- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- All Balkan Countries
Macedonians and Albanians are trading insults on Facebook and other social networking sites after video footage was shown of Kosovo football fans burning the Macedonian flag.
The video footage shows Kosovo fans burning the Macedonian flag
The burning of the flag apparently happened on Wednesday in Kacanik at a Kosovo league match between the teams of Drita and Lepenci, none of which has a connection to Macedonia.
“We will burn you down”, “Death to Slavs, [meaning Macedonians]” or “Death to Shiptari [an offensive word for Albanians]”, are just some of the posts on several Facebook groups that have been set up since the incident was aired.
By Sunday afternoon there were over 5,000 posts, mainly offensive in tone, aimed at one or other of the rival Facebook groups.
“This is unacceptable and we will track down and pursue all who post hate speech on the internet,” the Macedonian police spokesperson, Ivo Kotevski, said.
The provocative video footage shows Kosovar fans burning the Macedonian flag at a stadium while the crowd shouts “Ethnic Albania!”
A slogan saying “2012 is not the end of the world, it’s the end of Macedonia,” is also evident on the footage.
On Thursday Macedonia's Foreign Ministry sent a protest note to Kosovo, arguing that such “uncivilized acts” cast a shadow on good neighbourly relations.
On Friday Kosovo openly condemned the burning of the flag.
The largest ethnic Albanian party in Macedonia, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, which is part of the government, hinted that the flag burning might be a reaction to a match between Macedonia and Albania two weeks ago in the Macedonian town of Prilep where Macedonian football fans allegedly shouted “Gas chambers for Albanians!”
“We already condemned what happened previously in Prilep,” Bujar Osmani of the DUI noted. “Of course... we condemn all acts of hate speech and violence. The football federations should act and penalise the fans,” he added.
This is not the first time that Kosovo football fans have torched the Macedonian flag.
In 2009, fans set light to a Macedonian flag at a match held between two Kosovo teams, Vlaznimi and Prishtina.
This act was said to be a reaction to the recent publication of a controversial encyclopaedia in Macedonia, which was later withdrawn. Albanians objected to the references in it to their community.
The tome described Albanians living in Macedonia as “settlers” who arrived in the 16th century and referred to them as “Shiptari” – a term Albanians regard as deeply offensive.
Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski eventually distanced himself from the book’s content and it was pulled from shelves.
Macedonia recognized Kosovo's independence in 2008 despite strong opposition from neighbouring Serbia. Both countries generally have good relations and are keen trading partners.
Albanians make up about a quarter of Macedonia’s population of 2.1 million.
The torching of their national flag by Serbian hooligans at a football match in Italy has outraged Macedonia’s Albanians.
Donors spent hundreds of thousands of euro building a new museum in Gjirokastra - but the results were questionable and it ultimately closed over an ideological dispute.