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EU Warns Macedonia - 2001-10-04

Two top European Union officials are in Macedonia to warn the country's government that it can forget about reconstruction aid if it does not soon enact crucial constitutional reforms. The EU says, as long as the government does not ratify a peace deal giving ethnic-Albanians more rights, the European Union will be forced to postpone a donors' meeting for Macedonia that is scheduled for later this month.

The European Union is growing impatient with the Macedonian Parliament's failure to put the elements of the peace deal in place.

Under a so-called framework agreement signed in August, the multi-party government is obliged to make Albanian an official language in areas of the country where ethnic Albanians are the majority. It is also supposed to give ethnic Albanians a bigger role in local government. And it should approve an amnesty for ethnic-Albanian guerrillas who fought a six-month war with security forces in a campaign to get more rights for their community.

These were the conditions of the peace agreement that led the insurgents to hand in nearly 4,000 weapons under NATO supervision over a 30 day period that ended last month.

The European Union has sent its foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, and its external affairs commissioner, Chris Patten, to Skopje to tell Macedonian leaders that parliament's failure to approve the peace plan could deprive the country of needed foreign aid.

Mr. Patten's spokesman, Gunnar Wiegand, phrases the warning in diplomatic language. "The commissioner will obviously focus on our reconstruction efforts in the country and other support, which, however, is fully conditional upon the adoption of the framework agreement and related constitutional amendments and the local governance law," he said.

In other words, no quick approval of the reforms, no money.

Representatives of the EU and the United States in Skopje are also highly concerned about the intention of Macedonia's nationalist interior minister, Ljube Boskoski, to send police into heavily ethnic Albanian areas before an amnesty to the insurgents is granted and the reform package is adopted by Parliament.

At least two former guerrilla commanders have warned that if police re-occupy areas where demobilized guerrillas live before an amnesty is enacted and the reforms are approved, it could lead to renewed warfare.