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Analysis: Macedonia Three Years After The Peace Deal

  • Ulrich Buechsenschuetz --> On 13 August 2001, the leaders of what were then Macedonia's four governing parties -- Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE), Branko Crvenkovski of the Social Democratic Union (SDSM), Arben Xhaferi of the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), and Imer Imeri of the ethnic Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD) -- signed what was called the Framework Agreement. It is widely known as the Ohrid peace accord, named after the lakeside town in western Macedonia where it was hammered out with the help of the United States and the EU. The pact ended months of fighting between the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK) and the government's security forces (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 and 21 August 2001).

The Ohrid peace accord granted the Albanian minority -- which makes up about one-quarter of the total population -- greater rights in many spheres. Through constitutional amendments and other legal changes, Albanian will become the second official language in those administrative districts where the Albanians make up more than 20 percent of the population. Members of ethnic minorities are guaranteed equal opportunity in higher education was well as equal representation in the state administration and security forces.

However, many Macedonian citizens remain opposed to the Ohrid agreement, for various reasons. Even some of those politicians who signed it have withdrawn their support for the peace deal, most notably former allies Georgievski and Xhaferi. Some ethnic Macedonians claim that the Albanian minority was rewarded for starting a "civil war," whereas the Macedonians were those who "lost" the peace that ended the conflict. For the more radical ethnic Albanians, the Ohrid peace deal was flawed because it did not go far enough.

Three years after the deal was signed, the Macedonian parliament is debating the last legislative changes stipulated in it -- a package of laws that will transfer more powers to the local administrations and reduce the number of administrative districts from 123 to 80 in 2005 and to 76 in 2008 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 August 2004).

The deep-rooted reluctance of the ethnic Macedonian population to accept the terms of the Ohrid peace agreement provided fertile ground for the protest movement against the government's decentralization and redistricting plans (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2, 23, and 30 July, and 13 August 2004).

But the memory of the interethnic conflict still upsets many Macedonian citizens for other reasons, too. The conflict took the lives of at least 80 people -- soldiers, police, civilians, and rebels. Some 120,000 people fled their homes during the violent clashes; currently, there are still some 1,900 internally displaced persons, according to "Dnevnik" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 July 2002 and 3 June 2003).

In addition, 19 people -- 12 ethnic Macedonians, six Albanians, and one Bulgarian citizen -- disappeared during the conflict and are presumed dead (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 2003, and 19 February, 19 and 26 May 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 and 16 November 2001).

These figures may not seem impressive, especially by the standards of the conflicts elsewhere in former Yugoslavia. But in a small country like Macedonia, which has only 2 million citizens and where society is based on face-to-face relations, many people know families of victims.

And there is the question of the unresolved war crimes committed by both the rebels and the government forces. Most UCK members were pardoned in an amnesty following the peace deal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March 2002, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 and 20 November 2001 and 15 March 2002). But the worst cases of war crimes and human rights violations were to be investigated by the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The Hague prosecutors recently heard the testimonies of some high-ranking police officials in one of the most controversial cases, the alleged killing of some ethnic Albanian civilians in the village of Ljuboten between 10 and 12 August 2001 by Macedonian security forces, an incident that Macedonian officials firmly deny took place (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10, 13, and 28 August 2001, 27 November 2002, and 4 and 10 August 2004, and the accounts provided by Human Rights Watch at as well as the official account by the Public Prosecutor's Office at

At present, it is impossible to predict whether the investigations into this case and others will result in any cases coming to trial. Not only do the prosecutors face highly contradictory testimonies from victims and suspects, but they must also deal with the problem that one of the most prominent suspects, former hawkish Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski, fled to Croatia after parliament lifted his immunity in connection with another case. He is a Croatian as well as a Macedonian citizen and has settled down to running a restaurant in Istria with his wife (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 May 2004).