Macedonia Albanians Reiterate “Name” Ultimatum

Macedonia’s junior government party, the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration, DUI set a deadline of December for its senior ethnic Macedonian partner to solve the ongoing “name” spat with neighboring Greece.

In December the country hopes to get a date from the EU council to start EU accession talks, a decision that needs the consensus from all 27 member states. Greece threatens to block this move pending a solution for the 18 years-long name row.

If there is no solution by December, “Albanians will enter NATO and EU without Macedonians”, DUI’s high ranking official and parliament legislator, Rafiz Aliti told media on Monday. He did not clarify whether this would mean that DUI conceders leaving the government or some more radical steps.

Last year Athens blocked Skopje’s NATO invitation over the dispute. Athens insists that Skopje’s official name, Republic of Macedonia, implies Skopje’s territorial claims towards its own northern province that is also called Macedonia.

After the block DUI gave card blanche to its partner, the centre-right VMRO DPMNE party to solve the dispute. However, the party made it clear that their patience will not last forever, seeing this year end as a deadline for a solution.

This is second DUI statement that the party has made on the name recently.

So far VMRO DPMNE has reacted only by saying it will not succumb to ultimatums when issues of national interest such the name are concerned.

The prospect of EU and NATO membership is seen by observers as being the strongest bond that will unite the Macedonian majority and the Albanian minority. Without it, some fear the ethnic tensions could return.

In 2001, Macedonia suffered a short lived Albanian insurgency that ended the same year with a peace deal foreseeing greater rights for the Albanian community. The insurgents subsequently disbanded and their leaders formed the DUI.

The pressure on the Prime Minister and VMRO DPMNE head, Nikola Gruevski, to swiftly hammer a deal with Greece started to mount last month after his country got a positive assessment from the European Commission that included a recommendation for EU accession talks.

Last to address this issue was the EU Foreign Policy head, Javier Solana who urged Skopje to “seize the window of opportunity” before the December EU council.

Last week in an interview for BBC Macedonian, Macedonia’s President George Ivanov hinted on a possibility of a quick solution.

“This (solution seeking) process cannot be removed from the United Nations. It has been hosted by the UN for almost 16 years and lately some kind of solution can be sensed,” Ivanov said.

Media speculate that some variations of a possible compromise name Northern Macedonia are still in play.

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