FYROM: Albanian Group Seeks Federalization

Skopje | 11 June 2009 |

A group of right-wing ethnic Albanian politicians during a Wednesday press conference demanded the federalization of  FYROM based on the Swiss and Belgian models.


The group, headed by Hisni Shakiri, Sefedin Haruni, Bardulj Mahmuti and Nevzat Halili from the “Ilirida” movement, is not advocating renewed armed conflict with the state, but urging constitutional changes that would allow ethnic Albanians, who comprise one-quarter of the country’s population, equal rights.
The group is not part of any of the country’s major political parties.

“The Albanian language is not equal with the FYROMacedonian [language]; the Albanians are not equal with the FYROMacedonians,” Halili opined at the press conference, asking for recognition of the fact that the Albanians in FYROM are autochthonous.

The group’s stances are similar to those expressed in April by the controversial ethnic Albanian local leader, Rufi Osmani, who then urged the creation of a bi-national FYROM. 

 In 2001, FYROM suffered a short armed conflict between ethnic Albanian insurgents and the state. The armed clashes ended the same year with the signing of the Ohrid peace accord, which granted greater rights to ethnic Albanians.

Greater involvement in the police, army and administration as well as official use of the Albanian language in the areas where the population is dominant are among the provisions of the peace deal.

Media have been citing local analysts as saying that the radicalization of some Albanian entities in FYROM following the peace deal is the aftermath of the stalemate in which the country finds itself over the heated name dispute with Greece and the Greek blockage on FYROM’s NATO accession.

Opinion polls show that Albanians would rather sacrifice the country’s name for swift accession to NATO and the EU, unlike FYROMacedonians, who view the issue as central to their national dignity and identity.

The group was supported in their demands by the Student’s Association of  Tetovo State University, the Association of Insurgents Veterans from the 2001 conflict, and several other citizens’ associations.

(Reporting by Sinisa-Jakov Marusic)