The problem between the Macedonian and Albanian ethnic groups in the Republic of Macedonia and its future

...These people ...who call themselves with different names and preach different religions, will have to find, one day, their common base for survival — a wider, better, more reasonable and more human formula... " 
Ivo Andric1

The treatment of a minority is a process that always has several sides to the story. It is a complex issue that encompasses many aspects of both political and every-day life. No minority issue so far has been solved or dealt with without raising problems, opposing views and dissatisfaction. However, I strongly believe that there is no political problem, minority issues included, for which peaceful solution does not exist. The opposing sides must, however, search for it, sometimes very exhaustively, and they must be convinced that such a solution exists.

The Republic of Macedonia is currently confronting such a challenge. Percentage-wise the country has the biggest minority group within its borders in the whole of Europe and has by far the most complicated issue to solve2. However, if we consider the old proverb that: "...the luck follows the brave ones..." we may say that the citizens of Macedonia were quite brave in the decade since the fall of communism and the dismantling of Yugoslavia. Unlike the other peoples from the ex-Yugoslavia they did not show their bravery in warfare but in preserving peace'. Nevertheless, is it just luck that helped the brave ones this time? Certainly not. The citizens of the country and the political leaders of both the Albanian and Macedonian community over the past decade showed an exceptional will to solve the problem peacefully and through the institutions of the system. However, the issue is far from solved. A problem of coexistence between the Macedonian and Albanian communities in Macedonia does exist. Both groups are suspicious of the actions of the other, there are prejudices from both communities towards the other, and finally many people actually hate the other ethnic group and have predetermined negative opinions (to say the least) for the other community as a whole. Despite that one can give a passing grade for the country's will to solve, or better, minimize these problems in the past decade, one should not doubt that the future brings serious challenges. And, in order for the citizens of Macedonia to enter the first decades of the new millennium ready for these challenges, some necessary steps are must be made. In order to determine the possible evolution of this problem, we must inevitably analyze the problem better and comprehend it further by examining some major issues that heavily influence the problem. I decided to do this by taking a closer look at the history of the problem, the demographics of the country, the constitution and its framework for the status of both communities, the education issue which certainly contributed to the further complication of the problem (or, brought the problem closer to the end), and, by analyze major issues that have occurred in the past decade. I will end this research with an overview of what the state of Macedonia has done so far in order to bring the problem to an end and I will conclude with some possible scenarios and proposals on the future of the problem.

History of the problem

No one can really tell when the uneasy coexistence between the Macedonians and Albanians started. However, the reasons for it are known and I am going to try to speculate on the time period that it appeared. According to Mr. Meto Jovanovski, president of the Helsinki Committee of Citizens in Macedonia (a branch of the Helsinki Human Rights Watch) the main reason for the worsening of the inter-ethnic relations on the Macedonian side are plain fear. Namely, the Macedonians are fearful that every demand of the Albanian side is just a step towards making parts of Macedonia a part of the "Greater Albania" and as the Macedonians at last have their own state, they arc fearful of every threat that brings their country's sovereignty under question. However, this places the start of the tense inter-ethnic relationships at the beginning of the 90's, i.e. when Macedonia became independent. However, the problem was apparent much earlier and it was mainly connected to some events taking place in the 1960's. In 1963, a terrible earthquake struck the Macedonian capital, Skopje. At that point the country registered the first wave of migration from Kosovo. As, the town of Skopje needed a big labor force to rebuild the town and many Kosovars saw a possibility for part time work and came to Macedonia. Later, in 1966, the fall of Rankovic (the general secretary of the Serbian communist party) allowed Albanian dissatisfaction in Kosovo to come out into the open and large-scale demonstrations took place there in November of 1968, calling for Kosovo to be granted the status of a republic. These demonstrations were followed by similar ones in Tetovo, only this time with the demand for the Albanian areas of Macedonia to join Kosovo in a seventh republic. If these demands were met, Macedonians feared that they would certainly revive Bulgarian, Serbian and even Greek claims to the remaining parts of the country. Furthermore, the 1971 census showed that there were 279 871 Albanians living in the country, around 17% of the population3, and Macedonians realized that the Albanians were reproducing at a considerably higher rate than the Macedonian ethnic group. Around this time, in 1974, the new Constitution of Yugoslavia was introduced, it, among other things, granted Kosovo and Vojvodina an autonomous status within the republic of Serbia, and also allowed the Albanian language to be used officially in areas where there is a majority of Albanian population. This Constitution furthermore made the Albanian ethnic group a constituent nation of Yugoslavia. To conclude, I would place the birth of the tensions between the Macedonian and Albanians in Macedonia around the late 60's and the beginning of the 70's. I must also note here that the Macedonians always made a distinction between the Albanians, dividing them into two groups: those who were inhabiting those areas for a long time, and newcomers that migrated in the last decades of the century mainly from Kosovo. Needless to say, they had negative feelings towards the latter.

On the other hand, the logic behind the tensions from the Albanian side is mainly the fact that they are treated as second class citizens by the Macedonian state and to a larger degree by the ethnic Macedonians. Contrary to expectations, as time passed, from 1974 onwards, Albanians began feeling more and more oppressed in Yugoslavia and specifically in Macedonia (more about this in the State Policies - subheading). It is interesting to mention here the opinion of Mr. Ibrahim (Kim) Mehmeti who strongly argues that the mistrust and hatred between the two ethnic groups is an "imported" problem from Serbia'. In other words, according to Mr. Mehmeti the Macedonian leadership during the communist years was simply a branch of the Serbian one and executed "test" laws in Macedonia which would show how the Albanians of Kosovo would react to similar policies (again, more in the State Policies - subheading). This goes in addition to the controversial and certainly historical stand taken by the Albanian intellectual, Iso Rusi, that: "...the only thing that unites the Serbs and Macedonians is the hatred towards the Albanians and the fear of the idea of a "Greater Albania".

