Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 November 2017, 17:20 GMT

Macedonia: Implementation of the Framework (Ohrid) Agreement

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 18 July 2003
Citation / Document Symbol MCD41727.E
Reference 7
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Macedonia: Implementation of the Framework (Ohrid) Agreement, 18 July 2003, MCD41727.E, available at: [accessed 23 November 2017]
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.

The Framework (Ohrid) Agreement

The Framework or Ohrid Agreement was the culmination of negotiations that sought to end immediately hostilities between the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA, ONA in Macedonian, UCK in Albanian) and Macedonian government security forces (USIP 30 Nov. 2002). Signed by representatives of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation-Democratic Party of National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE), the Social-Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) and the ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity (PDP) on 13 August 2001 (JEMIE 2002a, 2), the Macedonian parliament ratified the agreement on 16 November 2001 (USIP 30 Nov. 2002). A complete English translation of the Framework Agreement can be viewed on the Website of the President of the Republic of Macedonia at .

The Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister stated in January 2002 that the agreement is "the most important political document for the future of Macedonia," while a government spokesperson suggested that it was "‘the political backbone that keeps this government together'" (IWPR 9 Jan. 2002). Other observers noted that it "largely sets the agenda of the reform process needed to bring back stability to the country" (EU 5 July 2002, 7) and that it "sets forth tangible goals, benchmarks and confidence building measures to be implemented in order to rectify those conditions that led to the hostilities, fighting and general unrest" of 2001 (OSCE 18 Nov. 2002). Importantly, however, the NLA was not directly represented in negotiations and was not a signatory to the agreement (JEMIE 2002b, 3). In late 2002, the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) observed that "[t]he underlying problems that sparked the ... conflict between ethnic Albanian insurgents and Macedonian security forces remain unresolved and could again erupt" (30 Nov. 2002). These problems include the "larger ‘Albanian question,' ... the deplorable lack of good governance in Macedonia," corruption, instability and a lack of prosperity (ibid.).

The Framework Agreement rejects the use of violence for political aims and preserves Macedonia's unity by denying a possible ethnic division of the country (Macedonia 13 Aug. 2001, Art. 1.1-1.2). In addition, it reaffirms a multi-ethnic Macedonia, while seeking to better reflect this characteristic in the country's public life by encouraging the development of local government to promote "respect for the identity" of ethnic communities (ibid., Art. 1.3-1.5). The USIP describes the agreement as "[e]ssentially ... provid[ing] the architectural framework for equitable representation of minorities in public administration, language rights, the strengthening of local government, reintegration of territory held or captured by the NLA, return of refugees, and the conduct of an internationally supervised census" (30 Nov. 2002). Among its provisions, the agreement introduces a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) monitoring mission and orders an end to all hostilities and the voluntary disarmament and disbandment of the NLA (Macedonia 13 Aug. 2001, Art. 2.1). With respect to ethnicity, the agreement specifies that minority languages used by more than 20 per cent of the population shall receive official status, and speakers of these languages shall have the right to be provided public services, primary, secondary and university level education and any judicial proceedings in their native language (ibid., Art. 6). Some political power will be devolved to local governments to ensure that decisions are taken as close to those directly affected by their outcomes (ibid., Art. 3). Finally, the framework agreement lists the numerous constitutional and legislative amendments to be undertaken after ratification (ibid., Annex A, Annex C).

Significantly, Albanian is the only minority language that meets the 20 per cent of the local population criterion (JEMIE 2002a, 5); therefore, the constitutional and legislative changes outlined in the agreement are designed to redress ethnic Albanian demands for equal standing and representation (ibid. 2002c, 17). In this light, the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) noted that, while the agreement "focused on the inter-ethnic relations between Macedonians and ethnic Albanians, it totally ignored the fate of other minorities," leaving their situation to deteriorate further (24 June 2003, 7).

Implementation of the Agreement

The International Crisis Group (ICG) observed that the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement "remains the yardstick of Macedonia's progress from communal conflict to democratic stability" (14 Aug. 2002, 1). In July 2002, then-NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson claimed that "95 percent of the Framework Agreement had been adopted" (USIP 30 Nov. 2002). Even so, the ICG indicated that decentralization was lagging behind (14 Aug. 2002, 1). A similar observation was made in April 2003 when the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) noted that most of the legislation required by the Framework Agreement has been implemented except for laws on decentralization that "have yet to be adopted" (25 Apr. 2003). According to an action plan that was to be adopted by the Macedonian government, decentralization is to begin by December 2003 and the process completed by 2004 (IWPR 9 Jan. 2002).

