News 04 Feb 13

Macedonia Town Honours Kosovo War Commander

The Albanian majority on Tetovo’s town council sparked controversy by declaring former Kosovo Liberation Army commander Ramush Haradinaj an honorary citizen.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Tetovo | Photo by: Martin Broz

The town council session that voted to honour Haradinaj was boycotted by nine ethnic Macedonian councillors, but Tetevo’s 19 ethnic Albanian councillors backed the idea unanimously.

One ethnic Macedonian councillor in the north-western town, Miroslav Kocovski, said the move was “unserious and degrading, to say the least”.

The decision on Friday has the potential to further damage the already fragile inter-ethnic relations in Macedonia, where Albanians make up one quarter of the population and in some parts form the majority.

It also has the potential to shake the ethnically-mixed government led by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski because town councillors from the ruling coalition’s Albanian junior party, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, also voted for the motion.

The head of the state secretariat for local government, Vanco Sehtanski, an ethnic Macedonian, said he would “inspect whether the decision was legal”, and annul it if was not.

He said he suspected that it contradicted a rule which states that both main ethnic communities must vote for a motion in order for it to pass.

Ramush Haradinaj is a former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army that fought Serbian forces during the 1990s conflict, and also a former prime minister.

He was acquitted of committing war crimes during the conflict by the Hague Tribunal last year.

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

A political crisis also erupted in autumn last year when defence minister Fatmir Besimi, an ethnic Albanian from the DUI, laid flowers at a monument to Albanian guerrillas killed in the 2001 conflict.

The act outraged many Macedonians, and Gruevski's VMRO DPMNE party soon afterwards put forward a draft law on the military that excluded former guerrillas from recieving state pensions, which in turn prompted the DUI to threaten to leave the government.

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