There are also a variety of other more tangible factors that influence the mistrust between these two groups that one can not forget to mention, starting with the different language, religion, and the different life-styles. Also, the ambiguities of what a minority is in the International Documents for Human Rights (Framework Convention for Human Rights, Council of Europe) and last the negative examples of the treatment of the Macedonian minorities in Greece and Bulgaria, make the Macedonians wonder why should they be the "generous'' ones where minority rights are concerned.

The second wave of migration from Kosovo came in the late 80's when it became impossible to live peacefully in the autonomous region of Kosovo under the regime of Milosevic. The politics of Milosevic, unfortunately, made the claim of Mr. Rusi about the connection between the Macedonians and Serbs hold truth once again.

Namely, Milosevic at that time, and even now, has great fans in the Macedonian community because as some of his supporters claim: "...he is the only one who can cope with the Albanian problem". The politics of Milosevic and the influx of Albanian immigrants, understandably, brought problems to the fragile inter-ethnic relations in Macedonia.

This brings us to the early 90's, when two important events took place. First, the first democratic elections in Yugoslavia after World War II and the era of pluralism, and second, the break-up of Yugoslavia and, therefore, the independence of Macedonia. In 1990, the first democratic elections took place all over Yugoslavia. In these elections, the Albanians in Macedonia had their representatives in the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP) and the People's Democratic Party (NDP). In a parliament of 120 seats, the coalition PDP-NDP won 19 seats (third after the VMRO, SDSM-then SKM-PDP, and ahead of the Union of Reformists of Ante Markovic). Prior to the elections, the Albanian community warned that the electoral system was intensively discriminating against them. Namely, the electoral units in the western part of the country (i.e. Albanian voters) were considerably bigger than those in the east. In other words, a candidate for MP from the western part would sometimes need three times the votes of his colleague from the east to be elected. The Albanians rightfully appealed to the State, but the situation did not change (for more details - see State Policies). However, even these 19 seats made the Albanian community a factor of decision in the country and they could now legally, through the institutions of the system, fight for their rights. Credit should be given to the PDP for not turning to an out-of-the-system fight for their demands even though a big majority of their demands were rejected by the government and the parliament. One such demand was the "Declaration for the equal status of the Albanians in Macedonia" submitted by the PDP to the President and the Prime Minister. This declaration was rejected and as a reaction the Albanians did not vote on the Referendum for Independence of Macedonia7. Another cause for staying out of the referendum vote was pointed out by Mr. Mehmeti in our conversation. He thinks that the state did not formulate the question on the referendum well. The question "Are you for an independent Macedonia with a future possibility to join a confederation of Yugoslav nations?"8 did not appeal to the Albanians since they disliked the idea of a possibility to join a confederation in which Serbia would be involved. The Macedonian side of the argument is that if the question contained only the first part, the turnout would not have been that big (around 75%) and many of the Macedonian voters would not vote for independence since there were doubts at the time whether Macedonia could "survive" as an independent state. With the question formulated in this manner the results were that around 95% of those who voted were for an independent Macedonia. Other important events that took place in these years were the census of 1991 and 1994 and the new Constitution of independent Macedonia on 17 November 1991. (Both these events are discussed in the Demographics and Constitution subheadings respectively). However, the link that connects all these important events for the new country is the non-participation and boycott of the Albanian community which further increased the tensions between the ethnic groups. However, the PDP's, the most significant and by far the biggest political representative of the Albanians at the time, insistence to stay within the institutions of the system was a decision of high cost - in the years to follow, fractions from within the party, not satisfied with this decision, formed new political parties. The most important-the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA)-was the party in the ruling coalition from 1998. Additional splinter parties were the Albanian Democratic Alliance - Liberal Party (ADS-LP), the Republican Party of National Unity (RPNE) and others. Still, today the PDP is the second party by the number of voters in the political scene, following closely the DPA.

I would like to conclude this sub-heading with an analysis of what the Albanians gained or lost with the independence of Macedonia. First of all, as the Albanian community presents it, instead of just living in two states, the Albanians now live in 5 states (i.e. Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, south Serbia and Montenegro). The newly drawn borders made a significant separation between the Albanians of the former Yugoslavia which the political players tried to overcome by forming a Union of the Albanian Parties from ex-Yugoslavia under the guidance of Ibrahim Rugova. However, common people were now unable to move freely among newly formed states. It is important to note here that Pristine (and not Tirana) was always, as Mr. Mehmeti put it - "The Albanian's Athens". It had the only state recognized university in Albanian where a vast majority of the Albanians were educated. It was the place where the Albanian intelligence used to meet, the place where almost all the significant Albanian newspapers were published, and it had the Parliament of Kosovo. Also, as noted before, the Albanians in Macedonia now are not a constituent nation anymore. Unlike during the times of the ex-Yugoslavia, they did not have a state recognized university in Albanian, nor any media infrastructure. However, the gains of the independence of Macedonia for the Albanians are also significant: namely, in Macedonia they have a better status than if the state stayed with what was left of Yugoslavia (i.e. more human rights) and they are dealing with democratically oriented leaders who are ready to deal with the problems in a humane manner, unlike the policy of Milosevic. Lastly, economically and politically, Macedonia is doing much better than the federation of Serbia (Kosovo included) and Montenegro.


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"It all starts with the numbers!” Mr. Meto Jovanovski could not have been closer to reality when the case of the tensions between Macedonians and Albanians are discussed. The demographics of the country and of the separate ethnic groups directly affect the process of peaceful coexistence between the two factors. Namely, the number of the Albanians in Macedonia (its percentage in the whole population) directly determines whether the Macedonians have the right to call them a minority or not. Albanian leaders refuse to call their ethnic group a "minority"; they use phrases such as "the Albanian community in Macedonia" or "the Albanian population of Macedonia". In our conversation Mr. Mehmeti stated his position: there is nothing wrong in the word "minority"; however, the way this word is used by the Macedonians implies that it has some kind of negative connotation behind it9. The status of the Albanians in Macedonia (i.e. minority or not) then directly affects the arguments for greater rights for the Albanian community.

