Macedonian government at crisis-point due to Greek pressure over NATO membership

The Democratic Party of Albanians, one of the parties in government, leaves the ruling coalition after the Prime Minister rejects a number of its demands · Its leader accuses the government of ‘irresponsible behaviour’ in the light of Greek threats to veto Macedonia’s NATO membership.

Menduh Thaçi, leader of the Democratic Party of Albanians (PDA), has defined the attitude of the Macedonian government, which included PDA until last Wednesday, as "irresponsible". PDA had drafted a number of proposals relating to the rights of the country's Albanian community, which it then presented to the Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski. According to Le Courrier des Balcans, the draft proposals included making Albanian an official language in Macedonia, boosting the number of Albanians employed in the public sector, and officially recognizing the new state of Kosovo. 

But PDA's coalition partners rejected the proposals, adding to the pressure the government is already under. Macedonia is currently pushing for NATO membership, but Greece is threatening to stop its neighbour from becoming a member. PDA claims the government's refusal reflects "a lack of seriousness in the functioning of state institutions at a time of major historic importance". "I do not want my party to be part of this", Thaçi said, according to B92.

This is a crucial time for Macedonia's international relations. In 2005 the country officially became a candidate for EU membership, although no timetable has yet been set. And in a matter of weeks, an official summit is to be held in Bucharest to discuss Macedonia's NATO entry. Greece has threatened to veto Macedonian membership unless the naming row that has caused tension between the two countries since the former Yugoslav republic became independent in 1991 is resolved.

Greece has never consented to the neighbouring republic, which has a majority Slav population, being called ‘Macedonia', a toponym of Greek origin that also refers to a region in northern Greece. For this reason, the independent state's provisional official name is the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The United Nations is currently acting as mediator in the dispute. The next round of talks will be held in Vienna or Geneva, between 17 and 25 March, according to Balkan Insight.

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