Testo d'approfondimento parte della "Guida Minoranze"

19/07/2002 -  Anonymous User


The Republic of Macedonia gained its independence in 1991 since when serious efforts to improve the quality of life of the minorities have been made. The laws do not contain any provisions that can be assessed as discriminatory with regard to any nationality. From that period the country has been a parliamentary democracy where Macedonians and Albanians share power (Albanians in the Parliament are represented with 21 MP's and 2 Vice-Presidents and in the Government with 4 Ministers and 1 Minister without Portfolio, there are Albanians posted as ambassadors, Albanians who hold high executive positions in the economic areas etc.). Macedonia was considered a model of effective conflict prevention and pluralism in the midst of ethnic conflict because members of all ethnic groups in Macedonia continued to participate in government and state institutions and there was no significant violence among the country's ethnic groups. According the census from 1994 in the country live 66.5% Macedonians, 22.9% Albanians, 4% Turkish, 2.3% Roma, 2.1% Serbs, 0.4% Vlahs and others. All together they make 1,945,932. The Constitution of 1991 of the Republic of Macedonia guarantees the rights and freedoms of the individuals and the citizens, also contains provisions that refers to the rights of the nationalities, with the aim of achieving real equality of their civic status and the protection of their ethnic, cultural and religious identity. Regionally ethnic Macedonians are a minority surrounded in part by an Albanian majority and on the other sides by Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia who in their own ways negate the existence of the Macedonians as a nation. Greece continues to object to the use of Macedonia in the name of the country and, after imposing a trade embargo for more than two years, was able to convince Macedonia to change the flag. Bulgaria until recently officially claimed that Macedonian is merely a dialect of Bulgarian. Although the two countries signed an agreement in early 1999, the Macedonian public reacted negatively, arguing the document was weak and did not sufficiently affirm their language. Serbia and some other Orthodox Christian countries still refuse to recognise the Macedonian Orthodox Church as autocephalous. Though Albania recognised Macedonia very quickly, the future of Kosovo/a is still undetermined. With the final status of their Albanian neighbours up in the air, Macedonians still perceive a there to be a threat of Albanian expansionism.


Due to the large number of persons belonging to the Albanian nationality and their concentration on specified territory, the smaller nationalities (Roma, Turks and Vlahs) are often neglected. Albanians categorically reject the paradigm of majority/minority and its implicit power relations. They have demanded co-equal status with Macedonians, including institutionalising all Albanian cultural and political features; in other words, a bi-national state. At issue is whether Macedonia is a nation state with an ethnic Macedonian majority and minorities enjoying protected rights; or whether it is a multi-cultural, civic state. Language rights (native language education, or the right to use Albanian in the Parliament); decentralisation of government and empowerment of municipal administration; proportional vs majoritarian parliamentary representation; accusations of cronyism, bribery, and black marketing; all are rooted in a basic mistrust between Macedonia's constituent communities and expectations that any concession is merely a pretext for ulterior political or territorial ambitions. Macedonia's political and social conflicts have been shaped by the economic conditions too. Since 1994, unemployment has hovered officially around the 30%, but unofficially it is closer to 50%. During the Kosovo/a war, unemployment rose to 70%. An unfavorable tax environment, still-underdeveloped regional trade, unreliable banking institutions, far-reaching corruption, and questionable privatisation have discouraged major foreign investments. These economic factors aggravate tensions between the mainly urban Macedonian and largely rural Albanian communities. Macedonians, having worked mostly in "socially owned" and now privatised or defunct enterprises, have borne the brunt of Macedonia's economic downturn. Albanians villagers have suffered less, though the agricultural sector is far from thriving. Macedonians are convinced that Albanians have flourished at their expense, and believe that this money is used to support illicit activities ranging from arms smuggling to high level bribery. Albanians criticise the government's intention to rural needs, including under-investment in rural infrastructure, poor rural health etc. But even the legitimate requests by either community have become highly politicised. For example, Macedonians look at rural Albanian land tenure and family size and accuse Albanians of demographic war meant to out-populate and expel them from western Macedonia. Conversely, Albanians interpret the recent electoral redistricting law as gerrymandering intended to disenfranchise them in districts where they used to be the majority. Macedonians are at best reluctant, or at worst terrified in each negotiation with Albanians inside Macedonia, believing that their existence and identity are at stake. Even if Albanian claims of loyalty to Macedonia are sincere, Macedonians fear the Albanian birthrate and the inevitable Albanian majority this birthrate implies. Macedonia's nascent development as a state and ethnic Macedonian's still-questionable recognition as a nation are therefore perceived as in direct conflict with Albanians, whose ethno-linguistic identity and political existence outside Macedonia's borders both affect Macedonia's domestic disputes.

