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Analysts Warn about Fragility of Peace in Macedonia

Categories: Eastern & Central Europe, Macedonia, Politics, Protest, War & Conflict
Protests erupted in Skopje in July 2014, after the sentencing of six ethnic Albanian men for what authorities labeled "terrorist killings". Photo by Sinisa Jakov Marusic. Courtesy of BIRN © 2014, used with permission.

Protests erupted in Skopje in July 2014, after the sentencing of six ethnic Albanian men for what authorities labeled “terrorist killings”. Photo by Sinisa Jakov Marusic. Courtesy of BIRN © 2014, used with permission.

Austrian political scientist and blogger [1] Florian Bieber [2] recently provided an overview of the troubling inter-ethnic situation in Macedonia in article titled “Macedonia on the Brink” [3]. Bieber's in-depth piece provides a window into the aftermath of the recent series of initially violent [4] ethnic clashes in Macedonia and peaceful [5] protests.

The protests were sparked by ethnic tension [6] due to the sentencing of six Albanian Macedonian men [7] for what authorities called the “terrorist killing” of five people in 2012. In his article, Bieber emphasizes:

Authoritarian tendencies, ethno-nationalist state-building and segregation of the two largest communities make for a combustible mix. Even if the protests have died down, Macedonia is probably the only country of the former Yugoslavia where ethnic violence remains a real risk.

Decision-makers in the region continue to use sporadic incidents [8] as incitement for what is often clearly hate speech, as well as for propaganda against several civil society organizations [9] that have publicly warned about the use of xenophobic fear as a smokescreen for other issues in the country, such as government corruption.

Local political analyst Mersel Bilalli provided a gloomy projection [10] for Macedonia's troubles shortly after the 2014 anniversary of signing the Ohrid Framework Agreement [11], an agreement signed between the Macedonian government and representatives of the country's Albanian minority in 2001 to end the armed conflict between the militant National Liberation Army [12] and the Macedonian security forces, also setting the groundwork for improving the rights of ethnic Albanians in the country. As Bilalli pointed out:

The Ohrid Framework Agreement successfully extinguished the fire of 2001, but even after 13 years it failed to create any micron of what is called – tolerance, coexistence, civic equality, equal opportunities, democratic governance, rule of law and general development. On the contrary, we have demotion. So now instead of lasting reconciliation we have naked hatred. Instead of tolerance we have fights on buses and streets. Instead of cohesion we have demolition of houses and bars. Instead of the rule of law we have the rule of parties. Instead of general development, we have the top position in the list of world poverty. Instead of independent judiciary, we have party ruled verdicts and rigged trials. Everything is in free fall. Only organized crime is upwards. We have made a society without laws, without morals, without a curtain and shame.