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Home arrow Political science arrow After Ethnic Conflict : Policy-making in Post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia

After 2001

Considering the events from the previous decade, when in 2001 violence brokeout between the Albanian rebel groups and Macedonian security forces, education was already a contentious topic in inter-ethnic relations in Macedonia. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Ohrid Framework Agreement (OFA) directly addresses the issue of Education and Use of Languages, stipulating that '[s]tate funding will be provided for university level education in languages spoken by at least 20 per cent of the population of Macedonia' and '[in] primary and secondary education, instruction will be provided in the students' native languages'.8 These two provisions in the OFA set the ground for adopting a minority education policy that would improve the educational rights of Albanians in Macedonia, providing mother-tongue education from primary school to university, and thus finally settle this issue that has caused many problems in Macedonian politics since independence.

By signing the OFA, the leaders of the four largest political parties in Macedonia not only put an end to the violence and conflict, but also committed themselves to implementing the reforms that the OFA envisaged. Therefore, education was high on the agenda of the next government which came into office after the 2002 elections. It was a coalition between SDSM and the new political party that sprang up from the political leadership of the Albanian rebel groups, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) (see Table 8.1).

The SDSM-DUI coalition was a big breakthrough in political power-sharing. A coalition with those who only several months before the elections were called 'terrorists' and 'criminal gangs' was perceived as very risky by SDSM leaders. DUI leaders waged a war against Macedonian political elites and accepting them as coalition partners required overcoming deep prejudices. Yet, refusing to enter into a coalition with DUI would have been an even riskier move – refusing to acknowledge the will of the Albanian electorate, who overwhelmingly supported DUI on the elections, and would have threatened the fragile peace. SDSM leader Branko Crvenkovski and the president Boris Trajkovski were trying to transfer the

8 Section 6, Ohrid Framework Agreement, 13 August 2001. Table 8.1 Major political parties in Macedonia

Party Ethnic affiliation Leader Terms in government VMRO-DPMNE Macedonian Ljubčo Georgievski

Nikola Gruevski 1998–2002;

2006–2010 Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM)

Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP)

Democratic Party of Albanians (PDSH) Macedonian Branko Crvenkovski Vlado Bučkovski Zoran Zaev

Albanian Abdurahman Aliti Abduladi Vejseli

Albanian Arben Xhaferi

Menduh Thaci 1992–1998;

2002–2006

1994–1998

1998–2002;

2006–2008 Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) Albanian Ali Ahmeti 2002–2006;

2008–2010

obligation of meeting DUI leader Ali Ahmeti to each other.9 No one wanted to be the first to shake Ahmeti's hand on camera, fearing the public's reaction to such a meeting, which would legitimise and transform the Albanian rebels' leader into a coalition partner.

In such a precarious context, coalition negotiations had to be conducted in closed meetings outside state institutions and away from media attention. According to a very influential leader of a non-governmental organisation in Skopje, it was in their offices in Skopje that the first such meeting took place, when high-ranking SDSM and DUI members met to discuss the government's programme after the end of working hours in the neutral and safe space of the civil society organisation, with no one but himself and the cleaning lady to witness it.10 After several weeks, despite the fresh memories and nationalist rhetoric from the conflict, SDSM and DUI agreed on the programme and structure of the government coalition. Most importantly for this case, for the first time since independence an Albanian minister of education was appointed. DUI's Azis Pollozhani took over the education portfolio to manage the forthcoming educational reforms.

With the introduction of power-sharing mechanisms after 2001, the dynamic of political elites' interaction in Macedonia had changed. Executive coalition and veto mechanisms altered the ways that governments functioned and policies were made, in particular in the area of minority education. Intra-coalition consensus on

9  Anonymous, Journalist and Media Advisor: personal interview with the author, Skopje, 15 July 2010.

10 The first such meeting between SDSM's Radmila Šekerinska and DUI's Teuta Arifi took place in a non-governmental organisation's premises in Skopje. Anonymous, Head of influential non-governmental organisation in Skopje: personal interview with the author, Skopje, 28 July 2010. legalisation of TU was the single most important factor that explains the success of the proposal to legalise TU. The SDSM-DUI coalition worked better than its predecessor in accommodating ethnic differences because DUI's influence and bargaining leverage in cabinet was much greater than that of the PDP. The doublemajority voting requirement that OFA introduced meant that the SDSM could not pass education legislation without the support of Albanian deputies in Parliament, a limitation that the SDSM did not have in 1994.

In early 2004, ten years after it was founded, Tetovo University was finally on the parliament's agenda. Deputies were considering draft legislation to legalise its status. The draft proposed legalising five of the eight existing faculties in the university, funding from the state budget, and resolving the status of the students already enrolled and those holding degrees from TU through the legal and institutional mechanisms provided by the existing Law on Higher Education.11 Following the provisions of the OFA, a double majority was required to adopt legislation in the area of education. An overall majority plus a majority of Albanian deputies had to support the proposal before it could be adopted. As required, the law was passed with an overall majority of 68 votes, and 26 votes from the Albanian deputies. Only VMRO-DPMNE deputies did not support the law, while the Albanian opposition – the Democratic Party of Albanians (PDSh), despite their criticism for the proposal voted in favour of it.

The adoption of this law, which put an end to the decade-long ethnic and political tensions over higher education in Albanian language, took one of the longest plenary sessions of the Macedonian parliament to pass the proposal. Legalising TU was a difficult challenge for the first inter-ethnic government coalition in post-conflict Macedonia, testing the strength of the new institutional set-up and the resilience of political elite accommodation.