This issues converged around the Kosovo/a War (1999). Kosovo/a's internal problems have challenged Macedonia since 1991 and culminated during the war in 1999 with predictions that Kosovo/a's independence would encourage irredentism among Macedonia's Albanians because of historical connections between Albanians in both countries and Albanian dissatisfactions with conditions in Macedonia. Whereas similar irredentist accusations also had been leveled at Albania, Kosovo/a was the major threat to Macedonia's "integrity". When Kosovo/a refugees began crossing into Macedonia (July1998), before the waves of March-June 1999, Macedonians feared a permanent demografic shift: Not only Macedonia involuntarily enter a war against Yugoslavia, but war could possibly exponentially increase the number of Albanians in Macedonia. However, just as socio-political collapse in Albania (1997) highlighted differences between Macedonia and Albania, the Kosovo/a War underscored differences between Kosovar and Macedonian Albanians.Ties with Kosovo/a notwithstanding, the war illustrated that Macedonian and Yugoslav internal political and social dynamics differ fundamentally. Macedonia's Albanian political leaders took a firm stand during the war to protect Macedonia's interests, keeping Albanian emotions under control despite recurrent provocations. Following the war, Albanians also rallied behind the primary Macedonian party (VMRO) to secure the election of its presidential candidate (Boris Trajkovski). Macedonian politicians have therefore accrued political "debts" that the Albanians have been collecting since. Regarding the participation of the Albanians on the local level, in the communities where they make majority and according the law on local self-government, a commission of inter-ethnic relations is created, which include representatives of every nationality represented in the unit of local self-government. All the units where the members of a nationality exceeds 50% of the total number, are considered as units of local self-government in which a majority of members of nationality live and those ones where the number of the nationalities exceeds 20% of the population, are considered as units of local self-government in which a considerable number of members of nationality live. At the sessions of the units of the local self-government besides the Macedonian language and the Cyrillic alphabet, the language and the alphabet of the nationality are also used. All the decisions as well as the other general acts besides in Macedonian, are also written in the language of the nationality. Briefly, Macedonia is a country in "transition" but unsure of where it is transitioning. At the same time Macedonia faces incredible pressure from the international community, and from the presence of armed groups in the country to make a transition very quickly. Despite establishing institutions of a participatory and representative democracy, its citizens are still locked in bitter domestic disputes over political legitimacy and regional ones over national identity. These bitter disputes are complicated by continual infighting among political elites, who repeatedly fall back into nationalism as a diversion from their own lack of professionalism and refusal to agree to discuss consider real solutions at the expense of their personal political careers. The general population, has lost hope that their political leaders will do anything other than threaten each other publicly while making deals amongst themselves and have all but resigned themselves to war.


There are no restriction on the use of minority languages in private life. Minorities have their own associations, theatres, daily and weekly papers, radio and TV programmes. According the Art. 7 of the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, the official language of the state is the Macedonian language and its Cyrillic alphabet. In the units of local self-government where the majority of the inhabitants belong to a nationality, in addition to the Macedonian language and Cyrillic alphabet, their language and alphabet are also in official use. The inscriptions and the titles may be in the minority language, as well as the names of schools, cultural and other institutions related to the cultural heritage of a nationality. The toponyms in the areas inhabited by substantial numbers of persons belonging to minority groups are in Macedonian language and in the language of that nationality.


