Tuesday, October 10, 2006

EU Worried as Macedonian Crisis Looms

EU officials have expressed concern over instability in candidate state, Macedonia, as ethnic Albanians have vowed to challenge the newly-established government led by incoming Macedonian Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, the center-right leader.
"It would be wrong to say that we (the EU) are not worried," a source who wished to remain unnamed told Balkan news agency, DTT-NET.COM.

EU diplomats said its current member states are watching recent developments in the west Balkan country "very closely," and urging "all sides to behave constructively" (to avoid escalation of hostilities).

Ethnic Albanian politicians in the country have warned that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) could find itself in a serious crisis in the coming weeks amid strong dissatisfaction of most Albanians whose preferred party has been excluded from the new government.

The main party of ethnic Albanians in Macedonia, The Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), is under heavy pressure from its members and supporters to oblige Gruevski to respect their will as expressed in the July elections "by all means", DUI top adviser, Agron Buxhaku, said.

Buxhaku went on to explain that the DUI ??would not like a repetition of 2001. We will do the utmost to avoid it and change the mind of Mr. Gruevski by political means in order for the political will of Albanians expressed during the elections to be respected," he said, in expressing doubts that the DUI leadership could contain growing internal discontent.

In 2001, Macedonia suffered through seven months of heavy fighting between Albanian separatists and Macedonian security forces, which ceased following the June 2001 Ohrid Agreement ? brokered by the EU and NATO diplomacy ? and stated that the Macedonian government agreed to improve the rights of the Albanian population.

Gruevski's (PUT THE ACTUAL PARTY NAME HERE AND PARENTHECISE THE PARTY AS SHOWN) VMRO-DPMNE party led the Macedonian government during the 2001 hostilities, while the DUI's President, Ali Ahmeti, led the Albanian guerrillas.

Buxhaku last week held meetings with EU officials in Brussels, telling DTT-NET.COM after the talks that "We are to decide in coming days on our next steps."

Buxhaku said various options are on the table. These included the disruption of relations between municipalities in the westernmost areas of the country, which is mainly populated by ethnic Albanians, and the central government.

Such a move, according to Buxhaku, may be the first concrete "political step" to be taken as soon as a message to Gruevski that "?his government doesn't represent the majority of Albanians and cannot function within the whole territory of Macedonia" is made clear.

Ethnic Albanians make up approximately 25 per cent of Macedonia's 2.2 million population and the DUI, together with its partner Party of Democratic Proseperity (PDP), won 17 parliamentary seats, or more than 60 per cent of support of the voters of the Macedonia's main minority.

Macedonia�s unrest is likely to negatively influence its first EU progress report, due in November, less than a year after it won official candidate status last December.

The EU made clear that Macedonia can expect admission talks to take place only if it steps up reforms that stress further improvements on the rights of ethnic Albanians.

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