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State of the World's Minorities 2006 - Macedonia

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 22 December 2005
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2006 - Macedonia, 22 December 2005, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48abdd8b25.html [accessed 21 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Political life in Macedonia is dominated by ethnic Macedonians and Albanians, resulting in adverse effects on other minority groups, particularly in the arenas of education, language, political representation and economic well-being. Since the end of the conflict between Macedonians and Albanians in 2001, a number of political and legal overtures have been made, especially as a result of the Ohrid Agreement. However, the Agreement has also been a cause for friction between minority groups, particularly in 2004 when plans to implement the decentralization process, in particular the redistricting phase, were made public. Redistricting will drastically affect the ethnic composition of each of the districts, turning minorities into majorities and vice versa. As the Ohrid Agreement was a tool to end the violence in 2001 between the two major ethnic groups, the decentralization process neglects the needs of other minorities. Tensions arise due to the wish of minority groups to use the decentralization process to achieve threshold 'status' in order to realize their rights, in contrast to the ethnic Macedonian population, who will thus relinquish some power to national minorities.

The Macedonian government has committed itself to correcting the imbalances in ethnic representation in public institutions in the Ohrid Agreement and, while advances have been made in this area, particularly among the Albanian population, the percentage of minorities employed in public institutions is significantly lower than their portion of the population. In 2004, data suggests that there were no Albanians employed in the public administration of Kumanovo, and Roma participation in the institutional life remains virtually non-existent. There are only three representatives of the Roma community employed in state institutions, none of which directly create or influence state policy on issues of relevance to Roma. This exacerbates the problem of Roma integration.

However, other aspects in the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement have contributed positively to the situation of national minority groups in Macedonia. Since 2001, there has been an 80 per cent increase in the employment of minorities; Albanians have obtained a level of representation in the parliament close to their actual share of the population; and a constitutional amendment was adopted that requires a 'double majority' for laws related to ethnic minorities.

A major problem affecting minority groups is the difficulty in obtaining Macedonian citizenship since one of the conditions for citizenship is to have a permanent source of income. This indirectly inhibits minorities, as they form a significant portion of the unemployed population, particularly Roma and Turks. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is often discriminatory towards Muslim (Albanians, Turks, Bosniaks) minorities, who often find that they are denied citizenship on the grounds that they are 'unsuitable for citizenship due to security reasons'. Lack of citizenship means that they are not represented in parliament, cannot run for political office and cannot access the same rights as other members of minority communities in Macedonia.

The political process continues to negatively influence the education of all ethnic groups in Macedonia. The education system has long been one of the major factors in the de facto segregation between ethnic Albanians and ethnic Macedonians. The insistence of both communities that their children be taught in their first language, resistance to learning each other's language and the persistence of the mono-cultural nature of education has been documented over 2001–4. This has an impact on the quality of education provided to all communities, and also facilitates growing intolerance among students and their families. The state has been slow to undertake the necessary effort to improve the infrastructure in the schools, including equipment, supplies and transportation of students. Worst affected are the rural areas and, by extension, the minority communities. For example, Albanian students are regularly placed in classes already over the capacity limit for both the student-teacher ratio and in terms of space. They also suffer from lack of heating and water, and an inability to be introduced to basic educational requirements such as laboratory work. Other ethnic communities are unable to provide quality education to students because of their isolation; as a result, many members of ethnic minorities do not continue their education past primary school. Among the worst cases is that of Turkish children who must travel great distances to attend school after the fourth grade, as after the fourth grade instruction in Turkish is available only in very few schools throughout the country. Many children do not continue their education after the fourth grade, as they cannot afford to travel the great distances, nor purchase the schoolbooks and materials required to continue their education.

Roma children are often treated as people of low intelligence, which adversely affects their self-esteem, motivation and eventually their ability to continue their education. Their work is marked lower than the equivalent work of non-Roma students, although this is difficult to prove in the absence of explicit grading criteria. This collective punishment is compounded by a lack of measures to prevent discrimination by non-Roma children. Often Roma children do not complete primary school, which has consequences for their integration into society. The lack of employment because of insufficient education in turn means that they are also denied health and social care, as well as the wherewithal to overcome these barriers, and other day-to-day problems.

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