According the Art. 44 of the Constitution everyone has a right to education under equal conditions. Primary education is compulsory and free. Citizens have a right to establish private schools at all levels of education, with the exception of primary education. Members of the nationalities have a right freely to express, foster and develop their identity and national attributes. They have the right to establish institutions for culture and arts, as well as scholarly and other associations for the expression, fostering and development of their identity. Their right to instruction in their language in primary and secondary schools is also guaranteed. In accordance with this law, education in the minority language is fully enabled on primary and secondary educational levels, and in some parts on a higher level. Members of Albanian and Turkish nationality are receiving instructions in their languages on elementary and secondary level of education. When the number of children is enough, Roma and Serb children are receiving instructions in their languages too. In addition to this, the Albanians as a biggest minority group, have the right to instruction in their mother tongue at the Faculty of Pedagogy, Faculty of Drama as well as at the Faculty of Philology, the Chair for Albanian and Turkish language. When enrolling at the university, there is a positive discrimination quotas established for the groups of the minorities. The quotas makes 10% of the total number of students for each university programme. Besides the state university, the passage of the law on education on July 25th 2000 established a new multi-lingual tertiary institute offering training in business, education and public management. The internationally funded institution, intended as a replacement to Tetovo University, would allow Albanians to study in their own language. Still, the promotion of tolerance, understanding and co-operation among persons belonging to various ethnic groups is not particularly emphasised. However, there are several experimental projects like: bilingual kindergartens and projects of training for conflict resolution.


The presentation in the media of the persons belonging to national minorities is possible on the both, private electronic and printed media. According the Art. 16 the freedom of speech, public address, public information and the establishment of institutions for public information is guaranteed. Free access to information and the freedom of reception and transmission of information are guaranteed. The right to reply via mass media as well to the right to a correction and the right to protect a source of information in the mass media is also guaranteed. Censorship is prohibited. The two biggest ethnic identities in Macedonia have shaped the two biggest political clusters, the first one being Macedonian and the second one the Albanian political parties.
The Constitution of 1991 laid down the basis for different ethnic entities to exercise their basic freedoms, their right to express, preserve, and cherish their national, religious, linguistic, and cultural identity. Different national minority have the right to establish their own cultural, scientific, and other associations. (Art. 48 of the Constitution). At the moment, programmes are being legally broadcast by 2 private TV and 1 radio channel at the national level, and 44 TV and 70 radio channels at the local level, which makes a total of 117 private media outlets. The public broadcasting sector consists of the three channels of the Macedonian Radio and Television (the first one being a national channel, the second transmitting programmes in minority languages, and the third one only transmitting foreign satellite programmes), 29 local public radio stations, and 7 local public TV stations. The newspaper publishing house "Nova Makedonija" publishes two dailies in the Macedonian language, "Nova Makedonija" and "Vecer", as well as the daily "Flaka e Vlayerimit" in the Albanian language, "Birlik", a Turkish language newspaper which appears three times a week, weekly magazine "Puls", newspapers for young people, and the news agency publication MakPress. Besides the two daily newspapers within the system of "Nova Makedonija", there is also an independent daily newspaper in Albanian language, "Fakti". The Macedonian Radio Television increased the number of hours intended to programmes of national minorities. The Macedonian Television (on the second channel) broadcast 17 hours per week in Albanian, 10 hours in Turkish, and 1 hour in Roma, Vlahs, and Serbian. The public local enterprises, in the areas where members of the nationality live as a majority, also broadcast programmes in the languages of the respective nationality. There is a total of 29 local public radio stations and 7 stations broadcast programmes in other minority languages (Albanian, Turkish, Roma and Vlahs).


On 13th of August the new peace deal between the leaders of the four main Macedonian and ethnic Albanian parties was signed. The agreement is aiming to end the six months conflict between the armed groups of terrorists and the Macedonian Army and to improve the rights of the Albanian minority in the country. With this agreement big changes within the Constitution will be made regarding the high education of the minorities, the usage of their languages on the official level, especially in the municipalities where the minority groups make minimum of 20% of the total population, bigger representation of the minorities in the governmental institutions etc.

Further Information:

Human Rights Watch Report, 2001

Dnevnik, Macedonian daily news paper

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