Newly elected Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski claimed that "[s]ignificant progress has been made" implementing the agreement since his government came into office in November 2002, and that his government is "firmly committed" to full implementation (Macedonian Radio 8 May 2003).

Implementation since November 2001

Under the auspices of Operation Essential Harvest, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) completed the disarmament of the NLA on 25 September 2001 (Radio Netherlands 28 Sept. 2001; ICRC 30 June 2002, 263). The NLA itself was formally disbanded shortly thereafter (ibid.; Reality Macedonia 11 Jan. 2002).

However, neither the Albanian National Army (ANA or AKSh in Albanian) (IWPR 3 Feb. 2003; Macedonian Radio 8 May 2003; Fakti 3 June 2003) nor the Army of the Republic of Ilirida (ARI) (JIR 30 Aug. 2002; MIA 8 Aug. 2002; Reuters 10 Aug. 2002) have disbanded. The ANA, formed in 2001, united former members of the NLA with militants of other Albanian organizations such as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA/UCK) and the Liberation Army of Presovo, Medvedje and Bujanovac (UCPMB) (IWPR 3 Feb. 2003). The ARI also formed from the remnants of other Albanian organizations (JIR 30 Aug. 2002). Both groups advocate for the independence of ethnic Albanians from Macedonia (IWPR 3 Feb. 2003; Macedonian Radio 8 May 2003; JIR 30 Aug. 2002). Makedonija Denes argues that former NLA members are "most likely" dissatisfied with the lack of a federalist solution in the agreement and the slim chances for separation of ethnic-Albanian regions (7 June 2003). In 2002, ARI reportedly had about 200 poorly armed members (MIA 8 Aug. 2002) who were considered a limited threat to Macedonian stability (JIR 30 Aug. 2002; Reuters 10 Aug. 2002). The ANA, based in the mountainous areas in the Skopje, Tetovo and Kumanovo area (IWPR 3 Feb. 2003), have claimed responsibility for a number of recent attacks on government targets (Reality Macedonia 9 Sept. 2002; IWPR 3 Feb. 2003; Western Policy Center 23 May 2003). As recently as June 2003, it had threatened to resume attacks on Macedonian government forces (Fakti 3 June 2003; Makedonija Denes 7 June 2003).

Considered a "key element" of the Framework Agreement (JIR 21 Mar. 2002) and a "‘critical step'" in its implementation" (RFE/RL 8 Mar. 2002a), the Amnesty Law of 7 March 2002 pardons former ethnic Albanian paramilitary combatants who fought Macedonian security forces in 2001 (ibid; JIR 21 Mar. 2002; AP 8 Mar. 2002). The law extends to those who perpetrated and those arrested for acts of high treason, mutiny, armed rebellion and conspiracy against Macedonia in the conflict of 2001 although it excludes crimes that may provide the basis for international war crimes indictments (RFE/RL 8 Mar. 2002b). NLA members reportedly welcomed the law as leading to "‘stability and confidence-building between the [ethnic] communities'" (AP 8 Mar. 2002). However, according to the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in the Republic of Macedonia (HCHR), police have found occasion to "falsely accuse [former] members of the NLA of war crimes ... to ‘cover-up' arbitrary detentions" (Mar. 2003, par. 1.3).

On 14 July 2003, A1 Television in Skopje reported that an oversight body consisting of Macedonian politicians and representatives from the US, NATO, the European Union (EU) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) would be formed to oversee implementation of the Amnesty Law. According to the report, the decision was made after an ethnic-Albanian party requested that accusations and charges levelled against several recently arrested former NLA members be dropped because they violate the law (A1 Television 14 July 2003).

According to IHF, the number of IDPs decreased from 16,500 at the beginning of2002 to 9,500 in November 2002, with most being accommodated in collective centres or the private residences of family or friends (24 June 2003, 9). The IHF criticizes the Framework Agreement for not envisioning "alternative solutions" for the problems of displacement and the Macedonian government, which failed "to satisfy the minimal prerequisites" for the return of IDPs (IHF 24 June 2003, 9-10). As of 1 April 2003, between 7,400 and 10,000 persons remained internally displaced and unable or unwilling to return home because their houses are badly damaged or destroyed, or they feel their home remains in a region too insecure for their safe return (NRC 1 Apr. 2003).

