EU urges Macedonia to drop block on ‘Albanian language row’ government

 Reuters International

MAR 2, 2017 – 
Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov addresses the United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., September 22, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz(reuters_tickers)

By Kole Casule

SKOPJE (Reuters) – The EU on Thursday asked Macedonia’s president to reverse a move to block a coalition including ethnic Albanian parties from forming a government, urging political leaders to step back from a dispute that risked sparking conflict.

President Gjorge Ivanov on Wednesday refused to give his backing to the coalition of Social Democrats and ethnic Albanian parties, arguing its pledge to allow wider official use of the Albanian language amounted to foreign interference in Macedonia’s affairs.

After meeting Ivanov and other political leaders in Skopje, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini urged him to reconsider. Hours earlier Russia criticised the coalition deal.

“I asked the president to reflect on the way forward to reverse his decision in the interest of all citizens,” Mogherini told a news conference.

Macedonia should “scale down the rhetoric (to) avoid that this political and institutional crisis becomes an inter-ethnic conflict or even worse a geopolitical conflict.”

Relations between the country’s Macedonians – who are Orthodox Christians – and ethnic Albanians – who are mostly Muslim – have long been fraught. Macedonia went to the brink of civil war during an ethnic Albanian insurgency in 2001 before EU and U.S. diplomacy helped broker a peace deal.



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