Macedonia’s ethnic Albanians are urging the government to reach a deal with Greece over the name issue that has dogged the two neighbors for the past 18 years, local media reported.
The ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), a junior partner in the coalition government, has set a deadline for its senior ethnic partner, the Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO DPMNE), to solve the ongoing spat until December.
Macedonia hopes to get a date from the December EU council to start its EU accession talks, a decision that needs consensus from all 27 member states. Greece, a full member of the EU, threatens to block the move if a solution for the name row is not reached.
Last year, Athens blocked Skopje from entering NATO due to the same reason, insisting that Skopje’s official name, “the Republic of Macedonia,” implies its territorial claims toward Greece’s own northern province, also with the name of Macedonia.
After the blockade, the DUI has given the center-right VMRO DPMNE party a free hand to deal with the name issue. However, the ethnic Albanians have made it clear that their patience will not last forever.
If there is no solution until December, “Albanians will enter NATO and EU without Macedonians,” DUI’s parliament member Rafiz Aliti said Monday, without clarifying whether that would mean that the DUI considers leaving the government or other radical steps.
VMRO DPMNE has so far reacted only by saying it would not succumb to ultimatums when issues of national interest such as the name problem are concerned.
Ethnic Albanians make up a quarter of the two million people living in the western Balkan country. The EU and NATO prospects of the country are seen by observers as the strongest ties that bond the Macedonian majority and the Albanian minority. Without that, some fear the ethnic tensions of the past might return.