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Macedonia: EU Scolds Georgievski

Brussels tells Macedonia's prime minister to honour peace commitments
By Svetlana Jovanovska

The European Union is bringing strong pressure on Macedonia to speed up implementation of laws promised under last year's Ohrid agreement which ended a seven months uprising by the country's Albanian minority.


EU representatives accused Prime Minister Ljupco Georgievski of dragging his feet over legislation to widen the official use of the Albanian language and to allow equal Macedonian-Albanian representation in state institutions. The Ohrid agreement in August stipulated that these and other reforms should be introduced within the lifetime of the current parliament but little sign of movement has been detected so far.


The rebuke was delivered at a meeting in Luxembourg on April 16 of delegations headed by Georgievski and the EU Commissioner Javier Solana. The ostensible purpose of the meeting was to review the progress of last April's Stabilisation and Association Agreement, a forum for charting Macedonia's progress towards integration with the EU.


"Of course," said David Daly, head of the EU Balkans Office, "we cannot force anybody to do what we think is right. We merely offer an overview of what is necessary for European integration." Since Macedonia's main hope for the future lies in joining Europe, Brussels' "advice" cannot easily be ignored.


Only one of the laws proposed at Ohrid has been enacted so far, a measure concerning local self-government. Even that was pushed through only under pressure from a conference of donor nations who provide economic aid. Another proposal to schedule new national elections has also been sidelined.


"The Luxembourg meeting was an informal political breakfast during which we offered friendly advice on how the country could return to normal development," said EU spokesperson Ema Advin." A brief press conference afterwards gave scant details of what EU delegates said to Georgievski.


An European diplomat told IWPR, "Solana's authority has special weight in Macedonia. He told Georgievski that it was high time to push through the necessary changes."


The package of laws prescribed by Ohrid included one to permit use of the Albanian language in parliament and for ethnic Albanians to have their identification documents in two languages.


Solana's spokesperson, Cristina Goljac, said the Luxembourg meeting demanded action on three fronts. First, the Macedonian premier should ensure that all the required legislation be in place by mid-May. Second, national elections should be immediately scheduled. And third Solana stressed that President Boris Trajkovski should continue to play a leading role in government. The last stems from concern that the president had for some time been under attack by persons close to Georgievski.


Ema Advin, spokesperson for the EU's external affairs commissioner Chris Patten, said Brussels believed Macedonian elections should be held on September 15. That would allow the presence of 700 EU monitors who after that would be required in Kosovo and Bosnia.


Others demands were issued by Commissioner Patten. He called for a serious fight against corruption, reforms in public administration, freedom of the press and an overhaul of the security system. In particular, Patten urged the disbanding of the police paramilitary unit known as the Lions - a group accused by humanitarian organisations of suppressing ethnic Albanians.


Daly said the EU had raised security issues that normally would not be its task because "we believe the paramilitary organisations represent an obstacle to democracy, civil society and political system".


Svetlana Jovanovska is the Brussels correspondent for Skopje's daily Dnevnik


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