In stark contrast to SDSM-PDP coalition relations before 2001, SDSM and DUI made a prior agreement to legalise TU in 2002. According to a high-ranking member of the SDSM, although there was no strict obligation in OFA to legalise it, they thought it would be good to resolve the issue that had so often raised ethnic tensions between Macedonians and Albanians.12 The opposition vehemently opposed the draft law. While VMRO-DPMNE claimed not to be against the OFA provisions for higher education in Albanian, they argued that OFAdid not explicitly call for the legalisation of Tetovo University, and that with the establishment of the private South East European University (SEEU) in 2001 as well as the minority quotas and Pedagogical Faculty courses taught in Albanian, this requirement was completely fulfilled.13 In their public statements, VMRO-DPMNE further alleged

11 Law on establishing state university in Tetovo, Official Gazette of Republic of

Macedonia (No.05/2004), 23 February 2004.

12 Anonymous, High-ranking SDSM official and member of government 2002–2006: personal interview with the author, Skopje, 6 September 2010.

13 Transcripts from the forty-fifth session of the Parliament of R. Macedonia, 9 December 2003. Parliament of Republic of Macedonia, Transcript Archives. Available at:
that the law would deepen the ethnic gap in society by establishing a separate university where students would only study in Albanian and thus discouraging Albanian and Macedonian youth from integrating and interacting through education.14 Thus, even their rhetoric was more moderate than the nationalist language used during the 1997 protests against higher education reforms.

In Parliament, the Albanian opposition, PDSh, criticised the proposal for failing to provide good quality higher education for Albanians. PDSh criticised the government for 'establishing' rather than 'legalising' TU, which denied the continuity of the institution from 1994 and consequently required re-evaluation of everyone holding a degree from Tetovo University. It further attacked the government's proposal for only recognising five of the eight departments, thus discriminating against those students who were studying in the unrecognised departments. Finally, in the proposal to establish TU the opposition saw an attempt to undermine SEEU, which was already providing university education in Albanian, and instead of expanding the departments and courses offered at SEEU, it created competition between the universities offering the same selection of courses.15

PDSh proposed amendments to the text, so that it would better answer the needs of the Albanian population in Macedonia. Its deputies criticised the governing Albanian party for doing too little to defend the interests of the Albanian population in Macedonia. However, without public support for those outbidding efforts proved fruitless. Recognising TU was a major achievement for the Albanian population, even if it fell short of the demands of PDSh, so DUI felt no pressure to respond to PDSh accusations. And while the OFA did not explicitly call for recognising TU, it did require state-funded higher education in Albanian, a provision clearly pointing to resolving the status of TU, since SEEU is a private institution.

Bidding on the ethnic or 'patriotic' scale was not the only tool at the opposition's disposal in the policy process. Next, VMRO proposed no-confidence vote to the Minister of Education, whose work on legalising TU they described as activities with 'illegal institutions', referring to TU as a 'para-university' and signalling their resistance to its legalisation.16 When the no-confidence attempt failed because of insufficient votes, both VMRO and PDSh took up filibustering and engaged in hours-long talks against the proposed legislation, preventing the

sobranie.mk (accessed 20 November 2010).

14 Žarko Karadžoski, MP for VMRO-DPMNE, quoted in Utrinski Vesnik, 24 February 2004. 217.16.70.245/?pBroj=1377&stID=5909&pR=2 (accessed 20 November 2010). 15 Zamir Dika and Menduh Thaçi, MPs for PDSh, in Transcripts from the first sitting of the forty-fifth session of the Parliament of R. Macedonia on 11 December 2003.

Parliament of Republic of Macedonia, Transcript Archives. Available at: sobranie.mk (accessed 20 November 2010).

16 Transcripts from the forty-fifth session of the Parliament of R. Macedonia, 9 December 2003. Parliament of R. Macedonia, Transcript Archives. Available at: sobranie.mk
closing of the plenary debate and voting on the proposal. By the end of the tenth sitting, the government withdrew the proposal from the Parliament's agenda. The filibustering had worked.

A month later, the government reintroduced the proposal to Parliament through a procedure for urgent issues. Although the issue of Tetovo University had been around for almost ten years, and was hardly urgent, the procedure for debating urgent issues included limited time for debate, which prevented filibustering. This time the Law on establishing state university in Tetovo was adopted. Despite all of the efforts against adopting the proposal, none of the opposition parties actually voted against it. VMRO-DPMNE deputies left the parliament, saying they 'did not want to take the historic responsibility for voting on the law',17 a statement suggesting they found the law harmful for ethnic Macedonians. Although PDSh deputies criticised the law during the entire process and used all institutional means available to prevent its adoption, when the voting took place they voted in favour. The struggle over TU did not finish in Parliament. VMRO-DPMNE encouraged President Boris Trajkovski not to sign the decree enacting the law and to return it to Parliament. However, he signed the presidential decree claiming the law was good and allowed access to education to many young people in Macedonia.18 Finally, the law was challenged in front of the Constitutional Court, which ruled in favour of its constitutionality. With the Constitutional Court's decision all legal and institutional channels for challenging the law were exhausted by the opposition, which refrained from using non-institutional means to oppose the policy. The next academic year, 2004–2005, Tetovo University became the third state university

in Macedonia.

 
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