Nikola Gruevski’s VMRO DPMNE party, which narrowly won most seats in closely-contested 11 Dec elections, failed to meet 29 Jan deadline to form new govt as ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), VMRO DPMNE’s partner in previous coalition govt, said it had not decided whether to join new coalition; VMRO DPMNE called for few elections. Representatives of three out of the four ethnic Albanian parties – DUI, Movement for Reform – Democratic Party of Albanians (LR-PDSH) and Besa Movement – 7 Jan signed joint declaration outlining preconditions for their participation in govt, including making Albanian an official language. Special Prosecutor (SJO) investigating wiretapping scandal 18 Jan announced it was dropping all charges including blackmail against opposition leader Zoran Zaev due to lack of evidence.
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