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Lake Ohrid
Lake Ohrid

The Ohrid Framework Agreement, signed on 13 August 2001, does not read like a classical peace agreement. While cessation of hostilities, disarmament of the Albanian rebels and a general amnesty were among its key provisions, most of the agreement concerned greater rights for the Albanian minority.

The main points were equitable representation of Albanians in the public administration, the use of the Albanian language in dealings with the state, and a wide-reaching decentralisation programme.

The competencies of municipalities have been considerably strengthened, as have been their financial resources. Changes to municipal boundaries have rectified the ethnic gerrymandering of the mid-1990s, which largely discriminated against the Albanian community.

While Macedonian was to remain the country’s official language, Albanian was made an official language in municipalities with more than a 20 percent minority population. It is also to be used in communications with the national government and can be used by parliamentary deputies (but not at present by the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker).

The agreement also included provisions for university education in the Albanian language. A new South East European University was founded in Tetovo, and the formerly illegal Albanian University in Tetovo was formally recognised.

The police force of today largely reflects the ethnic composition of the population. The local police chiefs are elected by the municipalities out of a list candidates proposed by the Interior Ministry.

The Ohrid Agreement provides for a double-majority principle in the parliament on issues that affect minorities (the so-called "Badinter majority"). These are laws related to culture, the use of languages, education, personal documentation, and the use of symbols. Whenever such laws are put to a vote, both (a) a majority of all MPs, as well as (b) a majority of all minority MPs is required. An Inter-Community Relations Committee has been set up to address any disputes related to these issues. The agreement also grants minorities veto power over the election of a third of the Constitutional Court judges, three of the seven members of the Judicial Council, and the Ombudsman.

The Agreement has been implemented in stages, often after intense debate on, for example, the exact meaning of the clauses. Some provisions, like those on the language law and the appointment of the Judicial Council, are yet to be enacted. The use of national symbols became an issue once again when the VMRO-DPMNE majority government came to power in 2006.

Much has been achieved with regard to the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement. All of its main provisions can be considered implemented.

However, the structural causes of ethnic conflict in Macedonia – industrial decline and rural underdevelopment – have not yet been successfully tackled. A clear European perspective could make a crucial contribution to helping Macedonia address these challenges.

May 2008

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