Civil Rights Reforms for Minority Albanians in Macedonia | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 16.11.2001
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Civil Rights Reforms for Minority Albanians in Macedonia

The amendments ratified by the Macedonian parliament don’t just benefit the minority Albanian community. They are also a significant step in overcoming ethnic tensions and paving the way for long-lasting peace.


No more gunfire in Macedonia

Macedonia's parliament ratified a peace accord with minority Albanians in an unexpected early morning vote on Friday after dithering for almost two months.

The formal amendment to the constitution includes far-sweeping reforms for the 600,000 strong minority Albanian community.

It guarantees more jobs for ethnic Albanians in the public services, especially the police force. It also does away with the offending term "second class citizens" for the Albanians and recognizes the official use of the Albanian language.

Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski declared on Friday that all former ethnic Albanian guerrillas, who voluntarily disarmed under a NATO weapons-collection scheme completed on September 26 as well as convicts, would be covered by an amnesty.

Henceforth nobody can be arrested or prosecuted for acts of armed violence during the conflict, which ended with the August 13 Ohrid Agreement.

Any war-crimes prosecutions would be the sole province of the U.N. Tribunal, a provision intended to avoid false prosecutions motivated by ethnic enmity rather than concrete evidence.

Robert Serry, head of NATO's Balkan Task Force who co-led the amnesty negotiations with Trajkovski and negotiated with guerrilla leaders in the hills on the terms, said Trajkovski had made a brave decision that Macedonia would not regret.

"The amnesty together with ratification of the peace agreement will turn the agenda from the recent past of conflict and mistrust to reconciliation and a better future for the people of Macedonia," Serry said.

Germany welcomes constitutional amendments

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer welcomed the adoption of the amendments of the Macedonian Constitution, assessing it as a good example for preventing future conflicts.

He added that the German Government and the European Union support Macedonia in the implementation of the regulations arising from the Framework agreement.

"The constitutional changes and the measures included in the Framework agreement should be appropriately implemented," Fischer stressed, adding that it is important to resolve the issue on amnesty.

The German Foreign Minister appealed to the political factors in Macedonia to refrain from provocations, and all provocations and problems to be resolved peacefully through dialogue.

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