Saturday, September 23, 2006

Macedonian government endorses key police reform legislation

The new ruling coalition of the VMRO-DPMNE and the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) has reached agreement on a police reform law, and the bill has now been forwarded to parliament. The legislation is called for under the Ohrid agreement that ended the 2001 interethnic conflict in Macedonia. Brussels has made it clear it will not set a date for beginning EU membership talks until the reform is in place.

"The legislation endorsed by the government is actually the version that was proposed by the professional team formed by the previous government," Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska said. "This is a good legal text that offers a new organisation of the police in compliance with the principles of decentralisation."

One of the most important changes provided for in the law concerns the appointment of police station chiefs, the minister said. Local self-government councils will now appoint the chiefs of 38 police stations in the country whose main task will be traffic security.

Chiefs of the eight internal affairs sectors will also be appointed in a new way -- by the interior minister, with input from the respective municipalities. Each municipality council will submit a list of three candidates to the minister, with one of them being from the majority ethnic community in the municipality. The chief will then be appointed from the list.

The law was the subject of debate between the former ruling coalition partners SDSM and the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) for almost a year, above all over the number of the sectors for internal affairs. DUI had called for their number to be increased, or for new sectors to be established in Kicevo and Struga.

Another area of contention was the length of the work experience a candidate should have to be the chief of a police station. The SDSM had proposed that the criterion should be 12 years of work experience, plus 4 years' experience in management. DUI wanted the amount reduced.

Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski is now seeking broad parliamentary support for the new legislation.

EU representative in Macedonia Erwan Fouere praised the adoption of the bill by the government. After a meeting with Jankulovska, he confirmed that he has received a copy of the legislation and will now study it to see if it is harmonised with European standards.

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