So, let us take a look at the numbers: according to the census figures in 1961 there were 71,2% Macedonians and 13% Albanians in the country. The number of Albanians then dramatically increased and is shown by the 1971 census: 69,3% to 17%. In 1981, the numbers were 67% Macedonians to 19,8% Albanians and in 1991: 65,3% to 21,7%. However, the numbers of the 1991 census were heavily disputed by the Albanian community, which forced the Macedonian State to pass a law on organizing a new census in 1994. The new law allowed for a longer representation of minorities in the various commissions counting the results as well as in the administration on the field. However, this law also imposed difficulties for Albanian citizens to obtain Macedonian citizenship. "According to the law citizenship may be acquired in four ways: by origin, birth on the territory of Macedonia, naturalization or by international agreements. To acquire citizenship by naturalization a person must... (among other things) have resided continuously for at least 15 years on the territory of Macedonia. This clause in the law for citizenship was heavily criticized by leaders of Macedonia's ethnic groups as well as from the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities — Max van der Stoel"10. In practice, a child of Macedonian parents who was born in Canada and has never visited Macedonia can easily obtain a citizenship (i.e. by origin) while an Albanian who was born in another republic from the ex-Yugoslavia but has lived in Macedonia for more than a decade could not have obtained Macedonian citizenship. Nevertheless, the census took place in 1994, and was monitored by the Council of Europe and the OSCE who both gave overall positive evaluations on the implementation of the census. According to this census there are 1.945.932 citizens in Macedonia out of which 1.295.964 or 66,6% are Macedonians and 441,104 are Albanians or 22,9%. Interestingly, this census shows a total number of citizens of less than 2 millions unlike the 1991 census that showed a number of over 2 million citizens in Macedonia. This is a margin of some 90 000 citizens '. The state defended the results with the explanation that the new methodology of the census excluded some people of their rights of citizenship. Still, nobody can understand how the numbers of the Albanians got bigger by 1% (around 20 000 people) from 1991 and 1994 and still there are around 90 000 less citizens reported on the 1994 census. Furthermore, the 1994 census that was implemented according to the new law did not take into account around 50 to 80 thousands Albanians that live in Macedonia. This fact and other irregularities (a whole district near Debar, a heavily populated Albanian area was not counted) forced the Albanians once again to doubt the figures of the census and not agree with it, although it was positively assessed by the international community. Some Albanians even argue that at the time the percentage of Albanians in Macedonia was 40%, but that is a clearly exaggerated figure. One need not be a genius, though, to understand that the number of Albanian citizens is considerably higher than the census figures suggest. It is expectable to surmise that in 1994 the Albanian community was participating with more than 25% of the total population of the country. The figures of the censuses through the years show an almost geometrical progression in the percentage of the Albanians in the total population of the country. However, although that is really the case, one should take a look at the birth rates of the Albanians in the last decade in order to be able to forecast the Albanian growth (or stagnation?) in the population in the years to come. The birth rates in absolute numbers show a surprising fact. Namely, from 1988 until 1998 the number of yearly newborn Albanian children is stable, around of 11,000, while the Albanian deaths per year are around 2,500 (which is understandable since the Albanians in Macedonia are a relatively "young" ethnic group). At the same time the number of newborn Macedonian children fell from 20,000 in 1988 to 14,000 in 1998 while the deaths per year rose from 10,000 in 1988 to 12,500 in 199812. These data are crucial and everybody should keep them in mind when forecasting future trends in birth rates in the Albanian community. The data show that the number of newly born Albanians does not increase during the past decade, therefore, no strategy of constantly "producing" kids is taking place in the Albanian community. With simple mathematics and some adding and subtracting (having in mind the 1994 census results) one can arrive at the following conclusions: if the trends continue there would be a yearly influx of some 8.000 Albanian babies per year as opposed to some 1 500 Macedonians. In other words, in some two and a half decades from now the Albanian community will represent around 30-35% from the population, which is not even close to the predictions of some Macedonian politicians (former president Gligorov included) that on the census in 2021 there would be an equal Macedonian and Albanian community in Macedonia. As one can conclude, different insights can be drawn by looking at different data; however, it is logical to expect that the birth rates within the Albanian population will slowly decrease. Namely it is known that the more the people are getting richer, more civilized and urbanized, the less the chances for mass reproduction. That's exactly what is happening with the Albanian population in Macedonia nowadays. The young Albanians started eating in fashionable restaurants around Skopje, going mountain climbing on Vodno (a mountain near Skopje – a popular site for spending the week-end), they started surfing on the Internet. The quality of life will make them strive towards the modern lifestyles in which their career, their mobility, and their personal wealth may be limited by the large number of children. In these modern lifestyles, the small yards surrounded by big white walls and the dreams of a "Great Albania" can not find their place. In the past, an Albanian with 4 male kids was considered a rich man, since the Albanians were mainly an agricultural (rural) ethnic group. Since then, many things have changed and the Albanians understand that in the modern world more kids just means more financial troubles.

However, according to what Mr.Mehmeti had to say at our meeting, even the number of 22,9% (1994 census) of Albanians in the country is a critical number and the state will have to do something in order to change their status as defined by the Constitution. He further said that even Macedonian politicians have begun to understand that. Mr. Mehmeti argues for as fast as possible solution for the change of the status of a minority for the Albanian ethnic group in Macedonia, before their number becomes substantially larger and the Macedonian State is forced to pass such a revision to the Constitution. This is in direct opposition to the belief of Mr. Stojan Andov14, president of the Macedonian Parliament, who, probably having in mind that the numbers of the

Albanian population are stagnating, argues that the problem between the two ethnic groups can be solved exclusively by looking at the Albanian ethnic group as a minority, and trying to improve their status in whatever means possible, keeping in mind the general framework of the Constitution. He also stressed that even the leading Albanian politicians understand this. I will further examine these statements and the arguments behind them as well as their impact (positive or negative) on the examined problem in the sub-heading "The Future of the Problem".

The Constitution

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The Constitution of independent Macedonia was voted on the 17 November1991. As mentioned before, the Albanian MP's did not vote for it, which at the time further tensed inter-ethnic relations. A more detailed look at why this happened follows.

