News 13 Nov 12

Macedonian Army Law May Take 42 Years

Macedonia’s parliament has started discussing amendments to a controversial army law as the impact of 15,000 proposed revisions is becoming apparent.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Macedonian parliament building | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

If the first day of debate at the parliamentary commission on social affairs is anything to go by, it might take staggering 42 years to go through all the 15,000 amendments to the army law.

 On Monday, the lawmakers managed to discuss, and reject, only one amendment.

Since it was submitted in mid-September, the ethnic Albanian party and the junior partner in the ruling coalition, the DUI, has blocked the bill, first by stalling the debate with long speeches, and then, when the main ruling party last month sought a shortened procedure, by filing more than 15,000 amendments.

The draft law, pushed by the main ruling VMRO DPMNE party of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, envisages state pensions, free healthcare and other benefits - but only for Macedonian army veterans of the 2001 conflict between government forces and Albanian insurgents.

Ethnic Albanian parties want the same rights extended to former Albanian guerrilla fighters, or want the bill dropped altogether.

The rift over the law has been at the centre of the crisis between the government partners.

“Today we start our battle to save the inter-ethnic relations and build bridges between Macedonians and Albanians,” said during the session Xhevat Ademi from the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI.

The DUI filed more than 15,000 amendments

After initially threatening to leave the government over the law, the DUI in mid-September stepped back from its threat, concluding that it would stay in the government, for now.

More friction in parliament is expected if some Macedonian legislators succeed in their idea to effectively group the DUI amendments in order to save time.

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