Macedonia Albanians Hurl Amendments at Army Bill

n the latest twist over the controversial proposed army law, the ethnic Albanian party in government has filed over 15,000 proposed amendments aimed at preventing its adoption.The ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, overwhelmed Macedonia’s parliament on Monday with thousands of proposed amendments to a proposed law, creating mounds of paperwork.

The move was the latest attempt to block adoption of the law. It follows an earlier blockade of the law by the party in parliament that lasted two months.

“Every time the ethnic Macedonian community tries to arbitrarily impose its own will and seriously hamper the democratic principles of multiethnic coexistence… we will file 15,000 and even 150,000 amendments to prevent this,” Ermira Mehmeti Devaja, a DUI legislator, warned.

The draft law, submitted by the main ruling VMRO DPMNE party of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, has angered Albanians who make up about a quarter of the population.

The law envisages state pensions, free healthcare and other benefits for army and police veterans of the 2001 conflict between government forces and Albanian insurgents.

Albanian parties want the same rights extended to former guerrilla fighters, or they want the bill dropped altogether.

The VMRO DPMNE party on Monday said it would not back down on the bill.

“The draft law is not anti-Albanian since Albanians and other nationalities were engaged in the Army and police in the [2001] conflict,” a VMRO DPMNE legislator, Aleksandar Nikoloski, said. “We will make sure that the law is passed,” he added.

The DUI stalled an earlier debate on the law in parliament for months by filibustering – with legislator Talat Xhaferi making almost endless speeches.

VMRO then withdrew the bill and re-submitted it as an urgent law under a shortened procedure with a time limit imposed on the length of parliamentary speeches.

This prompted the DUI to change strategy as well and start preparing thousands of amendments.

The draft law has been at the centre of a dispute between the two coalition partners.

After initially threatening to leave the government over the law, the DUI in mid-September stepped back, concluding at a party meeting that they should stay in the government led by Gruevski for now.

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