The Albanians of Macedonia (their MP's) did not vote for the Constitution for several reasons: the national character of the Preamble of the Constitution, the "labeling" of the Albanians as a minority group within the country, the deprivation of the right that the Albanians had in the ex-Yugoslavia of a university education in Albanian, and the declaration of the Macedonian language and its Cyrillic alphabet as the only official language and alphabet in the country.

The Preamble of the Constitution states: "Taking as the point of departure...the historical feet that Macedonia is established as a national state of the Macedonian people, in which full equality as citizens and permanent co-existence with the Macedonian People is provided for Albanians, Turks, Vlachs, Romanies and other nationalities living in the Republic of Macedonia."1^ The Albanians have serious concerns that the Preamble is too national oriented and states that Macedonia is exclusively a country of the Macedonians as the only constituent nation. The Macedonians, on the other hand, oppose this argument with two remarks. First, that the Preamble is not a part of the Constitution itself and that Albanians should be more concerned with the text of the Constitution and second, that it would have been too much to make the Albanian ethnic group a constituent nation at the time. Both of the Macedonian responses are not serious and hold no connection with what is really happening and what could have been done. Namely, the Preamble is a part of the Constitution, otherwise it wouldn't have been on the first page of the Constitution. Secondly, a compromise about the Preamble's phrasing could have been made proclaiming Macedonia "...the state of the citizens of Macedonia which include Macedonians, Albanians, Turks..." therefore making the country no one's exclusive "property." The other field where a compromise could have been made is the university education articles of the Constitution. At that time the country could have at least provided opportunities for private funding of education at all levels, which could have been a way to keep the Albanians satisfied. However, the moment in 1991 was such that the Macedonians needed a rough, conservative Constitution which would show to the international community and especially to Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece, that the Macedonians were determined this time to create and hold a state of their own. Still, from 1991 untill to now many things have changed and the Macedonian State is still reluctant to change the Preamble of the Constitution, however it has made a great effort (mainly from 1998 onwards) to meet Albanian demands concerning university education in Albanian. Concerning the other demands of the Albanians, I believe it was the wrong moment to deal with them at that time. After all, the Constitution provides a frame for using the Albanian language in an official manner in units of self-government where the majority of the inhabitants belong to a nationality. This brings us to the final demand of the Albanian community, not being defined as a minority. If a nation is not a minority in a country then it is a constituent nation and has all the rights as other constituent nations. But where is the line between a minority and a constituent nation? Of course, the problem can not be addressed mathematically: everything below 50% is a minority. But the political aspect of it has no real answer to the question: "When does a minority become a constituent nation? Is it the history of the country that determines that? Are the numbers the most significant factor? If so, where is the line? 20% of the population? 25%? 30%? 40%? These are questions that not even the UN and the EU have answers to, and it seems that they are much more a matter of political compromise than a legal definition. I believe that at that time (1991) it would have been too much for the Macedonian public to swallow such a version of the Constitution and I strongly believe that no government could have had the vision nor bravery to propose such a Constitution, and if that by any chance happened I think the instability of the whole country could have been further increased. To conclude, some compromises with the Albanian community could have been made at the time in order to make them vote for the Constitution; however, the Macedonian State proved right in rejecting some other Albanian demands, thus preserving some kind of controlled stability in the country. It is important to mention two other facts concerning the Macedonian Constitution: first, unlike the Preamble, the Albanians generally accept the text of the Constitution and agree that it is citizen and not nationally based. Secondly, the commission of Robert Badinter16 (formed to advise the European Union on the recognition of former Yugoslav republics as independent states) concluded in January 1992 that Macedonia satisfied all the normal requirements of international law, including those relating to the protection of minority rights.

To conclude, Mr. Denko Maleski argues that: "...the mere fact that the Constitution was not accepted by roughly 25% of the population makes it de-facto a failure..."17 Another interesting observation is one made by Mr. Abdurahman Aliti18 in an interview with him: The Constitution is an unsuccessful hybrid of the national and the citizen versions. It left the Albanians unsatisfied from the national aspect of it and made some of the Macedonians unsatisfied with the citizen aspect. Furthermore, every major rise in the tensions between the two ethnic groups was caused directly by the amendments in the Constitution (events in Gostivar, high school student demonstrations discussed in detail in the subheadings to follow) thus making the Constitution play the exact opposite role of what it is supposed to do. The Constitution, Mr. Aliti continues, is a material that we shape in order to suit reality, in Macedonia there was a process of trying to shape reality according to what was written in the Constitution.

The Education Issue

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When minority's problems are discussed, the education of the minority in its own language always has been a crucial part in the discussion. This is illustrated by the fact that the education of the Albanians in Macedonia was directly connected with the two of the three previous subheadings in my research. Namely, the reproductive rate of the Albanians in Macedonia is very closely connected with their levels of education and also, one of the main remarks of the Albanians concerning the Constitution was an education issue. According to the Constitution, the minorities have the right of education on their language in primary and secondary school level. The Albanians of Macedonia had the same rights in the ex-Yugoslavia, except at that time they could continue their education in Albanian and go to the University of Prishtina (i.e. they had university education in Albanian in their country). However, they could not get a university education in Albanian with the independence of Macedonia. This is where the Albanians base their claims for a university education, although, as we will see, they do not object only to that part of the education issue.

