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Macedonia Scapegoating Albania for Political Deadlock

While EU Council head urges politicians not to aggravate ethnic tensions, Skopje blames Tirana for trying to undermine the constitutional order.

7 April 2017

Macedonia must focus on its aspiration to join the EU to defuse ethnic tensions, European Council President Donald Tusk has told head of state Gjorge Ivanov.

 

The country has been without a government for three months as conservatives hold out against a power-sharing agreement with parties representing the large Albanian minority, EurActiv writes.

 

“I came here with the strong message from the EU leaders that commitment to European perspectives is unequivocal. I therefore hope that you will continue to follow this compass and avoid anything that could further fuel tensions also along ethnic lines,” Tusk said on 3 April.

 

The Social Democratic Party won the December elections – brought forward in an EU-brokered initiative to heal a long conservative-left-wing feud – and seemed on the verge of forming a government after forging an agreement that would raise Albanian to the status of co-official language nationwide, satisfying the major demand of the Albanian parties.

 

Zoran Zaev 100
But the Social Democratic-Albanian coalition never got a chance because Ivanov refused to give Social Democratic leader Zoran Zaev (pictured) a mandate, claiming the agreement was an attempt to destroy Macedonia's independence, RFE/RL writes.

 

Ivanov has also accused Albania of interfering in Macedonia’s domestic affairs. Emulating his stance, the Foreign Ministry summoned the Albanian ambassador on 4 April to protest the neighboring country’s alleged "open interference in Macedonia's internal affairs" and attempts to "change the constitutional order in Macedonia."

 

Tusk’s latest initiative made no visible impact on resolving the crisis, RFE says.

 

"My position remains unchanged," Ivanov said after Tusk's visit.

 

Now the Democratic Union for Integration, the main ethnic Albanian party, is considering whether to pull its ministers from the current provisional government, Balkan Insight reported Wednesday.

 

 

  • During a visit to Skopje last month, EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn emphasized the need to put an end to the political stalemate. "EU path open” for Skopje “but clock ticking. Need statesmanship instead of tactics. Economy hurting," Hahn tweeted. Tens of thousands of demonstrators met in Skopje to protest against his visit, The Associated Press reported.

 

  • Albanian can now be used officially only in parts of Macedonia where Albanians make up more than 20 percent of the population. About a quarter of the country’s 2 million people are Albanian speakers.

 

  • Macedonia’s ethnic patchwork is far from singular in the Balkans. In February, Bulgaria’s European Parliament deputies asked the chamber to discuss the issue of the Bulgarian minority in Albania, despite questions about the population of the minority, its language, and ethnic background.
Compiled by Ioana Caloianu
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