Macedonia Adopts Albanian Language Law Amid Scuffles

Opposition MPs in Macedonia voiced outrage on Wednesday after the ruling majority adopted the Law on Languages straight away, without taking into consideration their 34,000 amendments submitted to block the bill.

MPs from the opposition right-wing VMRO DPMNE party, which strongly opposed the bill, surrounded the speaker, Talat Xhaferi, for a couple of minutes prior and during the voting.

Former Prime Minister and former VMRO DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski went behind Xhaferi’s desk and tried to meddle with his electronic equipment.

Tension peaked as Xhaferi declared that the bill was adopted, after which Gruevski had a brief scuffle with the speaker, prompting the parliament security to intervene and separate the two.

Despite opposition MPs shouting that the law and the entire procedure was unconstitutional, 64 MPs from the ruling majority voted for the law – seen as the last legal remaining provision stemming from the 2001 peace deal that ended an armed conflict between Albanian insurgents and Macedonian forces.

Parliament already passed this law in January but only few days later President Gjorge Ivanov vetoed it, insisting, like the opposition, that the provision goes against the constitution.

By adopting it for the second time, the law no longer needs the signature from the president to be put into effect.

The only way to annul the bill now, or some of its provisions, would be through an appeal to the Constitutional Court.

The law extends the official use of Albanian over the entire country, in which ethnic Albanians make up around a quarter of the total population of 2.1 million, easing communication in Albanian with institutions like municipalities, hospitals and courts.

The previous law defined Albanian as an official language, but only gave it that status in those areas where Albanians make up over 20 per cent of the local population.