Albania warns Macedonia not to bring ethnic twist to crisis

Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini during a meeting with Albanian President Bujar Nishani in Tirana, on 3 March 2017. [European Commission]

Albania yesterday (16 March) warned Macedonia, where Albanians make up around a quarter of the population, not to try and turn a political crisis into an ethnic one.

Earlier this month, Macedonia’s rightwing president, Gjorge Ivanov, refused to give Social Democrat Zoran Zaev a mandate to form a coalition government with ethnic Albanian parties.

Macedonian president warns EU, NATO of Albanian meddling

In a letter sent to Council President Donald Tusk ahead of the 9-10 March EU summit, Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov warns against attempts by Western powers to impose on his country a political platform “written in Tirana”.

The Albanian demands, he said, would undermine the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Ivanov’s move was swiftly denounced by the opposition as a “coup” and condemned by the United States and the European Union, which Macedonia aspires to join.

Macedonian president accused of fomenting ‘coup’

Macedonia’s political crisis deepened yesterday (1 March) as opposition leader Zoran Zaev accused President Gjorge Ivanov of fomenting a “coup d’état” by refusing to give him the mandate for forming a government.

But thousands of Macedonians agree with the president and for the past two weeks have taken to the streets, chanting patriotic slogans and urging unity.

Macedonia's political crisis takes ethnic turn

A political crisis that has paralysed Macedonia for two years is sliding into an ethnic dispute, with nationalists taking to the streets over a series of demands by the country’s Albanians.

Their main problem is with the demand to make Albanian an official language in this Balkan country of 2.1 million inhabitants.

Albania’s President Bujar Nishani yesterday met with Ivanov on the sidelines of an international forum in Baku.

Nishani “voiced concern over general political situation and inter-ethnic relations in Macedonia”, a statement from his office said.

And he warned “that attempts to turn the political crisis into an ethnic crisis could have serious consequences for everyone,” it added.

The problem appeared to be settled in 2001 following a peace accord which ended a seven-month ethnic Albanian insurgency that left more than 100 people dead, with the deal providing more rights for the minority.

But snap elections in December, part of an EU-brokered deal aimed at solving long-running political troubles, has reawaken the issue in the former Yugoslav republic.

Russia has warned that the push by Tirana to introduce Albanian as a second language in Macedonia amounts to foreign interference and is contrary to the Macedonian constitution. Russia also says the EU plays a “detrimental role” by supporting  the so-called “Albanian platform”.

Russia: Commission should play a more positive role in the Western Balkans

Speaking to EURACTIV.com, Russia’s Ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, criticised the European Commission’s handling of the crises in Macedonia and Kosovo, and regretted the “hysteria” over alleged Russian interference in Montenegro.