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Macedonia Disappoints Albanians on Flag Celebration

March 28, 2012

After initially suggesting it would mark the hundredth anniversary of Albania’s red-and-black flag, the government has now beat a retreat, following opposition criticism of the proposal.

By Sinisa Jakov Marusic, Balkan Insight, 28.03.2012

Albanian flags | Photo by: Jemi Shum

Macedonia’s parliament has disappointed  the country’s large Albanian community by deciding not to add Albanian Flag Day to the national calendar.

This means that ministries and the parliament will not mark the occasion on November 28.

As a compromise gesture, the state will give money for the Institute for the Spiritual Heritage of Albanians to mark the hundredth anniversary of the day when Albania proclaimed independence from the Ottoman Empire.

The day is very dear to ethnic Albanians who make up one-quarter of Macedonia’s population of 2.1 million, and for years they have pushed for its inclusion in the list of Macedonian holidays.

Initially, the main ruling VMRO DPMNE party of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski agreed to put the anniversary on this year’s agenda, mainly to appease its Albanian partner, the Democratic Union for Albanians, DUI.

But they soon retreated under fierce criticism from the opposition Social Democrats who said celebrating the Albanian flag would offend ethnic Macedonians and fuel ethnic tension.

The Macedonian flag has been torched on several occasions in neighboring Kosovo and Albania.

The last such incident happened in mid-March in the Albanian town of Burel and was condemned by the Albanian authorities.

In March Macedonia experienced the worst inter-ethnic gang violence since the Balkan country narrowly avoided civil war in 2001.

Gangs mainly of young people attacked people in buses and on the streets of the capital and in other towns, leaving at least 15 injured. Police apprehended about 30 suspects. No major incidents have been reported in the last few days.

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