For a long period of time (the 50's, 60's, 70's, and the beginning of 80's) the situation with the education of the Albanians within the borders of what was then the, Socialist Republic of Macedonia went, generally speaking, well. In 1951, there were over 200 Albanian schools in Macedonia, employing over 600 teachers and gathering over 26,000 pupils. By 1973, this number had been expanded to 248 schools employing 2150 teachers and 60,000 pupils. In 1981, there were 287 Albanian language primary schools employing 3000 teachers and over 74000 pupils, with a further 8200 secondary school students. Albanian officials at the time claimed that the primary school infrastructure was fine and that almost every community that had a need of a primary school in the district had one. At the same time, there was a branch of the Pedagogical Academy of the Macedonian University St. Cyril and Methodius that did its classes in Albanian, thus educating teachers for the Albanian primary and secondary schools education system19. However,

two very immature decisions (to say the least) were taken by the Macedonian communist leadership at that time, probably influenced by Belgrade, decisions that made the Albanians unsatisfied with their status in Macedonia. Namely, a law on secondary school education of 1985 stated that classes with Albanian as the language of instruction could only be created if over 30 Albanian pupils enroll for the class. As a result, in 1989 the figures for Albanian secondary school students fell to 4221 as opposed to 8200 in 1981. Furthermore, in the same year, a decision was made in according to which the classes at the state universities could be exclusively held only in Macedonian, the pedagogical academy included. The law was obviously made for the pedagogical academy, since no other faculty of the Universities in Skopje and Bitola held its classes in another language besides Macedonian. First, these measures intensively decreased the number of Albanian students and pupils, depriving them of the rights and possibilities that they had previously possessed. Second, the Macedonian leadership at that time should have known and been able to predict the increasing numbers of Albanians in the population of the country, and one of the most efficient ways to control this was with the constant education of the Albanian population. Moreover, the country now also stopped producing teachers for the elementary and secondary schools in Albanian. This is what was happening: a person has his primary and secondary education in Albanian, then decides to be a teacher, he/she goes to the Pedagogical Academy in Skopje to study in Macedonian and to be trained to become a teacher in Albanian when he or she graduates. These two decisions are by far the ones that anticipated the inter-ethnic problem the least in the history of the country.

As a result of this and based on two other rightful claims, in 1995 the Albanian community decided to establish the University of Tetovo, a university in Albanian.

According to the Constitution everybody has the equal right and the equal chances for education. However, a student following secondary school curriculums in Albanian can not have equal chances on the university entrance examination tests with someone that followed courses in Macedonian, and, secondly, as defined by the framework convention for the protection of national minorities (that Macedonia signed), "the Parties undertake to promote equal opportunities for access to education at all levels for persons belonging to national minorities" (Article 12)20 However, the Macedonian state did nothing to improve conditions in this field and the Albanians decided to follow a parallel system of education that was not recognized by the country. The opening of the University of Tetovo was followed by clashes between the Macedonian police and demonstrators in which one person was killed. Since then, the country hasn't done anything with the University of Tetovo although it still does not recognize its diploma. In 1998, the University of Tetovo had 2,500 students enrolled in three academic years, in the Departments of Economics, Law, Mathematics and Natural Sciences, the School of Pedagogy, Albanian and English21. The quality of the curriculums and of the teachers in the University of Tetovo is known to be low, and Albanian leaders do not object to that; however, the University represents a symbol of the Albanian struggle for university education in Macedonia.

As late and as useless as they seem, two decisions by the Macedonian government in 1995 and 1997 raised inter-ethnic tensions again. First, in 1995, probably in anticipation of the University of Tetovo forming, the government passed a law that guarantees a quota of a minimum of 10% students from the minorities at the University of Skopje. This decision was negatively taken by the whole Macedonian public and the University Senate who argued that "even if there were 50% of the students from minorities they still would not object as long as the quality is the one that decides." However, despite these statements made by the Macedonian public, the law passed, and was the first one since 1985 that did something to improve the status of Albanian applicants for the University of Skopje and to provide, if not equal, then maybe- closer to equal- chances to for the Albanians to be accepted at the University.

Another law passed by the then government of SDSM (Social-Democrat Union of Macedonia) brought the inter-ethnic tensions close to an explosion. In 1997, the government decided to "bring back" the Albanian language in the Pedagogical Academy of the University in Skopje. An explosive wave of demonstrations throughout the whole central and eastern part of the country followed. Streets were filled with high-school students marching for "the defense of the Constitution" that did not allow education in Albanian at the University level. There were even hunger strikes by the leaders of the demonstrations in front of the Parliament, with moral support provided again by the University Senate. Once again, Macedonian politics and decisions proved to be reactive, late, useless and with a negative effect on both sides. Macedonians felt that the Constitution was violated while the Albanians did not feel the changes since they were already enrolling at the University of Tetovo.

Around 1995, after the forming of the University of Tetovo, the OSCE High Commissioner on Minority Rights Mr. Max van der Stoel began actively working on the idea of the acceptance of some kind of a University whose courses would be in Albanian and still get recognition by the state. The idea finally passed in 2000 when the government (now led by VMRO) agreed to prepare a new law on education which would provide opportunities for a privately funded University in Albanian. The idea appeaed to the Albanians and had no opposition on the Macedonian side. The project (although it is still in its beginning phase – the start of classes are scheduled in October 2001) is that this new University, often referred to as the "van dcr Stoel University" will offer classes in Albanian, Macedonian and English. It will be built on a different location than the University of Tetovo, will offer classes mainly in the social sciences (Law, Economics, Literature and maybe a Math Department) and the state will take over the costs of the working of the University after five years of its start. Once again, the narrow-minded Macedonian community agrees with something that it opposed so heavily just five years ago. Only now, as Mr. Mehmeti claims, the Albanians will have two Universities. Many people believe that with the forming of the "van der Stoel" University the University of Tetovo will find itself with no students enrolling. However, this is not true. The "van der Stoel" University is expected to be of higher quality than the one of Tetovo and probably many Albanian students will not be able to meet these higher standards and the University of Tetovo will continue to work (unrecognized like now) to enroll students that want the easy way out through education and find the University of Tetovo an easier way to get a University degree. If Mr. Mehmeti proves to be right, then the Macedonian community will finally understand the costs of its narrow-mildness. Who knows? Maybe this is not so negative for the Macedonian community, that will finally understand how to act and anticipate the needs of the minorities.

State Policies

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Where minority politics are concerned, the state of Macedonia can be characterized as slow and reactive in forecasting and anticipating the needs of the minorities. I will give a chronological review of some state policies that have contributed to the widening of the gap between the Macedonian and Albanian community.

