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At Macedonian Albanian festivities marking the 100th anniversary of Albania's independence the leaders of Albania and Kosovo have called for Albanians to unite under an EU umbrella.
The ceremony in Skopje on Sunday was organized by Macedonia’s biggest ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, which is part of the Macedonian government.
The Prime Ministers of Kosovo and Albania and the DUI leader, Ali Ahmeti, used the occasion to call for the unification of all Albanians under the umbrella of the European Union.
“From here in Skopje I call on all Albanians to work every minute, day, week and month for their unification,” Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha said in his speech.
He praised the work of the now disbanded Albanian paramilitary forces in Kosovo and Macedonia, lauding their roles in what he termed “the last liberation war in Europe".
However, he also said that Albanians were ready for “friendly and long term” cooperation with all of their neighbours.
Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci also said that the paramilitary force, the NLA, had brought freedom to Albanians in Macedonia and Kosovo.
“By freeing Kosovo, Albania now also breathes freely,” he said, referring to the struggle that terminated Serbian rule over Kosovo in the late 1990s.
He added that Macedonian Albanians can always count on Kosovo's support when it comes to demanding their rights.
DUI head Ahmeti insisted that his party’s primary concern was the “improving Albanian rights, not [obtaining] privileges and office posts”.
Ahmeti formerly led the Albanian insurgents during the Macedonian armed conflict of 2001. Soon after forming the DUI in 2002, the party became the dominant force in the Albanian political bloc.
The head of the main ethnic Albanian opposition party in Macedonia, Meduh Thaci, was conspicuously absent from the celebration, adding a political tone to what had been billed as a national gathering of all Albanians.
Elsewhere in Macedonia, the centenary celebrations caused some minor incidents.
On Saturday, in the predominantly Albanian Cair neighbourhood of Skopje, a Macedonian flag was taken down and burned. In another neighbourhood, there were unconfirmed reports that a group of around 30 Albanians had attacked a group of youths.
Albanians make up about a quarter of Macedonia’s population of 2.1 million and form a majority in parts of the west of the country, especially in the towns of Tetovo and Gostivar.
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