ONTD Political

Killings Heighten Ethnic Tensions in Macedonia

6:08 pm - 04/20/2012
On Orthodox Easter, one of the most sacred holidays for Christians here, Macedonians mourned the deaths of five Macedonian men amid speculation that their killers were ethnic Albanians, arousing fears of a new bout of intercommunal violence.

The men were fishermen, four were in their late teens or 20s and one was 40; they were found dead Thursday night on the shore of an artificial lake near the village of Smiljkovci outside the capital, Skopje. They were buried on Saturday.

Macedonia was tense Sunday as police officers searched for the killers and possible motives. While no evidence links the killings to ethnic tensions or to two episodes of ethnic violence this year, the riot police were deployed on Friday as angry protesters blocked a road, broke the windows of a TV channel’s vehicle and threw rocks at passing buses.

Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska said Saturday that ballistic experts had found that three types of firearms had been used — implying multiple killers — and that the victims had no criminal records.

“From the information we have, neither ethnic affiliation nor the identity of the perpetrators can be determined,” Ms. Jankulovska said. “That’s why I appeal for restraint from speculation and any action that could stir up interethnic tensions.”

Officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the U.S. Embassy in Skopje and President Gjorge Ivanov appealed for calm and also cautioned against speculation about the ethnicity of the killers.

The latest incident came a month after an off-duty Macedonian policeman killed two ethnic Albanians in a dispute over a parking space in the city of Gostivar. Those killings set off several days of rioting and street fights between youths with iron bars, clubs and knives, resulting in dozens of injuries.

A court has still not ruled whether the Gostivar killings were connected to the men’s ethnicity.

About one-quarter of Macedonia’s population is Albanian, and most of them are Muslims. Ethnic Albanian rebels waged an eight-month armed insurgency in 2001 for increased autonomy in which some 80 people died.

A peace agreement, brokered by international envoys in the southwestern city of Ohrid, ended the 2001 conflict. While the agreement encouraged Albanians to integrate politically, a societal chasm remains.


“The ethnic communities live more separated than ever,” said Biljana Vankovska, a political scientist at Skopje University.

“Ohrid institutionalized ethnicity to such a degree that there is no room left for any integration or common action among groups,” she said.


The Ohrid agreement brought about the decentralization of power in the Balkan state of two million, with some municipalities reorganized along ethnic lines.

“The distrust between communities is growing,” Ms. Vankovska said. “I don’t see any glue to bring them together, except for NATO and the E.U.”

Even though the incident comes shortly before the NATO summit meeting in Chicago on May 20, analysts said there probably won’t be any impact because Macedonia is unlikely to be invited to join the alliance.

Macedonia’s inclusion in NATO has been vetoed by Greece, which rejects the use of the name Macedonia. Greece says the use of the term implies a claim to Greek territory with the same name. Athens has also blocked an invitation to Macedonia to begin talks to join the European Union.

For many ethnic Albanian citizens of Macedonia, much of the autonomy and integration promised under the Ohrid accord has yet to be realized. Many say that the ethnic Macedonian-dominated government never recognized the need for increased language rights and autonomy for minority communities and complain that it formally respects the Ohrid process without showing the political will to implement it effectively.

“For these 10 years, the government has only been pretending that it’s trying to integrate minority groups,” said Bekim Kadriu, an international human rights law professor at the South East European University in Tetovo, 40 kilometers, or 25 miles, north of Skopje.

“But at the same time, it obstructs the process” Mr. Kadriu said.

Source

Mods, can we get a macedonia tag?
rebness 21st-Apr-2012 06:31 am (UTC)
This is really worrying. I didn't realise tensions were so bad, so the article's very enlightening, but feck.

What I can't stand is how Albanians seem to be treated by just about every other European nation (yes, I include my own). I've seen alarming xenophobia against them by Greeks in the Ionian islands in particular, but WTH Macedonia! I hope the killers of those young men are brought to justice and this whole thing doesn't kick off yet more unrest.

On the name thing - I wish Greece would STFU about that. Blocking EU membership because they don't like the name?

13chapters 21st-Apr-2012 07:07 am (UTC)
Not only is Greece being ridiculous, they're actually violating an earlier agreement that they would stop blocking Macedonia from entering into international organizations. The International Court of Justice ruled recently that Greece's continual blocking of Macedonia from organizations is a violation of international law. Unfortunately for Macedonia, there's not a lot anyone can do to make Greece knock it off.
rebness 21st-Apr-2012 07:11 am (UTC)
It's kind of ironic when Greece is complaining about Turkey blocking them with regard to Cyprus.

I admit that I don't understand why Greece has this antipathy towards Macedonia (although it seems to dislike an awful lot of Balkan countries). I need to read up on this more.

Thanks for the article! It's a real eye-opener.

13chapters 21st-Apr-2012 07:37 am (UTC)
TBH I find Greece's stance pretty annoying and incomprehensible myself so I might not have this 100% correct, but to the best of my knowledge, it goes like this: the historical region of Macedonia doesn't match any modern nations. It's partially in Greece (which has a province called Macedonia), partially in Bulgaria (where it's called Pirin Macedonia), and part of it used to be in Yugoslavia, where it was the Republic of Macedonia. (All of the modern nations that were part of Yugoslavia were republics with a certain amount of autonomy, except Kosovo, which was an autonomous region within the Republic of Serbia.) Greece considers the concept of Macedonia to be inherently Greek because they were an ancient Greek culture - Alexander the Great was a Macedonian, and he was Greek. Greece didn't care about other nations calling subnational regions Macedonia, but when the Republic of Macedonia declared independence, they were all NUH UH YOU CANNOT BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT GREEKS, YOU ARE SLAVS.

I just deleted a whole bunch of tl;dr because I have a lot of feelings about the Balkans and can ramble on about how wacky everything is there at length. (I was an expat in Bulgaria for a couple years.) But basically it comes down to: the Greeks believe that Slavs are trying to appropriate their awesome Greek history.
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