afghans, as a gesture of humanity and friendship with Washington.

Albania is being similarly welcoming, Politico said. “In recent days the US government has asked Albania to assess whether it can serve as a transit country, for a certain number of Afghan political immigrants, who have the end destination in the US. Indisputably we won’t say no, and not just because our great allies ask us, but because we are Albania!” Prime Minister Edi Rama wrote on Facebook.

Montenegro’s Foreign Ministry denied on Wednesday some media reports that the tiny Adriatic republic would accept the Afghan refugees.

The Ministry said Montenegro was a part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan. It believed the people from that country had the right to a decent life.

However, it added that „in this phase,“ Montenegro would not take the refugees in.

“The three countries are among the poorest in Europe, and all three are hoping to eventually join the European Union. That’s one of the reasons they are leaning heavily on their relationship with the United States,” it said and quoted Berlin-ased Democratization Policy Council analyst Toby Vogel who said that “these three are the most pro-American countries in Europe, possibly in the world, both in terms of popular sentiment and the alignment of the political class regardless of the administration that’s in power in the US….They will do a lot to accommodate whatever demands the US might have.”

“This is happening at a moment when the European Union accession process is stuck largely because of internal EU issues, and nobody can predict how it will get unstuck,” Vogel said. “So there’s an element of balancing the US against the EU that is happening as well. The leadership of these countries wants to go straight to the source of Western power and stability — and that’s the US”

“In the last 30 years, US support has been critical for Albania’s democratic processes as well as for all the nations in the Western Balkans,” said Gjergji Vurmo, who oversees the EU and Balkans program at the Institute for Democracy and Mediation in Tirana. “This is not the first time Albania responds positively to similar requests by the U.S.”

Albania hosts the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran, a political-military organization that fled there in 2016 to avoid persecution by Iran. It also took in Uyghur former Guantanamo inmates once the US deemed they were no longer a threat. “Albania and North Macedonia have sheltered war refugees from the former Yugoslavia and together with Kosovo, the local populations have witnessed the dire consequences of armed conflicts. People have also witnessed the US support for their security, peace and democracy,” said Vurmo.

For North Macedonia, this is also a way to show it takes NATO membership seriously and also to gain diplomatic leverage to unblock its EU accession talks. “Appreciation for the United States is extremely high considering how disappointed and angry people are at the EU. People think that the U.S. is the country’s key strategic partner,” said Predrag Arsovski, a Macedonian commentator and columnist.