The parliament of Macedonia, the Assembly, has been for quite a long time boycotted by the opposition, to be more exact – by Branko Crvenkovski and his Social Democratic Union. In view of this, snap parliamentary elections are very likely for the Republic.
The political crisis in Macedonia broke out in late January, when Social Democrats staged a walkout in the parliament in the opposition against the Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski`s policies impeding Macedonia's entry into NATO and the EU and poor economic reforms.
Next elections are scheduled for 2012, and the ruling Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) opposes the idea of holding early elections to the Assembly. A scandal about frozen assets of the popular opposition channel A1 TV added fuel to the fire. The assets were blocked on February 14, 2011, following a court decision in Skopje. The channel`s owner if suspected of tax concealment and money laundering.
The opposition party of the ethnic Albanians, New Democracy (ND), spoke out for the national census to be held in July 2011 instead of April as it would enable more than 250,000 of Macedonian Albanians currently working abroad to vote.
Under the Law on Decentralization adopted on August 11, 2004, Macedonia has been living through the redivision of territorial administrative units, which local politicians and experts see as a deliberate split of the Republic according to ethnic belonging. There are still Albanian areas in the north-west of the country, where a Macedonian policeman is not allowed. And they say that Albanian militants possess lots of arms.
The intention of the Macedonian ruling party to win NATO membership for the Republic (by the way, the majority of Macedonians have developed a negative attitude to the alliance following the 2001 insurgency) is confronted by a name dispute with Greece, which has been using the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (FYROM)- a name which most Macedonians dislike.
But Greece does not seem to care much about this disagreement. The country's Culture Minister Andonis Samaras was quoted as saying that “Macedonia will soon dissolve and be carved up between a ‘Greater Albania’ and a ‘Greater Bulgaria”. He believes that “Skopje will not survive as a single country and that Greece has nothing to fear from the creation of ‘Great Albania’ and ‘Great Bulgaria”.
A regional conference on NATO integration took place in Bitola on May 31- June 1, 2010. The participants agreed that Macedonia and Kosovo should be accepted into the alliance. On June 13, 2010, the members of the European Parliament spoke out to start immediate negotiations on Macedonia's entry into the EU. But the European Parliament rapporteur on Macedonia Zoran Thaler said that the question of Macedonia's membership in the EU would remain unsolved until a name dispute with Greece was settled. Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski`s response was as follows: “Believe us that we have been doing our best to resolve this problem.”
The Albanian factor is quite an important matter here. On February 17, 2008, Kosovo proclaimed its independence, which was recognized by Albania the next day. Macedonia and Montenegro recognized Kosovo`s sovereignty on October 9, 2008. (Macedonia and Kosovo established diplomatic relations a year after, following the signing of the border demarcation agreement).
A couple of years ago the Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha urged all Balkan nations to mark an anniversary of the League of Prizren- an Albanian political organization founded in 1878 to build a state of 'Great Albania'. Macedonian Albanians were inspired by the prime minister's proposal and got down to business. The leader of the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), Ali Ahmeti, also welcomed the proposal and said that his party would join the celebrations.
What does 'the Democratic Union for Integration' stand for? Look at the party's logo and you will understand that they seek the union of several countries where Albanians live into a single entity – be it Great Albania, Illyrida or Dardania. Six stars on the logo symbolize six areas of 'Great Albania': Albania, Ultsin in south-eastern Montenegro, Kosovo, the Presevo Valley in southern Serbia, some areas in the western Macedonia, and Chameria in north-western Greece. The flag of Kosovo also has six stars that officially stand for six peoples inhabiting this pseudo state. But the reality is far from this beautiful story.
In some of his interviews to local and Greek papers, Ali Ahmeti focused on the name debate with Greece. When interviewed by Ta Nea daily, he said that Macedonia's new name should be accepted by the country`s Albanians as well. He elaborated that a proposal made by Athens to call the country 'The Republic of Macedonia (Skopje)' cannot be accepted because in the Albanian language 'Skopje' is called 'Shkup' and cannot be translated.
