Alarm Bells Ring over North Macedonia Plan for ‘Ethnic IDs’

Cold political calculation has given wings to a motion to include ethnicity in ID cards in North Macedonia, setting the country apart from the rest of the world. Critics are alarmed.

Aproposal by a small but key party in North Macedonia’s ruling coalition to introduce an ethnicity field in the ID card carried by each and every citizen has won almost universal political approval in the country, despite warnings that the move threatens to deepen ethnic divisions and encourage discrimination.

North Macedonia boasts a number of ethnic minorities, the biggest of which is the Albanian minority living mainly in the north and west and which accounts for at least 25 per cent of the country’s two million people.

A former Yugoslav republic, North Macedonia teetered on the brink of civil war in 2001 during clashes between government security forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas. The fighting ended in a deal granting Albanians greater rights and representation, but ethnic divisions still run deep.

The motion to give people the right to include their ethnicity in their ID cards was put forward in February by the ethnic Albanian BESA party, which is part of the coalition government led by the Social Democrats.

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