Skopje – Macedonia’s parliament on Thursday rejected a bill that would have granted financial compensation to soldiers and policemen wounded or killed in the 2001 conflict between Macedonian state forces and ethnic Albanian guerillas..
The bill, which foresaw one-off payments for families of dead servicemen and various pension, healthcare and unemployment benefits for war invalids, was tabled by the ‘Dignity’ veterans’ association with the backing of 30,000 signatures.
Albanian war veteran associations are also demanding state benefits. The number of casualties and injuries on the Albanian side is not officially determined, while the Macedonians estimate some 69 dead and several hundred injured.
The government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, which includes an ethnic Albanian party, took no formal position on the bill. In the vote, 20 out of 120 MPs were in favor of the law, 39 abstained and 10 voted against.
The conflict ended in August 2001 with the signing of the Ohrid peace accord that granted greater rights to Macedonia’s 25-percent Albanian minority.
The European Union has said it is monitoring Skopje’s progress on minority rights and intra-ethnic cooperation to assess whether the country is mature enough to move further towards membership.