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Ohrid Framework Agreement – Bringing Power-sharing Back

In early spring 2001, when the first armed incidents between the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA) and Macedonian security forces took place, institutional overhaul and reform of the political system were not on the domestic political agenda. Nor was the international community putting pressure on Macedonian politicians to those ends. Initial statements from EU and NATO officials at the time condemned the NLA's violence, referred to the events as 'border incidents' in Kosovo, and supported the 'responsible leadership' of the Macedonian government to deal with its internal problems.25 Yet, as the government proved

25 See NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson, quoted in 'Macedonia “deal” on unity government', BBC News, 8 May 2001. Available at: hi/europe/1318257.stm; or EC President Romano Prodi's statement in 'President Prodi
incapable of curbing the violence and the NLA's popular support was increasing, the external actors' policy towards the conflict changed. Indeed, the EU and NATO representatives that were quickly assigned and dispatched to Macedonia never directly negotiated with NLA representatives, but they implicitly recognised NLA legitimacy by addressing their demands and drafting a peace agreement that set the stage for reforms.26

Pressed by external actors, the VMRO-DPMNE and PDSh coalition government invited the opposition to join them in a 'national unity' government, to give greater legitimacy and ownership of the difficult decisions that required to be made by the government to resolve the conflict.27 Intended as an exercise in power-sharing and inclusive governance, the national unity government was anything but united, as constant bickering between the political parties prevented any meaningful compromise and common decision-making. Divisions between SDSM-affiliated Defence Minister Vlado Bučkovski and VMRO-affiliated Interior Minister Ljube Boškovski prevented proper coordination of the military and police units, while both were out of step with President and Commander-in-Chief Boris Trajkovski. This short-lived attempt at across-the-spectrum power-sharing showed that even under extreme war-like conditions, political elites were barely able to coalesce around common policies and a common vision about the future of the state. This did not set an encouraging precedent for the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement, which among other provisions, included guidelines for ethnic power-sharing within a unitary state, but ruled out any less formal integrationist post-conflict institutions, which would have relied on the common interests and identity of the political elites to work properly.28

One important legacy of the national unity government is that it did adopt the Ohrid Framework Agreement, as drafted by the external facilitators and some leading domestic constitutional law experts.29 The Ohrid Framework Agreement was signed on 13 August 2001 by the leaders of the four largest political parties in Macedonia, the two Albanian ones: PDSh and PDP, and the two Macedonian ones: SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE. The NLA leadership was not present nor

supports responsible leadership of FYROM', 9 March 2001. Available at: rapid/ EN&guiLanguage=en (accessed 6 November 2013).

26 Christopher Chivvis, 'The Making of Macedonia', Survival, 50 (2008): 141–162. 27 See Javier Solana's statements in 'Macedonia: Solana to Show Support for Government', 28 May 2001, in RFL/RL. Available at:

article/1096539.html (accessed 6 November 2013).

28 On consociational vs. integrationist power-sharing see: Brendan O'Leary, 'Introduction', in Michael Kerr, Imposing Power-Sharing (Dublin, Irish Academic Press, 2006).

29 Some sources cite US diplomat Richard Frowick as the author of the initial draft of the Ohrid Agreement, see Chvvis, 'Making of Macedonia', while former Interior and Foreign Minister and Law Professor, Ljubomir Frckovski, and Law Professor Vlado Popovski, were among the domestic authors. invited to the negotiations, but they embraced the agreement fully (and have remained committed to it ever since), so it must have included many of the demands they had communicated to their Albanian colleagues in government and to foreign negotiators.

The text and provisions of the agreement are rather short and simple, especially when compared to more verbose and complicated peace agreements, such as the Dayton Peace Accords. As its name suggests, the agreement is merely a framework, to set the foundation for an institutional structure that domestic political actors will develop further following their own needs and priorities. The basic principles reflect the values that all sides – Macedonian, Albanian and international – were set to preserve or promote in the new institutional set up in Macedonia. The five basic principles include commitments to: non-violent conflict resolution, no territorial solutions to ethnic issues, protection and inclusion of ethnic groups in public life, decentralisation of political power, and an evolving nature of constitutional solutions.30 Each of those principles addresses the fears and concerns of some of the parties involved. The most important principle for ethnic Macedonian political elites, who feared the agreement as a prelude to federalisation of Macedonia, was the preservation of the unitary nature of the state. For the Albanians, the commitment to reflect the multi-ethnic composition of the population in the public sector was an answer to a long-term grievance over their exclusion from public administration. Moreover, the commitment to decentralisation and subsequent re-drawing of municipal boundaries to reflect the population's ethnic composition amounted to some form of self-governance for Albanians in Macedonia to compensate for the lack of territorial autonomy. Overall, the OFA was a rare exercise of compromise between the political elites, albeit under external pressure.

In the spirit set out by the basic principles, the effective provisions of the FrameworkAgreement contain a mix of standard power-sharing instruments aiming to provide institutional, but not territorial, incentives for peaceful resolution of inter-ethnic problems. Decentralisation provisions, as a substitute for fully fledged territorial autonomy, introduce extensive political and fiscal decentralisation of political power in Macedonia following a nation-wide census and the adjustment of municipal boundaries to match the ethnic composition of the population. Special emphasis was placed on the transferring of certain police authorities to the local level, as a means to addressing security concerns. Provisions regarding equitable representation call for increased representation of ethnic groups in all public bodies and at all administrative levels to match their respective percentage in the population.

Special parliamentary procedures refer to the requirements for a double majority in parliament votes on a set of policy issues deemed sensitive for interethnic relations (those include: culture, education, language, personal documents,

30 'Basic Principles', in Framework Agreement, 13 August 2001. English version available at: (accessed 20 November 2010). use of national symbols and local government issues).31 This is to serve the purpose of a veto mechanism for the less numerous ethnic groups and prevent them from being outvoted on issues considered of special importance to them. The list is exhaustive, does not refer to the veto as such or to vital national interests, and is therefore a departure from traditional power-sharing or earlier similar instruments (the Dayton Accords, for instance) towards more fl power-sharing, but still retains the logic of inclusive decision-making. In addition, an Interethnic Council has been established in Parliament, consisting of equal numbers of Macedonian and Albanian representatives (7 each) and a smaller number of other minorities (5 total), as an advisory and reconciliatory body to resolve outstanding issues in this area.

The past ten years have witnessed struggles between the political elites regarding the span of policies where Badinter's principle, as the double majority requirement has become known, would apply. The 2006 post-election political crisis led to bitter discussions between the winning VMRO leadership and Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) counterparts over whether it should apply to governmentcoalitions. This was not explicitly mentioned in the agreement. Eventually, after a two-year parliamentary crisis, VMRO gave in and in 2008 a new VMRO and DUI coalition government was formed.32 While the informal practice of an inter-ethnic government coalition existed even before 2001, the 2008 precedent introduced the practice of compulsory government coalitions between the winning Macedonian and winning Albanian party. This had the effect of taking the initiative away from the Macedonian parties who had previously invited their Albanian partners to join the coalition. It also in practice divided the electoral process into two separate elections, one among Macedonians and one among Albanians, each of which determined one of the coalition members.

Finally, the framework agreement contains further provisions about the offi use of the Albanian language and the state provision of education in languages other than Macedonian.33 Higher education in Albanian was one of the Albanian community's early demands from the Macedonian state, and these provisions in the Ohrid Agreement aimed to appease those grievances by introducing education reforms.

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