News 25 Sep 12

Macedonia Albanians Filibuster over Army Law

Logjam over army law continues in parliament, where the government's ethnic Albanian junior partner is blocking adoption through marathon speeches.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

DUI legislator, Talat Xhaferi

Ethnic Albanian legislators in Macedonia are trying to "talk out" a proposed law on the rights of the military, blocking its passage in parliament through the means of marathon speeches.

The law, put forward earlier this month by the main ruling VMRO DPMNE party, concerns the rights of members of the armed forces who fought in the 2001 armed conflict, and their families.

The draft law has angered ethnic Albanian parties, which either want the same rights extended to former Albanian guerrilla fighters and their families in the 2001 conflict - or the bill dropped altogether.

“The DUI and I will do everything in our power to block the law,” Talat Xhaferi, a legislator from the Democratic Union for Integration warned in parliament on Monday, as he vowed to continue his two weeks of filibustering.

By using a procedural gap that places no limit on the time that a speech must take at the commission where the draft is stuck, Xhaferi has played on the patience of his colleagues.

They have so far been forced to listen to him reading poetry, citing foreign literature and reports on Macedonia, mumbling or simply remaining silent, waiting for the time to pass.

On Monday he insisted that he was still not ready to wrap up his discussion.

After initially threatening to leave government over the law, the DUI last week retreated, concluding at a party meeting that they should stay in the government led by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, for now.

However, they said they will continue blocking the draft provision, effectively encouraging Xhaferi to continue his marathon speeches.

The Prime Minister last week said that he does not understand what the fuss is all about.

“The law is a modest compensation for people who defended Macedonia in 2001,” Gruevski said, adding that he and his party will keep pushing for its adoption.

VMRO DPMNE demanded the law after Defence Minister Fatmir Besimi, an Albanian from the ranks of DUI, in August angered many Macedonians by bowing before a village memorial erected to Albanian insurgents who fought in 2001.

In 2001 Macedonia suffered a brief but violent armed conflict between government forces and Albanian fighters, which ended with the signing of the Ohrid Peace Accord.

This gave more rights to Albanians in the country in exchange for them disbanding the guerrilla force. Many of its members later formed the DUI.

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