17:05 GMT +321 November 2019
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    Macedonian flag in front of the government building in Skopje, Macedonia (File)

    Balkan Knot: Macedonia's Political Crisis Threatens to Redraw European Borders

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    Supporters of Macedonia’s ruling party, VMRO DPMNE, are protesting the decision by the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) to join forces with three ethnic Albanian parties and its demand that they be allowed to form a coalition government.

    The opposition’s demand was turned down by President Gjorge Ivanov, who sees the creation of a pro-Albanian coalition government as a direct threat to the country’s sovereignty.

    Granting ethnic Albanians the status of a state-forming nation could result in Macedonia’s disappearance from the European map and the emergence of a new armed conflict in the Balkans, RT wrote in a commentary.

    Western hand

    Western politicians were quick to criticize the Macedonian president’s decision with the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini urging him to reconsider.

    Her call was readily echoed by EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg. US ambassador to Macedonia Jess Bailey described Ivanov’s decision as “disappointing.”

    Alarmed by the escalation of the political crisis in Macedonia, Russia demands an end to Western interference in the country’s internal affairs.

    "The West is using the Albanian minority in an attempt to bring to power in Skopje the defeated opposition, which approved the Albanian ultimatums leading to the erosion of the country's constitutional principles,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

    Terms of a deal

    The political crisis in Macedonia began in 2015 when the opposition accused then Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski of corruption and demanded early parliamentary elections. It resulted in the Przino Agreement between the most influential parties in Macedonia, under which Gruevski had to resign and the parliament was dissolved.

    The Macedonians elected a new parliament in a snap vote  in December 2016, after several cancellations. In the vote, the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party and the opposition party SDSM won 51 and 49 seats, respectively. However, each party had to gather the support of minor parties to form a coalition government, as there are 120 seats in the country's legislative body.

    SDSM leader Zoran Zaev then agreed with representatives of the Albanian minority in parliament to set up a coalition, promising a constitutional reform to grant ethnic Albanians the status of a state-forming nation, to make the Albanian language official throughout the country and establish a special border regime with Kosovo and Albania.

    Popular protest

    To prevent the “albanization” of Macedonia, thousands of people  hit the streets of Skopje and other cities urging the EU to recognize their country as the Republic of Macedonia and condemn the Albanian prime minister’s meddling in the country internal affairs.

    Chain reaction

    “If the opposition is allowed to form the government this would set the stage for bringing Albanians together in one state. This, in turn, brings back the ethnic conflict plaguing all the former Yugoslav republics. With foreign interference, this could have catastrophic results for the entire region,” Institute of Europe scholar Yekaterina Entina told RT.

    She added that the ethnic Albanians’ demand for the status of a state-forming nation could have a knock-on effect both inside the region, primarily in Montenegro, and elsewhere in Europe.

    Project “Greater Albania”

    The terms on which the ethnic Albanian parties in Macedonia agreed to join forces with the SDSM are fully consistent with the with the 19th century concept of creating a Greater Albania by bringing together all predominantly Albanian populated territories.

    If this happens it would be the end Macedonia as a Slavonic country.

    The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that Macedonia’s neighbors Bulgaria and Greece have their own territorial claims to their Balkan neighbor.

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    Tags:
    European Union, political crisis, opposition parties, coalition, ethnic Albanians, NATO, Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE), Zoran Zaev, Federica Mogherini, Jens Stoltenberg, Johannes Hahn, Gjorge Ivanov, Macedonia
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