Wednesday

22nd Feb 2017

EU worried as Macedonia crisis looms

EU officials have expressed concern over looming instability in candidate state Macedonia, with ethnic Albanians set to challenge the newly-established government led by centre-right leader Nikola Gruevski.

EU diplomats said the bloc and its member states are watching the recent developments in the Western Balkan country "very closely," urging "all sides to behave constructively" and not provoke any escalation.

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  • Skopje - instability could negatively influence Macedonia's EU progress report in November (Photo: Wikipedia.org)

"It would be wrong to say that we [the EU] are not worried," the source told Balkans news agency DTT-NET.COM.

Ethnic Albanian politicians in the country have warned that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) could enter into a serious crisis in the coming weeks amid strong dissatisfaction of most Albanians whose preferred party has been excluded from the new government.

The main party of ethnic Albanians in Macedonia, The Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) is under heavy pressure from its members and supporters to oblige the new Macedonian prime minister Nikola Gruevski to respect their will expressed in the 5 July elections "by all means," the DUI's top adviser Agron Buxhaku said.

"But we would not like a repetition of 2001. We will do the utmost to avoid it and change the mind of Mr Gruevski by political means in order for the political will of Albanians expressed during the elections to be respected," he said, expressing doubts that the leadership can resist any longer the growing discontent and pressure inside the DUI.

In 2001, Macedonia experienced seven months of heavy fighting between Albanian separatists and Macedonian security forces, ended by the June 2001 Ohrid Agreement – brokered by EU and NATO diplomacy - in which the Macedonian government agreed to improve the rights of the Albanian population.

Mr Gruevski's centre-right VMRO-DPMNE party led the Macedonian government during the 2001 hostilities, while the DUI's president Ali Ahmeti led the Albanian guerrillas.

Mr Buxhaku last week held meetings with EU officials in Brussels, telling DTT-NET.COM after the talks that "We are to decide in coming days on our next steps."

Buxhaku said various options are on the table, including the disruption of relations between municipalities on the west of the country - which is mainly populated by ethnic Albanians - and the central government.

Such a move according to Buxhaku may be the first concrete "political step" to be launched soon as a message to Gruevski that "his government doesn't represent the majority of Albanians and can not function in whole territory of Macedonia."

Ethnic Albanians make up about 25 per cent of Macedonia's 2.2 million population and DUI together with its partner Party of Democratic Proseperity (PDP) won 17 parliamentary seats, or more than 60 percent of support of the voters of the Macedonia's main minority.

The looming instability in the country is likely to negatively influence Macedonia's first EU progress report due out in November since the country scooped official candidate status last December.

The EU made clear that Skopje can only start actual accession talks if it steps up reforms, including further improvements on the rights of ethnic Albanians.

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