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Macedonia - Government

According to the 2002 census, the ethnic composition of the population was 64.2 percent Macedonian, 25.2 percent Albanian, 3.9 percent Turkish, 2.7 percent Romani, 1.8 percent Serbian, 0.8 percent Bosniak, and 0.5 percent Vlach. In 1981 Yugoslav statistics showed about 1.3 million ethnic Macedonians in Yugoslavia, 250,000 in Pirin Macedonia (southwestern Bulgaria), and over 300,000 in Aegean Macedonia (northern Greece); Macedonians made up 6 percent of Yugoslavia's total population, 67 percent of Macedonia's, and .5 percent of Serbia's.

Beginning in the seventh century A.D., the area of the modern Republic of Macedonia was overwhelmingly populated by Slavs; and in the ninth century, Macedonia produced the first flourish of Slavic literary activity. Unresolved, however, is the specific nationality to which Macedonia's Slavs now belong. The Bulgars, Serbs, and, even the Greeks claim them. Bulgaria recognized the Macedonian minority in the Pirin region that it retained after World War II. In the late 1980s, however, neither Bulgaria nor Greece recognized a Macedonian nationality: Bulgaria insisted that Macedonia's Slavs were Bulgars; Greece maintained that the adjective "Macedonian" was only a territorial designation, and that the inhabitants of Aegean Macedonia were not Slavs at all but ethnic Greeks who happened to speak a Slavic language. By contrast, beginning in the 1960s the Yugoslav government gave the Macedonians the nominal status of a separate "nation," to forestall Greek and Bulgarian claims.

Macedonia was the first of the Yugoslav lands to fall under the Ottoman Turks and the last to be freed from Ottoman rule. The dark centuries of Ottoman domination left the region's Slavs backward, illiterate, and unsure of their ethnic identity. In the nineteenth century, Bulgarian, Serbian, and Greek clergymen established church schools in the region and worked to spread their respective national ideologies through education. Families often compromised by sending one child to each type of school, and whole villages frequently passed through several phases of religious and national reorientation. After the end of Ottoman rule, control of Macedonia became the most inflammatory issue of Balkan politics.

After a period of guerrilla warfare, terrorism, and savage reprisals ending with Bulgaria's defeat in the Second Balkan War in 1913, an anti-Bulgarian campaign began in the areas of Macedonia left under Serbian and Greek control. Bulgarian schools and churches were closed, and thousands of Macedonians fled to Bulgaria, which then was viewed as a place of refuge. The process was repeated after Bulgaria's World War I occupation of Macedonia ended. In the interwar period, Macedonian terrorist groups, with intermittent Bulgarian support, continued armed resistance against the Yugoslav government. The Yugoslavs refused to recognize a Macedonian nation, but many Macedonians accepted Yugoslav control in the 1930s and 1940s. Bulgarian occupation in 1941, first greeted as liberation, soon proved as offensive as the Yugoslav assimilation program it replaced; the sense of confused allegiance among Macedonians thus continued into the postwar period.

After World War II, the Yugoslav government recognized Macedonian nationhood and established a separate republic, energetically nurturing Macedonian national consciousness and the Macedonian language. The first standardized Macedonian grammar was published in 1948. Federal support for Macedonian cultural institutions, including a university in Skopje, furthered the program of national recognition. In 1967 Belgrade underscored the Macedonians' ethnic individuality by supporting the independence of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, which for years afterward enjoyed a more favored position than any of Yugoslavia's other churches.

The three official languages of Yugoslavia were Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, and Macedonian. Macedonian, which has elements of both Bulgarian and Serbo-Croatian, obtained a standardized Cyrillic-based alphabet and orthography only after World War II.

Relations between the ethnic Macedonian and Albanian communities often were strained. Ethnic Albanians continue to complain of unequal representation in government ministries. Ethnic Macedonians claim that employers targeted them for reverse discrimination in downsizing, regardless of performance. Some ethnic Albanians claimed that discrimination in citizenship decisions by the Ministry of Interior, which has authority to grant, revoke, interrupt, or confirm a person’s citizenship, effectively disenfranchised them.

In 2001, Macedonia faced the specter of a bloody civil war. Thanks to the courage and vision of this country’s political leaders, and the careful negotiations of skillful American and European diplomats, the Ohrid Framework Agreement (OFA) was signed on 13 August 2001, and war was averted. That historic agreement paved the way for this country to progress towards becoming a stable, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and inter-religious society, and towards its stated goal of full integration into the Euro-Atlantic community. The 2001 Ohrid Framework Agreement pulled Macedonia back from the brink of conflict between majority Macedonians and a sizable Albanian minority. Since then, the country has stabilized its political institutions, passed reform legislation and created more equitable ethnic representation in public institutions. The Ohrid Framework Agreement (OFA) remains the key instrument for maintaining interethnic harmony in Macedonia. Even though it has been imperfectly implemented, it is still an effective tool to reduce the risk of another civil conflict.

The law provides for protection of minority rights and integration of all sectors of society. The government has a secretariat to hold accountable those state institutions that do not comply with the strategy for equitable minority representation, but the organization lacked enforcement and sanctioning mechanisms. According to the secretariat, there were 2,500 new public administration jobs advertised and 560 new jobs offered to ethnic minorities during the year. Data from July 2011 showed that ethnic minorities accounted for approximately 24 percent of the employees of state institutions.

Minorities remain under-represented in the military, despite improved and continued efforts to recruit qualified minority candidates. Ethnic Albanians represented 18 percent of the army in 2011, and minorities as a whole accounted for 25 percent.

The law provides for primary and secondary education in the Macedonian, Albanian, Romani, Turkish, and Serbian languages. The number of minority students who received secondary education in their native languages continued to increase, especially after secondary education became mandatory.

Ethnic Turks complained of discrimination. Their main concerns were slow progress in achieving equitable representation in government institutions, the absence of ethnic Turkish-majority municipalities, and the inadequacy of Turkish-language education and media.

Roma complained of widespread societal discrimination. NGOs and international experts reported that employers often denied Roma job opportunities, and some Roma complained of lack of access to public welfare funds. Roma NGOs also reported that proprietors occasionally denied Roma entrance to their establishments. Many Roma lacked identity cards, which are necessary to obtain government services such as education, welfare, and health care.

The government funded implementation of the national strategy for the Roma Decade, including assistance with education, housing, employment, and infrastructure development. The government also continued to fund Roma information centers that directed Roma to educational, health care, and social welfare resources. Increased NGO and government funding to eliminate barriers to education for Romani students resulted in a continued increase in school attendance rates. For the 2010-11 school year, there were 2 percent fewer Romani students enrolled in primary education and 13 percent fewer in secondary education than during the previous school year.





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Page last modified: 20-11-2012 16:22:35 ZULU