Storm over Macedonia partition plan


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Subject: Storm over Macedonia partition plan

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Storm over Macedonia partition plan


IWPR'S BALKAN CRISIS REPORT, NO. 253, Part I, June 6, 2001

...............

STORM OVER MACEDONIA PARTITION PLAN 

A proposal to divide up Macedonia along ethnic lines has provoked
outrage 

By Veton Latifi in Skopje 

While Macedonian troops battle it out with Albanian guerrillas in the
north, a fierce political conflict has broken out in the capital over
a proposal to partition Macedonia.

The bombshell proposal was lobbed by Georgi Efremov, chairman of the
Academy of Sciences and Arts of Macedonia, ASAM, who suggested that
the best way of ending strife between Macedonian and Albanian
communities was to carve up the country into two entities.

According to this plan, Albanians would settle in the western regions
of Gostivar, Tetovo, and Debar which would then join Albania itself at
a later date. In exchange, Albania would hand over to Macedonia the
town of Pogradec and the surrounding area near Prespa Lake, where a
small Macedonian minority lives.

The exchange should be completed peacefully in three months, the
academy said.

Efremov described his plan as a "document for the salvation of
Macedonia". He said that after the recent fighting in Tetovo and
elsewhere, Albanians and Macedonians could no longer live in peace.

The proposal enraged large sections of political opinion. Albanian
minority parties united in opposition, parties representing the
Macedonian majority were split, thus endangering the "grand coalition"
set up a few weeks ago with international blessing to guide the
country through its crisis.

Among the few political leaders who refrained from denouncing the plan
were Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, the leader of the Macedonian
VMRO-DPMNE party, and parliamentary speaker Stojan Andov, a member of
the Liberal Party, a junior member of the coalition.

Strong opposition came from Branko Crvenkovski who heads SDSM,
Socialist Democratic Alliance of Macedonia, the other major Macedonian
party. He called the ASAM plan "an incitement for civil war and
suicide for Macedonia". Crvenkovski favours pursuing current
negotiations on giving ethnic Albanians greater civic rights and
recognising Albanian as an official language.

The ASAM plan has brought unexpected harmony to the two main Albanian
parties, the DPA, Democratic Party of Albanians and PDP, Party of
Democratic Prosperity, which until now had been locked in bitter
feuds. Both dismissed the partition plan as "unacceptable and
ridiculous".

The president of the Albanian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Ylli Popa,
also rejected the proposal. "Inter ethnic problems cannot be solved by
exchange of territories and populations," he said. "The only solution
to the Macedonia crisis is to respect the rights of Albanians living
there."

Macedonian political feuding intensified after the daily, Vecer, which
is close to VMRO-DPMNE, published a map of the planned exchange. When
Crvenkovski threatened to walk out of coalition, Georgievski said he
would not mind if the alliance did break up.

After lack of support from the Macedonian parties and outright
rejection by their Albanian counterparts, ASAM Chairman Efremov,
sought to distance himself from his own plan, saying it had been
misinterpreted.

Efremov said it was only one of 25 possible ways of solving the crisis
and that it was not an official ASAM proposal, just the personal view
of some of its members.

Partition has been discussed several times since Macedonia became
independent a decade ago.

When the NLA first emerged at the beginning of this year, there were
rumours that its main goal was the federalisation of Macedonia. But a
month later, it backed away from the partition idea, saying it
supported the territorial integrity of Macedonia.

Instead, the NLA called for Albanians to be elevated to the status of
nation in the country's constitution.

During the last decade, the two main Macedonian parties have argued
fiercely about the country's integrity and sovereignty. LSDM has
accused the VMRO-DPMNE of working to hand over parts of Macedonia to
Bulgaria. While the latter has charged the former of trying to draw
Macedonia back into the Yugoslav federation.

The partition proposal, no matter whether it is ASAM policy or the
idea of some of its members, might be a severe blow to the country at
a time when all Balkan nations are oriented towards European
integration.

If the plan frustrates the political process, the EU might decide to
review the validity of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement
with Macedonia, signed in Luxembourg on April 9. It could also
undermine the support that Macedonia has received until now. But no
such measures are foreseen by the EU at present.

The fact that Efremov is close to the VMRO-DPMNE and that his plan was
not rejected outright by some politicians might indicate other motives
behind the proposal. Whether it was a test of public opinion, an
outright provocation or a serious project, the plan has certainly
shifted attention away from the fighting in the north. It has also
delayed political dialogue between Albanians and Macedonians on
resolving their present differences.

Veton Latifi is a political analyst and IWPR assistant editor in
Macedonia.



VISIT IWPR ON-LINE: <http://www.iwpr.net>

IWPR's network of leading correspondents in the region provides inside
analysis of the events and issues driving crises in the Balkans. The
reports are available on the Web in English, Serbian and Albanian.
They are also available via e-mail. For syndication information,
contact Anthony Borden <tony@iwpr.net>.

Balkan Crisis Report is supported by the European Commission, the
Dutch Ministry for Development and Cooperation, Swedish International
Development and Cooperation Agency, Foreign and Commonwealth Office,
and other sources. IWPR also acknowledges general support from the
Ford Foundation.

For further details on this project and other information services and
media programmes, visit IWPR's Website: <http://www.iwpr.net>.

Editor-in-chief: Anthony Borden. 
Managing Editor: Yigal Chazan.
Associate Editor: Gordana Igric. 
Assistant Editors: Alan Davis and Heather Milner.
Editorial Assistant: Mirna Jancic. 
Kosovo Project Manager: Nehat Islami. 
Translation: Alban Mitrushi, Dragana Nikolic, Denisa Kostovic and
others.

The Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR) is a London-based
independent non-profit organisation supporting regional media and
democratic change.

Lancaster House, 33 Islington High Street, London N1 9LH, UK 
Tel: (44 171) 713 7130; Fax: (44 171) 713 7140 E-mail: info@iwpr.net;
Web: www.iwpr.net

The opinions expressed in "Balkan Crisis Report" are those of the
authors and do not necessarily represent those of the publication or
of IWPR.

Copyright (C) 2001 The Institute for War & Peace Reporting 

*** VISIT IWPR ON-LINE: http://www.iwpr.net ***

IWPR'S BALKAN CRISIS REPORT, NO. 253

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