As the Western Balkans route used by migrants to get from Greece to Northern Europe becomes almost impossible to navigate, fears are growing in Italy that it will become the center of attention — on two fronts.Croatia, Slovenia and non-EU Macedonia announced Wednesday that their borders were now closed, leaving thousands of migrants stranded in Greece and looking for alternative ways north.Many of them may head toward Albania, and then on to Italy. “Time and again we have read about one million people ready to cross from Libya: it has never happened.” Also On POLITICO Report raises doubts about EU-Turkey migration deal By Giulia Paravicini As European interior ministers meet Thursday to discuss a Turkish plan to send back all migrants on Greek islands, Italians have other worries: how to deal with a potential influx from Albania at the same time as the weather improves and boats laden with migrants could begin making their way across the Mediterranean from Northern Africa to Sicily.“If the Balkans close their borders there is the danger of a route from Albania,” Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was quoted as saying to Jean-Claude Juncker, the Commission president, when they met in Rome at the end of last month.Irregular flows of migrants along Western Balkans route have come to an end — Donald TuskSince then, the Western Balkans route has effectively closed. “Irregular flows of migrants along Western Balkans route have come to an end,” Donald Tusk, the European Council president, said in tweet on Wednesday, stressing that this was “not a question of unilateral actions but [a] common EU28 decision.”On Monday, at an EU-Turkey summit, there were clashes over whether the closure of the migratory route should be officially announced. Germany’s Angela Merkel was opposed to such a move, fearing it could be seen as a victory for Hungary, which has been campaigning to shut the route, and for Austria, which has imposed yearly and daily caps on the number of refugees that it will take in.For Italy the problem is a practical one. The country is at risk of seeing new flows of migrants from Albania, as happened in the 1990s. Officials and analysts say it’s too early to tell if any deal with Turkey will make a difference. The UNHCR, the U.N.’s refugee agency, is working with the government in Tirana to “identify possible processing sites close to Kakavia and Kapshticë” — two strategic crossing points between northern Greece and Albania. However, “the government of Albania has not at this stage formally requested UNHCR to set up reception facilities,” a spokesperson said.Although the Italians are worried, they are also trying to downplay the risks. “We don’t have a single sign to say that this happening,” Mario Morcone, the head of the migration department at the Italian interior ministry, said in an interview. “If it happens we are ready but for now there’s no sign.”Italy is already braced for an influx of migrants through the often deadly Central Mediterranean route. Last April, a boat full of migrants capsized off the Sicilian coast, killing almost 800.Last year, 885,000 migrants arrived in the EU via the Eastern Mediterranean route, according to Frontex, the EU’s border agency, while 157,000 used the Central Mediterranean route. The closure of the Western Balkan route, along with calm conditions at sea and the chaotic situation in Libya, could see those numbers increase.The Italian interior minister, Angelino Alfano, has often raised this issue at summits, a diplomat said. But other officials argue that the Italians will be helped by the Eunvafor Med naval operation, launched last summer to tackle people-smuggling.When it comes to Italy’s concerns “some elements are true but there are also fears that tend to be exaggerated compared to what data shows,” said Maurizio Ambrosini, a migration expert at Milan University. Michele Emiliano, the president of the Puglia region, Italy’s heel, which faces Albania, said on Wednesday that a strong flow of migrants is “likely,” and mention 150,000 potential arrivals.At a meeting scheduled for Tuesday of a Council body known as the EU Integrated Political Crisis Response Arrangements, ambassadors and officials will, according to a document seen by POLITICO, discuss the question “Are we ready for increased inflows in spring, in particular on the Central Mediterranean route as well as the Western Mediterranean and following the closure of the Western Balkans route?”Waiting in the woodsTo make the case more urgent, Italian and Albanian media have reported that as many as 25,000 migrants have been camped out in woods, ready to make their way to the EU.An Albanian diplomat said a more realistic figure was 10,000 and it would be difficult for them to get to Italy because of tough local laws on the ownership of boats. A more likely route, the diplomat said, would be north through Montenegro and Kosovo.“The Italians have been worried about it for months and that is why we invited also Albania at the informal meeting of foreign ministers in Amsterdam last month and why [Federica] Mogherini [the EU’s foreign policy chief] traveled to Tirana recently,” said a senior EU official.Albania was also invited to a Western Balkan conference at the end of October and is setting up facilities to host between 3,000 and 5,000 migrants, said a diplomat.