Ethnic Albanian parties in Macedonia rejected a proposal to form a common political bloc against the ruling Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE). The idea was mooted by opposition Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) leader Menduh Thaci, who argued that Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s government is pursuing an ethnocentric policy that serves only the Macedonian majority. He also said the government’s “nationalistic” foreign policy is moving Macedonia further away from European Union and NATO integration. The DPA leader asked Gruevski’s ethnic Albanian coalition partner, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), to quit the government, but the DUI declined.
Analysis and Forecast: Decreasing Risk
An all-Albanian coalition in Macedonia would not only destabilize the government, it would also jeopardize ethnic peace. Thaci’s proposal would inflame fears and bring confrontation with the Macedonian majority. However, the fact that the idea has been rejected for now doesn’t mean it won’t be revived in the future.
The proposal for a united ethnic-Albanian front is linked to Macedonia’s name dispute with Greece: Athens wants Macedonia to stop using the name “Macedonia,” fearing it implies that Skopje has territorial designs on the Greek province of the same name. Greece has blackballed Macedonia from starting European Union accession talks until the dispute is resolved.
Surveys reveal that ethnic Albanians, which constitute around one quarter of Macedonia’s population, are willing to compromise on the name issue, while ethnic Macedonians associate the country’s name with their national identity. The likelihood of an all-Albanian bloc will therefore increase if the government fails resolve the name row, thereby ruining its chance to join the EU.
By rejecting Thaci’s idea, the main ethnic Albanian parties demonstrated political responsibility by opting for stability. Macedonians of all ethnicities must remember that the goal of EU and NATO membership can serve as a unifying force. Pre-accession talks do not guarantee membership – the country will still have to fulfill the EU’s membership requirements. If Albanians and Macedonians are deprived of this perspective, ethnic tension and political attitudes could jeopardize the existence of Macedonia as a unitary state. The longer accession negotiations are postponed, the more uncertain Macedonian stability becomes.