On May 14, 2009, the Democratic Union for Integration again urged the government of Macedonia to find a compromise on a name dispute with Greece. Ali Ahmeti had a meeting with the newly elected Macedonian leader George Ivanov, that was followed by a joint statement which said that national unity was required to find a solution to the name dispute with Greece. (Another reason for Macedonian Albanians being so active about the issue is that during a NATO summit in April of 2009, when Albania and Croatia were accepted into NATO, Athens vetoed Macedonia's entry into the alliance).
The opposition Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) led by Menduh Thaci responded by saying that the country's new name should guarantee “the peculiarities of the Macedonian Albanians` national identity”. And there Thaci backed Ahmeti who had already spoken against a referendum. Thaci said that Albanians would never accept a new name in case it refers only to the Macedonians and leaves out the status of the Albanian people.
Brusselscame up with 'Northern Macedonia' as a name that would suit both sides and neither welcomed the possibility of a referendum.
The Macedonian Albanians say they have submitted their demands to all significant Macedonian and foreign organizations. These demands were unveiled on Junne 23, 2009 during a rally in Skopje. On the same day the Albanian non-governmental and non-parliamentary parties said that the 2001 Ohrid Framework Agreement was 'dead'. The party of the Albanian National Front send a letter to the US-based Institute of Peace, demanding the revision of the region`s borders in order to resolve the Albanian issue on the Balkans once and forever. The letter claimed that Albanians were not treated equally with other people in Montenegro, Macedonia and Southern Serbia.
Rafiz Aliti of the DUI said that his party priority is to help the country integrate into the Euro-Atlantic institutions.
Analysts say that Macedonian Albanians, who had been turning a blind eye on the name dispute for quite a long time, are now showing a great interest in this topic amid Albania`s NATO membership. The former Macedonian Foreign Minister Slobodan Chashule says there is only one reason for Albanians to be interested in Macedonia's entry into NATO: “Their strategy is not Macedonia's territorial secession. They simply want it as a third Albanian state in the Balkans”.
A split among Macedonia's Slavic elite plays into Albanians` hands thus allowing them to enjoy a growing influence in the region. A candidate for the VMRO-DPMNE received almost the third part of the votes at the 2009 parliamentary elections, with part of Albanians casting their ballots too. It means that the ruling party has to make up for this creditworthiness granted to them by the people who look in the direction of Tirana and Pristina. There is evidence that Albanian leaders and the VMRO had an agreement: Albanians would vote for a candidate for the VMRO, while the party would support an Albanian candidate at the next presidential elections in 2014, by the time the Albanian population of the FYROM will continue its growth, while the number of Macedonians will decrease. Besides, transparency of borders with Kosovo enables Kosovar Albanians come to the polling stations in north-western Macedonia.
In August of 2009 Sali Berisha came up with a new initiative to remove the border between Albania and Kosovo and unite all Albanians in a single state. Serbian politicians took Mr. Berisha`s announcement as a direct interference into their state`s home affairs. Berisha also addressed the Macedonian Albanians. Officials in Skopje did not respond to the proposal. Shortly before that Menduh Thaci said he would ask his friend Berisha to veto Macedonia's NATO membership bid. Then Thaci recalled all his deputies from the Macedonian parliament in response to Gruevsky`s government refusal to ratify a new treaty between Albanians and Macedonians that would have replaced the Ohrid Framework Agreement. The former presidential candidate of another Albanian party, New Democracy, Imer Selmani suggested making the Albanian an official language all across Macedonia. As a coalition member of the VMRO-DPMNE, officially Ahmeti backs the Ohrid Agreement, while all the other Albanian parties have long been openly speaking in favor of a new treaty between Macedonians and Albanians. From time to time in order to blackmail Macedonia, Albanian politicians recollect the Illyrida (Dardania) project, which is about creating a new political entity using some parts of Macedonia as well as territories separated from Serbia and Montenegro.