INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP – NEW REPORT
Macedonia: Ten Years after the Conflict
Skopje/Istanbul/Brussels, 11 August 2011: 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: Ten Years after the Conflict, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, shows how over the past five years rising ethnic Macedonian nationalism, domination of all main state institutions by the prime minister and his party, decline in media and judicial independence, growing school segregation and too slow decentralisation have started to undermine the multi-ethnic civil state the country can still become. Its leaders must forge a common policy based on the spirit of Ohrid, whose full implementation is vital for social cohesion and ethnic harmony.
“The costly and divisive Skopje 2014 urban development project is taking Macedonia down the wrong road”, argues Naim Rashiti, Crisis Group Analyst. “Rather than spending massive funds on a grandiose nationalistic project that worries Albanians and many Macedonians, the government should make education, decentralisation and implementation of the language law priorities”.
After fair elections in June elected a more pluralistic parliament, the biggest ethnic Macedonian and Albanian parties resumed their coalition government. The Albanians gained more posts than before, including two new ministerial portfolios. With their Macedonian partners, they should work to end party-based hiring in state institutions and increase equitable ethnic representation.
“Prime Minister Gruevski should work with his Albanian coalition partners and the opposition to enact legislation that will strengthen democracy, the rule of law and inter-ethnic relations”, says Marko Prelec, Crisis Group’s Balkans Project Director. “Macedonia should refocus on the EU reform agenda”.
Macedonia’s conflict with Greece over its name has blocked progress on EU and NATO membership, increasing tensions between ethnic Macedonians and Albanians and undermining international strategies to stabilise the region via integration and enlargement. Skopje must take the initiative by announcing it accepts a geographic qualifier and reversing provocative steps. In return, Greece should accept its northern neighbours’ national and linguistic identity and cease blocking its Euro-Atlantic integration.
Over the past few years, media pluralism has shrunk, independent civil society organisations have been labelled as “traitors”, the judiciary has remained heavily influenced by the government, and the domestic political atmosphere has become highly polarised.
“If there is no solution to the name issue, and reforms continue to stall, Macedonia risks falling behind, as its neighbours make progress towards the EU”, warns Sabine Freizer, Crisis Group’s Europe Program Director. “Decisions made now will have substantial effect on inter-ethnic and inter-party relations and be decisive in determining if by 2014 the country is moving towards the EU or gradual breakup”.