News 03 Apr 13

Macedonia Scraps Town's Bid to Honour Haradinaj

National authorities have annulled the decision of the ethnic Albanian stronghold of Tetovo to make the former Kosovo Liberation Army commander Ramush Haradinaj an honorary citizen.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Macedonia's secretariat for local government has annulled the controversial decision in February of the ethnic Albanian majority on Tetovo’s town council to make Haradinaj an honorary citizen.

The decision was deemed to contradict a rule which states that both main ethnic communities must vote for such a motion in order for it to pass.

The annulment has been published in the Macedonian official gazette.

Former Kosovo Liberation Army commander Ramush Haradinaj fought Serbian forces during the conflict in Kosovo in the 1990s, and was later a prime minister of Kosovo.

In February, he was thrown a welcoming party in Tetovo and honoured by the town authorities.

But the council session that voted to honour Haradinaj was boycotted by all nine ethnic Macedonian councillors. Tetovo’s 19 ethnic Albanian councillors all backed the idea.

The latest controversy has potential to further damage already fragile ethnic relations in Macedonia, where Albanians make up a quarter of the population and in some parts form the majority.

Shortly after the Kosovo war ended, armed conflict broke out between Macedonian government forces and ethnic Albanian rebels, which ended with the signing of the 2001 Ohrid accord, which granted more rights to Albanians.

The decision also comes after two days of violent ethnically-charged protests in the capital, Skopje, in March, sparked by the controversial appointment of a former guerrilla, Talat Xhaferi, as defence minister.

An earlier political crisis erupted last autumn when defence minister Fatmir Besimi, an ethnic Albanian from the junior ruling party, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, laid flowers at a monument to Albanian guerrillas killed in the 2001 conflict.

The act outraged many Macedonians, and Nikola Gruevski's VMRO DPMNE party soon after put forward a draft law on the military that excluded former guerrillas from recieving state pensions.

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