[lg policy] Macedonia a

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Tue Aug 8 14:37:50 EDT 2017

Macedonia’s Albanian Language Law Moves Towards Adoption

A law to extend the official use of the Albanian language across the
country should soon reach the Macedonian parliament after governing
coalition partners reached a compromise over its content.
Sinisa Jakov Marusic

 The Macedonian government in session. Photo: MIA

The text of the new language law - seen as the last legal remaining
provision stemming from a 2001 peace deal that ended an armed conflict
between Albanian insurgents and Macedonian security forces - is expected to
be put before parliament for adoption soon.

The law would extend the official use of Albanian to the entire country,
where ethnic Albanians make up around a quarter of the total population of
2.1 million. It will mainly ease communication in Albanian with
institutions like municipalities, hospitals and courts.

In a compromise between the main ruling Social Democratic Party, SDSM, and
its junior Albanian coalition partners, they have agreed to send two key
parts of the law to the Venice Commission for evaluation.

The Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe, will be
asked to evaluate whether the possible introduction of bilingual banknotes
and uniforms for the army and police are in line with the Macedonian
constitution and the 2001 Ohrid peace accord.

If so, they could easily be incorporated into the law a bit later, the
government source, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told media on Saturday.

“There will be no bilingual banknotes and uniforms [in the new law], unless
the Venice Commission confirms that this is in line with the constitution.
We have no prejudices regarding those things,” Zaev said.

“Anything that improves the quality of life of the citizens and that the
constitution allows has been included in the law,” he added.

Zaev promised to bring in a law that would extend the official use of
Albanian when he struck a coalition deal with several Albanian parties
earlier this year.

In July the small, ethnic Albanian-led DPA - Movement for Reforms party
threatened to withdraw its vital support for the government if Zaev did not
deliver on the law within the first 100 days of his administration.

The current law on languages defines Albanian as an official language, but
it only has that status in areas where Albanians make up over 20 per cent
of the population.

In the north and west of the country, where Albanians are the majority in
many areas, this is not a burning issue.

However, in many other parts of the country, the number of Albanians is
often far lower than 20 per cent.

The proposed new law has sparked much criticism from the former ruling VMRO
DPMNE party, which has accused Zaev of making too many concessions to his
Albanian partners and betraying Macedonia’s national interests.

This VMRO DPMNE insists that the law might endanger the unitary character
of Macedonia.

Commenting on the possibility that some ethnic Macedonians see a threat in
this ethnically-sensitive legislation, the US ambassador to Skopje, Jess
Baily, said on Friday that it is important that the law “falls within the
guidelines set out in the Ohrid Framework Agreement [that ended the 2001

“This is an important issue to discuss and find solutions that both create
an inclusive society and an inclusive political system, but also maintain
the unity and the common sense of purpose among all the peoples of this
country,” Baily told Alsat M TV.



 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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