21 years passed over Ohrid Agreement in North Macedonia

Sat, 13 Aug 2022 10:22 GMT
Deal ended civil war in country, expanding rights of minority Albanians, giving Albanian official language status alongside Macedonian
21 years passed over Ohrid Agreement in North Macedonia

Deal ended civil war in country, expanding rights of minority Albanians, giving Albanian official language status alongside Macedonian

It has been 21 years since the Ohrid Agreement was signed in North Macedonia to end internal turmoil in the country.

The first Constitution adopted in Macedonia, as the country was then called, after independence from the former Yugoslavia restricted the rights of minority groups in the country, including Albanians.

Demanding the right to higher education in their native language, Albanians founded a university of their own in 1994.

Deeming the university illegal, authorities responded by demolishing it. One person died in a brawl that broke out, while several others were injured.

In another incident, members of the Albanian community hung their flag on municipal buildings in Gostivar and Tetovo in 1997, but government officials similarly banned the movement and had the banners lowered.

An intervention by police led to more detentions and deaths.

Ohrid agreement

On Aug. 13, 2001, the largest political parties in the country signed the Ohrid Framework Agreement, with special representatives from the EU and US present, to end the turmoil.

It took two months for the government to prepare for the signing in the southwestern city of Ohrid between all parties to the conflicts.

The accord officially put an end to the civil war and laid the groundwork for expanding the rights of ethnic Albanians in the country.

Under the deal, Albanian, spoken by more than 20% of people in any city, was named the country's co-official language alongside Macedonian on Jan. 15, 2019.

In addition, the deal addressed issues such as the development of local governments, non-discrimination, fair representation, and special parliamentary procedures on issues such as language, culture, education, and identity.

A secretariat responsible for the implementation of the deal was also established and was turned into the Political System and Inter-Community Relations Ministry in 2019.

Road to deal

The internal turmoil that concluded with the Ohrid Agreement began on Jan. 22, 2001, when a group of armed Albanians attacked a police station in the village of Teartse, located near the northwestern city of Tetovo.

One police officer was killed and three others were injured. A group called the National Liberation Army (UCK) claimed responsibility for the attack.

Clashes continued at varying intensity in other cities that spring.

A general cease-fire agreement was reached on July 5 under the mediation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and NATO, though both sides violated the agreement numerous times.

Over the course of these events, described as a "civil war" by some, hundreds of people from both sides of the conflict died and tens of thousands were displaced between Jan. 22-Nov. 12, 2001.

Turks in Ohrid deal

Years after the agreement was signed, Turks, who make up about 4% of North Macedonia's population, still feel that they have been deprived of their rights.

They seek greater representation in the government, especially local administrations.

Turks in the Balkan nation underline that as the third-largest community in North Macedonia, the Ohrid agreement should be revised to include them.

Merve Berker-AA

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