In the late years of communism, in addition to the 1985 education decisions, there were a handful of other decisions that made the logic behind the two mentioned education decisions look like a trend among the Macedonian Communist Leadership. Namely, at that point in time one can register the revision of the curriculums in the Albanian schools which were aimed at taking out the "nationalistic" parts out of the program, as well as the law determining the use of personal names within the Albanian community which prevented nationalist inspired parents to give the following names to their children: Alban, Albana, Shquipe, Fljamur (Albanian flag), Ljiriduam (we want freedom), Kustrim (call) and others. In 1986, the then government organized a revision of the radio-tunes and TV-clips used by the Albanian community on the state channels. In Radio-Skopje, out of 1000 tunes 260 were found that contained "nationalistic" content and were therefore banned.

As already mentioned before, the 1990 electoral system which divided the voting units among the country was, to say the least, unfair towards the Albanian Community. Here are some examples of the huge discrepancy between the voters in some electoral units on the east and west of the country: District 37 (Kriva Palanka) - 4781 voters, District 55 (Prilep) - 5169 voters, Distrct 60 (Radovish) - 5848 voters, District 3 (Bitola) - 6.663 voters as opposed to District 20 (Gostivar) - 12759 voters, District 73 (Tetovo) - 12 356 voters. District 79 (Tetovo) - 14144 voters, District 80 (Tetovo) - 14744 voters...23. The electoral system made the Albanians under-represented in the Parliament and therefore unsatisfied with their number of MP's, which did not illustrate the true percentage of Albanian voters within the country (under assumption that that vast majority of Albanian voters voted for the PDP, which is true).

The most serious state policy that has been missing is the lack of will of the State to undertake serious efforts to improve the huge under-representation of the Albanians in the country's administration, army, police and public companies. Some examples of this terrible under-representation in the state bodies can be found in the Human Rights Watch/Helsinki Reports: According to Etem Aziri (member of the NDP) "there have been always four to five ministers in any government of independent Macedonia. However, there are usually no Albanians working in the central organs of these ministries. In the administration of the Parliament, only four out of 200 workers are Albanians. In administrative organs of the state, only 2% are Albanians." According to information from the PDP printed in the Helsinki Reports: "only two ethnic Albanians out of 400 people were employed in the Ministries of Labor and Social Policy, Urban Affairs and Finance. The party also claimed that "one ethnic Albanian was working respectively in the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Science, while none were working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Furthermor, according to Mr. Arben Xhaferi, head of the DPA, ethnic Albanians make up 1,7% of the judiciary, 1,7% of the officers in the armed forces and 2,0% of the administration.24 Furthermore in the main Hospital in Tetovo, there are 1350 employees. Of them, less than 350 are Albanians and it is a fact that Macedonians make-up only 15% of the population in Tetovo. Moreover, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs only 4,12% of their employees are ethnic Albanians. In the departments of the ministry in the western part of the country, where Albanians predominate, Albanians make up only 8,74% of those employed"'. However, it would be fair for the Macedonian side and the State as a whole to note that since the arrival of the VMRO-DPA coalition into the government these numbers keep increasing. Although I doubt the information presented by the government that now there are 8% Albanians in the central administration, still there is a visible effort within the government to keep these numbers increasing despite the pressures from the EU to decrease the central administration in order to conform to EU standards. Credits should definitely be given to the VMRO for successfully trying to deal with this problem despite the difficulties that arise from the EU. Only then will the Albanians feel that this country that defends their interests with, an army that guarantees their security and a police that protects them too.

Another state effort that is missing is definitely the one that would revise the Macedonian primary and secondary school curriculums to try to adapt them more towards the understanding of history, literature and culture of the Albanian ethnic group in Macedonia. Mr. Meto Jovanovski, Mr. Mehmeti and Mr. Aliti all pointed out in the interviews that this would be a significant step towards the building of a multi­cultural, tolerant society. While Albanian pupils study about the history, literature and culture of the Macedonians- there is not even one letter of Albanian culture in the schoolbooks of the Macedonian curriculums.

This brings us to 1997 and the clashes between the police in the town of Gostivar and Albanian demonstrators following the implementation of a law that regulates the use of flags within the country. In the beginning of 1997, Tetovo and Gostivar local communities voted for the Albanian and Turkish flag to appear in front of the local community's buildings, and immediately placed them on, side by side. This had a huge negative effect in the Macedonian communities of Tetovo and Gostivar and all around the country. The Turkish Ambassador in the country reacted to this saying that the Turkish Constitution does not allow the Turkish flag to be waved officially outside the country of Turkey (except in embassies). There was no official stand on the issue from politicians in Tirana. The Parliament was thus forced to create and implement a law on the use of flags within the country and this was done in the following months. The law was voted in July and implemented instantly. The Parliament agreed on the government's proposal late in the evening, and at exactly midnight the police installed the Macedonian flag again at the place of the Albanian and Turkish one. In the morning violent clashes broke out between the surprisingly organized Albanian community of Gostivar and the special forces of the police. In these events, several Albanians were killed and policemen injured. The clashes ended with the arrests of both the mayors of Tetovo and Gostivar under the charges of "initiating inter-ethnic intolerance and conflict". Several aspects of these events are worth discussing: first, one of the first laws passed by the new government of VMRO-DA-DPA was the amnesty law which freed both the mayors of Gostivar and Tetovo from prison sentence. This again showed the willingness of the VMRO to cope with the inter-ethnic problem. Second, the same day that the clashes began the Central Bank announced a significant depreciation of the "denar" vis-a-vis the dollar and the German mark. Of course, this news never made the headlines since the whole public was interested to hear about the clashes in Gostivar. This made some people believe that the whole police action and law implementation was timed and executed just to hide the huge devaluation of the state currency. And finally, today, if one goes to Tetovo or Gostivar he/she will see the Macedonian, Albanian, and Turkish flags side by side installed on the tall sticks in front of the local community buildings. This is of course against the law of 1997, but now no one really cares or notices this fact. Once again a solution is found through a political compromise and not through a legal procedure.

