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Tuesday, 13 August, 2002, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
Macedonia's year of peace
A military helicopters flies above the talks venue at Lake Ohrid
The deal came after weeks of talks at a lakeside villa

It is one year since the signing of the peace agreement which ended seven months of fighting in Macedonia.


Two communities agreed after 100 years of disagreement and contradiction

Ali Ahmeti, former ethnic Albanian leader
The agreement, negotiated in the country's lakeside resort of Ohrid, began a process of political reforms - in return for which ethnic-Albanian rebels agreed to end their uprising.

It has been largely successful, but relations between the country's Macedonian and Albanian populations remain difficult.

The deal was never a popular one.

Huge step

Although all the leaders of Macedonia's four main political parties put their names to it, they only did so after weeks of difficult negotiations in the president's villa.

Macedonian policeman
The government was threatening an offensive
In effect, the majority-Macedonian population agreed to give greater political and social rights to the ethnic-Albanian minority in exchange for peace.

Neither side was happy with the compromise, but the then leader of the ethnic-Albanian rebels, Ali Ahmeti, still believes it was a major breakthrough.

"The Ohrid Agreement is historic," he says.

"Two communities agreed after 100 years of disagreement and contradiction.

"Regardless of what people say, the Ohrid agreement is certainly a huge step - even though it can't be said that it is ideal."

Outside pressure

The agreement was only possible because of strong pressure from the United States and the European Union.


You can see how mature the Macedonian parties were to be able to find this compromise

EU representative
Alain Le Roi
But the current EU representative, Alain Le Roi, prefers to stress the role of Macedonian politicians.

"To the international community it's still a very important date, because it shows how Macedonian party leaders have been able to find a compromise which has been, I must say, very effective in this last year," he says.

"If we compare the conflict in Macedonia to all the conflicts which happened in the Balkans you can see how mature the Macedonian parties were to be able to find this compromise."

But Macedonia's politicians are unwilling to take any credit for the agreement.

Indeed no official events were planned to mark the anniversary and there is almost no mention of it in the local media.

In the run-up to elections next month, there are few votes to be won in championing an agreement which is widely regarded as a foreign imposition.

Separate lives

After the agreement, a Nato-led peacekeeping force supervised the collection of several thousand weapons from the rebel National Liberation Army - just a fraction of the total they were suspected of possessing.

That was followed by months of difficult negotiations in parliament to amend the country's constitution and pass new laws.

Almost all the legislation envisaged in the Ohrid Agreement has now been passed, a multi-ethnic police force now operates in ethnic-Albanian areas and the agreement has prevented serious fighting.

But the situation remains tense and the two communities have grown even further apart and live largely separate lives.

The peace process only continues with financial and political pressure from the US and EU.

A year on, the Ohrid Agreement looks like a successful piece of diplomacy but a less successful attempt at reconciliation.

And with parties on both sides of the ethnic divide using fear and nationalism to win support in the forthcoming election, it's unlikely to make any progress in that direction for some time.

Peace is more than the absence of war, but in Macedonia the absence of war is welcome enough.

See also:

22 Aug 01 | Europe
16 Nov 01 | Europe
29 Dec 01 | Review of 2001
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