Sunday, August 13, 2006

EU's Solana hails political progress in Macedonia

European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Javier Solana on Saturday hailed the political progress in Macedonia on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Ohrid agreement that paved the way for peace in the former Yugoslav republic.

"The country has come a long way since 2001 and has made important progress toward the development of a stable and democratic multi-ethnic state," said Solana in a statement.

"What started as a framework for peace has become a secure and stable dynamic process that is leading the country toward Europe ( the EU). The same spirit of compromise across political and ethnic lines as well as between government and opposition has ensured the implementation of the Ohrid agreement to date."

He said the completion of its legislative agenda last year marked the end of an important part of the process.

He cautioned, however, that action must follow to put these laws into practice and fully implement reforms in areas such as decentralization and equitable representation.

"The continuation of the Ohrid process will help the country move closer to the EU. The last five years have illustrated the capacity of the people and their elected representatives to overcome division and work for a common European future through an open political dialogue. The same spirit and approach will be necessary to complete the country's journey to Europe (the EU)," he said.

Macedonia has been granted the status of an EU candidate state. But accession talks are yet to start.

Macedonia remained at peace through the Yugoslav wars of the early 1990s but was destabilized by the Kosovo War in 1999, when a large number of ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo took refuge in the country.

After the departure of the refugees shortly after the war, ethnic Albanian radicals on both sides of the border took up arms in pursuit of autonomy or independence for the Albanian-populated areas of Macedonia.

A short war between the government and ethnic Albanian rebels ensued. This war ended with the intervention of a NATO cease-fire monitoring force.

In the Ohrid agreement, the Macedonian government agreed to devolve greater political power and cultural recognition to the Albanian minority. The Albanian radicals agreed to put down arms.

Source: Xinhua

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