The Future of the Problem

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There is a dilemma between Macedonians about whether they should sacrifice the present for the future or vice-versa when inter-ethnic issues are discussed. However, they have started to understand that no sacrifices must be made and that a peaceful solution to the problem exists. I first want to take a look at the international factors influencing the problem and then at some internal factors. In the international community, one can identify two important factors influencing the problem: the status of Kosovo and the process of Macedonia becoming a member of the EU. Albanian intellectuals in Macedonia strongly argue that independent status of Kosovo would end the crisis in the region, the longer the process is delayed the more the Albanians will feel frustrated with the Balkans (this is already starting to show in Southern Serbia). Independent or not, the question of Kosovo's status undoubtedly will influence the Macedonian political scene. The second factor is the process of becoming a member of the EU. As Mr. Meto Jovanovski stated, when the process is concluded, the problem will be minimized.

The internal scene is far more complicated than the international one, as prejudices still exist within both communities. A study from the Centre of Multicultural Understanding and Tolerance showed that in the western parts of the country: "95%of the Albanians and Macedonians, and 84% of the Turkish heads of individual households do not want to see their son marrying a girl of different nationality." The numbers for the daughters are even larger.

Another recent example that contributes to the belief that strong prejudices still exist in the country is the make up of the Macedonian Academy for Sciences and Arts. The Academy still does not have a regular member which is not Macedonian, although there is an honorary Albanian member, Mr. Ferid Murat, who is an American citizen born in the surroundings of Gostivar who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine couple of years ago. There is a joke going around in the Albanian community that you must be a Nobel Prize winner in order to enter the Academy. More specifically, the Academy did not want to include any regular member from the Albanian community although most people agree that such people do exist: Mr. Luan Starova — the most translated writer from Macedonia ever, and Mr. Ekrem Basha and Mr. Ali Aliu who are Macedonian citizens but members of the Kosovo Academy for Sciences and Arts (founded in 1946)26.

Although, similar examples still exist, far more important for the development of the problem is the increasing amount of co-operation between the Macedonian and Albanian community in the State. According to Mr. Andov, the new government influenced the inter-ethnic relations in a positive way. Albanians felt that finally they are represented in the state bodies through the DPA, and the Macedonians, especially after the refugee influx and their return to Kosovo understand that the Albanians are not people who just want to conquer and ruin the Macedonian State. Another positive aspect of the problem in the recent years was the presidential elections of 1999, for the first time in history Macedonia had a president who was elected with the Macedonian and Albanian votes together. The facts that Macedonian politicians to a lesser extent try to get votes by playing on the ethnic aspects of the issue, and the increased number of Albanians in central administration as well as the "van der Stoel" University show that there is a consensus among the Macedonians on a less emotional approach to the problem. For Mr. Mehmeti, Macedonia has no other way out except signing a "historical agreement" between both sides that will define the major issues for the future on which both sides agree. As he said: "when there is no other way- it is easy to determine which way to go". It seems that this idea has supporters on the Macedonian side too. Mr. Tupurkovski (President of DA) has been advocating the idea of a "historical agreement" for couple of years now. Experiences from the past, notably the conflict in Lebanon between the Muslim majority and the Christian minority that was solved with a "historical agreement", show that such a concept might work.

However, the crucial question to ask here is: "What is of decisive importance for the stability of the state: the legal or the political process?" Untill 1998 the Macedonian state and the then-government were promoting a policy strictly in conformance with the laws and the Constitution. Nevertheless, it is incorrect to believe that such a policy that would not deviate from the laws and the Constitution for even a bit will resolve the inter-ethnic conflict at the end of the day. This leads us to the elections of 1998, when a government of "radical" parties from both sides was formed. Contrary to expectations this "radical" government brought stability to the inter-ethnic relations in the country. "A political process of power sharing produced stability, something the laws and Constitution could not" ( Malevski D. see footnote 17). Mr. Malevski continues: "The legal machinery helps keep stability that has been reached in this way, but it is not in itself the basic condition for peace, since prevention of war does not depend on legal procedure, but on the art of accommodation. Thus, the reason why in developed pluralistic democracies there are not wars today lies in the good functioning of the political process that is capable of producing compromises and promoting accommodation." The processes of legalization of a University in Albanian and of higher percentages of Albanian employees in the state administration are political processes of accommodation of the conflict that the laws did not produce so far. However, much more should be done. The state of Macedonia must pass laws that will anticipate the real situation in the country. And the situation now is that almost 30% of the inhabitants are Albanians. The only way to make these people think like "political Macedonians" is to include them further in the political life and the decision making process of the country. This must be done through a compromise of consensual decision making processes in the areas of foreign policy, national symbols, education etc. On the other hand, this might motivate the Albanian community to accept the status of a minority which would reinforce the "national" position of the Macedonian population and produce international stability of the state. This is (in short) a frame for a possible scenario from which the state of Macedonia would benefit the most and it is of course heavily based on the political process of compromise and accommodation, and the cleverness and will of the political players to find an authentic path of compromises, which would produce a stable country able to follow the processes needed for a membership in the European Union.


to the top I think that the problem between the Macedonian and Albanian communities in the country follows a positive trend, which is especially visible after the change of government in 1998 and the coming of VMRO and DPA in the ruling coalition. Furthermore, the economic trends would force everybody to concentrate on the modern lifestyles, and as Mr. Aliti says: ''In 30 years from now, the citizens would not be differentiated by their ethnic background but by the way they use computers" The difficult years of the problem have passed and now everybody must turn towards the future and try to find the solution of this problem, because one must exist. The past decade obliges us to follow the policy of a peaceful solution to the problem that will satisfy both sides. The citizens of Macedonia were brave enough to preserve peace so far, and they had every reason to continue to act in the same manner.Proofreading:Heather Booth, Clarity International

Works Cited

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1.       Abdurahman Aliti. Personal interview. Tetovo. 06.01.2001

2.       Andov, Stojan. Personal interview. Skopje. 04.01.2001

3.       Jovanovski, Meto. Personal interview. Skopje. 26.12.2000

4.   Mehmeti, Ibrahim (Kim). Personal interview. Skopje. 04.01.2001

5.       Maleska, Mirjana. Personal interview. 06.01.2001

6.       Mehmeti, Ibrrahim (Kim). "A View at Ourselves"- Search for Common Ground.
Dnevnik. December 2000

7.       Jovanovski, Vladimir. "When Sex Becomes Politics". Forum. 15.06.2000

8.       Ramadani, Ismet. "From Enthusiasm to Disapointmcnt"- Search for Common
Ground. Dnevnik. December 2000

9.   "A threat to stability"- Human Rights Watch/Helsinki. Brussels and New York.

