The largest ethnic Albanian party in Macedonia, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), has decided to resume participation in Parliament after a boycott lasting nearly four months. The move came after an agreement was reached with Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s VMRO-DPMNE party.
“The political talks have been completed successfully,” Gruevski and DUI leader Ali Ahmeti said in a joint statement following their meeting Tuesday (May 29th), which capped weeks of negotiations.
The parties reportedly agreed on 46 draft bills that should fall under the so-called Badinter Principle, in which some categories of legislation cannot be adopted without first being endorsed by MPs representing ethnic minorities.
In addition, they agreed to make changes to Parliament’s Interethnic Relations Committee, with a VMRO-DPMNE member to be replaced by one from the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM). The SDSM will thus gain a majority on the committee.
Reaction from the EU and the United States was immediate, with both welcoming the prospect that the political crisis that has dogged Macedonia for months may have reached its conclusion.
The deal is “an important step forward in relation to the integration processes of the country towards the EU and NATO”, said a joint statement from the EU Mission in Skopje and the US Embassy.
The EU’s representative in Macedonia, Erwan Fouere, commented on the latest developments, stressing the need to focus all efforts on the reform process.
Continuing reforms is vital because the country faces crucial decisions related to EU and NATO membership, he said.
Prior to Tuesday’s announcement, there was another twist. On Saturday, the head of the junior coalition partner Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), Menduh Thaci, said his party was leaving the cabinet. One reason, he suggested, was that the VMRO-DPMNE was on the verge of reaching an agreement with the DUI.
Speaking in a weekend BBC interview, the DUI’s Ahmeti said he was ready to sign a deal with Gruevksi that would cover such issues as pensions for NLA fighters and use of the Albanian language, in addition to changing members of the Interethnic Relations Committee and categorizing laws under the Badinter Principle.
Gruevski, however, denied that the VMRO-DPMNE and the DUI were entering into any formal arrangement.
“Nothing has ever been said about signing an agreement. We have not agreed about anything regarding the use of Albanian and pensions for NLA fighters,” the prime minister said.
He then met with Thaci to discuss boosting communication between the VMRO-DPMNE and the DPA. Later in the day, the VMRO-DPMNE announced that the current coalition and political dialogue are continuing.