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News 30 Dec 16

Macedonian Albanian Leaders Plot Joint Strategy in Tirana

Heads of three of the four parties representing Macedonia's large ethnic Albanian community met in Tirana and expressed the need to seize the moment in Macedonia and agree on demands.

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana
Albanian PM Edi Rama and the leaders of Albanian parties in Macedonia. Photo: Rama Facebook page

Representatives of three of the four main Macedonian Albanian parties met Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama and Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati in Tirana on Thursday.

The meeting comes at a time when Albanian MPs in Macedonia's parliament are considered a likely key factor in the formation of the next government there, following an election in which the two main blocs emerged with similar numbers of seats.

The leader the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, Ali Ahmeti, the chairman of the Besa movement, Bilal Kasami, and the leader of the Movement for Reform - Democratic Party of Albanians, LR PDSH, Ziadin Sela, were accompanied but other party members at the meeting with Rama and Bushati.

The leader of Besa also acted as an informal representative in the meeting for the two MPs from the Democratic Party of Albanians, DPA.

After DPA chairman Menduh Thaci resigned following the election in Macedonia, he asked Besa to represent his MPs.

Rama published pictures from the meeting on Facebook accompanied by the caption "Brotherly", suggesting that the meeting was held in the spirit of fraternal goodwill.

No other statement or press release was issued about the meeting by the Albanian government, however.

Despite that, it is assumed that the core of the discussions concerned the need for Macedonian Albanians to use this post-election moment and agree on a joint platform designed to improve the status and conditions of their fellow Albanians in Macedonia.

Albanians make up around 25 per cent of the population of Macedonia but have long felt marginalised.

LR PDSH chief Ziadin Sela told Ora News TV after the meeting that the time was ripe to demand more rights.

He said the 20 ethnic Albanian MPs in parliament in Skopje should agree on key conditions for taking part in government, starting with making the Albanian language official throughout the country, not only in areas where Albanians are numerous.

"The way the budget is divided between the communities in the country should also be fair," he said.

Albanian-language media outlets in Macedonia have been circulating a draft of a platform that it was thought was discussed in the meeting with Rama.

The draft has not been confirmed by the Albanian government or by the Albanian party leaders in Macedonia as an official set of demands.

However, it too emphasized language rights, national symbols and the demand for economic parity in Macedonia.

In the December election in Macedonia, the Social Democratic Union, SDSM, emerged with 49 seats and the nationalist VMRO DPMNE party with 51. Each bloc needs one or more partners from the Albanian community to achieve a majority of 61 in the 120-seat assembly.

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