10. Andreevska, Elena. "The National Minorities in the Balkans under the UN and
European System of Protection of Human and Minority Rights". Skopje. Magor.

11. Maleski, Denko. "Lessons Learned: The Balkans and Macedonia ten Years

12. "Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities". Council of
Europe- 1994. on the 08.01.2001)

13. "State Policies towards the Albanian Minority in the Socisalist Republic of
Macedonia" - Library of the Center for Multicultural Understanding, Cooperation
and Tolerance.

Works Consulted

1.       Mehmeti, Ibrahim (Kim). "Dreams and Dreamers" - Minority Policies in
Southeast Europe. Ohrid. 15-16 December, 2000

2.       Ivanov, Gjorgje. " The Albanian Issue in Macedonia Viewed from the
Macedonian Aspect" - Minority Policies in Southeast Europe. Ohrid. 15-16
December, 2000

3.       Aliu, AH. "The role of the Intellectuals" - Minority Policies in Southeast Europe.
Ohrid. 15-16 December, 2000

4.       Rusi, Iso. "Fragments about the Influences of the International Factors which
Affect the relations between Macedonians and Albanians in Macedonia" —
Minority Policies in Southeast Europe. Ohrid. 15-16 December. 2000

5.       Clement, Sofia. "Conflict Prevention in the Balkans: Case Studies of Kosovo and
the FYR of Macedonia - Institute for Security Studies Western European Union.
Paris. December 1997 ( on the 05. 01. 2001)

6.       Maleska, Mirjana. "The Ethnical Conflict and Accomodation" Skopje. Kultura.

7.       Heraclides, A. "The Self Determination of Minorities". London. Frank Class,

8.       O'Leary B. and McGarry. "The Macro-Political Regulation of Ethnic Conflict",
Routledge, 1993

9.       Derala, Xhabir. "A Parallel Public". Forum. 09.03.200

10. Xhaferi, Arben. "Instead of federaliziation; Consensual Democracy Will Stop the
Secession of Macedonia". Forum. 24.02.2000

11. Jovanovski, Vladimir. "The Two Wings of the Eagle's Nation - Tosks and Gegs".
Forum. 07.12.2000

12. Maliki, ShkTjzen. "Nato Wouldn't Allow a Great Albania". Forum. 12.10.2000

13. Jovanovski, Vladimir. "Tetovo is a Fiscally Loyal City". Forum. 25.08.2000


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1. Literature Nobel Prize winner from ex-Yugoslavia

2. Estonia and Moldavia are close with the numbers but have a less complicated task ahead of them mainly
because the minorities in both countries (i.e. Russian and Romanian) do not share different cultural and
religious characteristics from the majority and the area is not so explosive.

4. Personal Interview. From late December 2000 Mr. Jovanovski is not the president of HCHR anymore.

Jovanovski, Vladimir. "When Sex Becomes Politics" Forum. 15.06.2000

'' Personal interview. Mr. Mehmeti from the Centre of Multicultural Understanding and Cooperation is an Albanian journalist, writer and publicist. One of the rare ones who constantly publishes articles in Macedonian daily and weekly newspapers.

7 Ramadani, Ismet. "From Enthusiasm to Disappointment". Search for Common Ground. Dnevnik. 12-2000

8 Ad hoc translation - Borjan Tanevski

9 To show the negative connotation of the word "Shiptar" by which the Macedonians call the Albanians Mr. Xhaferi.DPA used to call the Macedonians - "Slavomacedonians". The word has no negative meaning since all historians agree that the Macedonians' ancestors were the Slavs. However one can understand that this name would be disliked by any Macedonian. The same applies to the Albanians: minority or "Shiptar" do not have a negative meaning by themselves unless such a meaning is given by the Macedonians.

1(1 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki LiA threat to stability". New York and Brussels. June 1996

11 All the data of the censuses through the years are from the Statistical Bureau of Macedonia and published in the article "When Sex Becomes Politics" by Vladimir Jovanovski for the 15.06.2000 issue of the magazine Forum.

14 Personal Interview. Mr. Stojan Andov just became again the President of the Parliament in early December 2000 after the Democratic Alternative of Vasil Tupurkovski left the ruling coalition. He was already the President of Parliament from 1990 to 1996. He is a member of the Liberal party from 1990.

'" Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia. Taken from: Andreevska, Elena. "The National Minorities in Balkans under the UN and F.uropean System of Protection of Human and Minorities Rights". Skopje. 1998

16 Ibid

17Maleski, Denko. "Lessons Learned: The Balkans and Macedonia ten years later". Ad-hoc translation - Borjan Tanevski. Mr. Denko Maleski was the first minister of foreign affairs of independent Macedonia and then representative of Macedonia to the UN.

18Personal Tetovo. Mr. Aliti is the former president of the PDP from 1995 to 2000. He is a MP at the moment and was a candidate for parliament president in early December where he lost from Stojan Andov.

All the data for the education of the Albanians in the ex-Yugoslavia are taken from '"A threat to Stability" - Human Rights Watch/Helsinki. Brussels and New York. 1996

20 Framework Convention for the protection of National Minorities - Council of Europe, 1994. (Taken from www.

21 Numbers taken from the Center for Multicultural Understanding and Cooperation

22 All information about the '85-'86 decisions are taken from the library of the Center for Multicultural Understanding and Tolerance.

21 Taken from “A Threat to Stability Human Rights Watch/Helsinki. Brussels and New York. 1996

21 Ibid

25 Ibid. 1996 figures.

3 Kim Mehmeti. Personal Interview.