After failure of former ruling party VMRO DPMNE to form new govt by late Jan deadline following 11 Dec elections, President Ivanov 2 Feb said he would give mandate for forming new govt to party which can demonstrate proof of majority in parliament. VMRO DPMNE called for new elections, accused opposition of sacrificing national interest by making too many concessions to ethnic Albanian parties to win their support for coalition. Opposition Social Democratic Union (SDSM) leader Zoran Zaev 27 Feb claimed mandate to form govt after main ethnic Albanian party DUI and two other ethnic Albanian parties said they would back SDSM, giving him majority support in parliament; conditions for their support included passage of new language law extending use of Albanian as second official language throughout country. Former PM Gruevski 26 Feb said deal unconstitutional and jeopardised state interests. Protests led by VMRO DPMNE broke out in Skopje 27 Feb, drawing thousands and spreading to other towns next day; protesters criticising deal with Albanian parties and calling for protection of ethnic Macedonian interests. Two journalists covering protests in Skopje assaulted 28 Feb.
Macedonia is being shaken by twin political and security crises, both of which could escalate into violent confrontation or worse. While another civil war in the Western Balkans is not imminent, there is a serious threat to regional stability that the country’s leaders and international partners need to contain.
Ten years after the Ohrid Agreement ended fighting between ethnic Macedonians and Albanians, Macedonia is more stable and inclusive, but political party and ethnic tensions are growing, and the new government needs to reverse the negative trends.
Macedonia is a relative success story in a region scarred by unresolved statehood and territory issues. International engagement has, since the 2001 conflict with an ethnic Albanian insurgency, brought progress in integrating Albanians into political life. This has been underpinned by the promise of European Union (EU) and NATO integration, goals that unite ethnic Macedonians and Albanians. But the main NATO/EU strategy for stabilising Macedonia and the region via enlargement was derailed in 2008 by the dispute with Greece over the country’s name.
The European Union summit’s December 2005 decision to grant EU candidacy status is a significant milestone on Macedonia’s path to European integration. However, its open-ended nature, with no start date for accession talks, indicates the practical and policy challenges the country still faces to become a stable post-conflict democracy.
The EU’s present visa regime with the countries of the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Serbia-Montenegro including Kosovo) is fostering resentment, inhibiting progress on trade, business, education and more open civil societies, and as a result contributing negatively to regional stability.
Originally published in NovaTV
Originally published in The Riga Conference
Just two years ago it appeared that deadly conflict in Macedonia was no longer a serious risk. Recent events have revived the threat.
Originally published in POLITICO