Mass protests in Macedonia for EU commissioner’s visit

Thursday, 23 March, 2017 - 15:30

Tens of thousands of protesters descended on Macedonia's capital, Skopje, to demonstrate against a proposed unity government during the visit of EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn.

But some 50 000 demonstrators filled the streets of Skopje to voice their opposition to a coalition government that would include Social Democrats as well as ethnic Albanians.

Macedonia’s coalition talks – after an inconclusive December election – have failed to secure Albanian support for a majority in parliament.

The country’s conservative President Gjorge Ivanov has refused the EU’s proposed plan to ignore the election outcome and its insistence on a “platform undermining Macedonia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence”.

The controversial demand by ethnic Albanian parties to elevate Albanian as a second official language in the country, has been met with mounting resistance.

Only around one fourth of Macedonia’s 2.1 million people are Albanian Muslims and their language is currently recognised in regions where they are present.

The majority of Macedonians are against the demand to include Albanian as an official language. “The language that we all understand is Macedonain and the [Muslim demand] is only aimed at breaking up the country. That’s why we won’t allow it to become the policy of any government,” said Bogdan Ilievski, a protest organiser.

Source: FWM.