Macedonian parliament gives yellow light to reforms

Macedonia’s parliament on Thursday (6 September)
gave preliminary approval to start working on political reforms
aimed at granting greater rights to the ethnic Albanian
minority. The 91 to 19 vote also allows NATO to resume weapons
collection from ethnic Albanian guerrillas.

The vote means the Macedonian parliament can begin debating
more than 30 amendments that make changes in the country’s
constitution. Detailed clause-by-clause discussions will
now take place followed by a final vote, for which a
two-thirds majority will again be required. The changes
will give Macedonia’s 600,000 ethnic Albanians greater
political autonomy, the right to use Albanian as the
official language in some areas and greater representation
in local police forces.

NATO has so far collected 1,200 out of a
target of 3,300 weapons, but some members of parliament
have argued that this figure is unrealistic and that the
total figure is more like 60,000. Once NATO collects
another third of the weapons, parliament will meet again to
discuss the constitutional changes. NATO countries are now
considering how to prevent Macedonia reverting into renewed
fighting once the NATO mission ends on the 26 of
September.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana
arrived in Skopje on Thursday and is expected to promise
substantial economic aid for Macedonia. The EU could
advance up to 33.5 million euro to help repair damage
caused by seven months of fighting, and another 50 million
euro for the state budget.

 

A peace deal was signed on 13 August by the Macedonian
government and ethnic Albanian guerrillas with the aim of
ending the conflict that started in February. The deal
gives official recognition to the Albanian language and
outlines plans for the police to reflect more accurately
the ethnic balance in the country. Ethnic Albanian
guerrillas agreed on 14 August to hand over their arms to
NATO forces in return for the promise of amnesty from
Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski.

NATO's 3,500-strong force started
collecting weapons from ethnic Albanian rebels on Monday,
27 August. The mission is scheduled to last 30 days.

 

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