Although Albanian was granted official language status in June 2002 (RFE/RL 20 June 2002), HCHR noted in early 2003 that language rights remained "an apple of discord" (Feb. 2003, par. 1.2). Specific issues of contention were the use of Albanian on Macedonian passports (IWPR 5 July 2002; RFE/RL 20 June 2002; MTV1 Televizija 11 Feb. 2003), the use of Albanian in parliament (HCHR Feb. 2003, par. 1.2; USIP 30 Nov. 2002) and in education (HCHR Feb. 2003, par. 1.2). According to the new law, only ethnic-Albanian members of parliament may address the parliament in the Albanian language; language rights in government were not extended to written communication or the use of Albanian by ethnic Albanian ministers when serving in government (USIP 30 Nov. 2002).

With regard to the government's language policy initiatives, the HCHR stated that,

[t]aking into consideration both the complexity of the language question and the number of wrongful steps in its implementation since the independence, the Helsinki Committee supports the Government's initiative [on Albanian-language elementary school classes], having in mind the existing Law on the use of the Macedonian language, and the need for passing a special law on the use of languages (Feb. 2003, par. 1.2).

In May 2003, the Macedonian Ministry of the Interior announced that it would begin issuing bilingual identity cards and that it planned to produce passports, driver's licences, car registrations and other identity certificates in both Macedonian and Albanian by the end of 2003 (MIA 14 May 2003).

A number of earlier Responses mention or comment on the Framework Agreement in relation to specific topics, including MCD40320.E of 12 May 2003 on draft evasion, MCD40762.E of 14 March 2003 on the treatment of Albanians and MCD40620.E of 21 February 2003 on the treatment of NLA members.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


A1 Television [Skopje, in Macedonian]. 14 July 2003. "Macedonian Coalition Partners Discuss Implementation of Amnesty Law." (BBC Monitoring 14 July 2003/SEE Security Monitor

Associated Press (AP). 8 March 2002. Ermira Mehmeti. "Macedonia Rebels Welcome Amnesty Law." (Balkan Peace) [Accessed 8 July 2003]

European Union (EU). 5 July 2002. European Commission, External Relations Directorate General. "Cards Assistance Programme: Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 2002-2006." [Accessed 3 July 2003]

Fakti [Skopje, in Albanian]. 3 June 2003. Ismail Sinani. "Albanian National Army Threatens to Resume Fighting in Macedonia." (Centre for SouthEast European Studies 3 June 2003) [Accessed 3 July 2003]

Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in the Republic of Macedonia (HCHR). March 2003. "Monthly Report for March 2003." [Accessed 3 July 2003]

_____. February 2003. "Monthly Report for February 2003." [Accessed 3 July 2003]

Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR). 25 April 2003. Balkan Crisis Report. No. 425. Ana Petruseva. "Macedonia: Storm Over Opposition Resignations." [Accessed 2 July 2003]

_____. 3 February 2003. Balkan Crisis Report. No. 403. "Macedonia: Militants Threaten Renewed Conflict." (ReliefWeb) [Accessed 2 July 2003]

_____. 5 July 2002. Balkan Crisis Report. No. 348. Arben Ratkoceri. "Macedonia: Passports Row Threatens Poll." (Relief Web) [Accessed 2 July 2003]

_____. 9 January 2002. Balkan Crisis Report. No. 396. Evridika Saskova and Jasminka M. Janeva. "Macedonia: Ohrid Accord Breakthrough: The Skopje Authorities Aim to Have Peace Deal in Place by 2004." (ReliefWeb) [Accessed 2 July 2003]

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). 30 June 2002. "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia." ICRC Annual Report 2001. [Accessed 7 July 2003]

International Crisis Group (ICG). 14 August 2002. Macedonia's Public Secret: How Corruption Drags the Country Down. ICG Balkans Report, No. 133. [Accessed 2 July 2003]

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF). 24 June 2003. "Macedonia." Human Rights in the OSCE Region: Europe, Central Asia and North America, Report 2003 (Events of 2002). [Accessed 2 July 2003]

Jane's Intelligence Review (JIR). 30 August 2002. Saso Ordanoski. "New Insurgent Group Appears to Threaten Macedonian Elections." (Centre for SouthEast European Studies) [Accessed 3 July 2003]

_____. 21 March 2002. "Macedonian Peace Process Moves Ahead." (Centre for SouthEast European Studies) [Accessed 3 July 2003]

Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe (JEMIE) [Flensburg, Germany]. 2002a. No. 1. Ulf Brunnbauer. "The Implementation of the Ohrid Agreement: Ethnic Macedonian Resentments." [Accessed 2 July 2003]

_____. 2002b. No. 1. Jenny Engström. "Multi-Ethnicity or Bi-Nationalism? The Framework Agreement and the Future of the Macedonian State." [Accessed 2 July 2003]

Macedonia. 13 August 2001. Office of the President. Framework Agreement. [Accessed 2 July 2003]

Macedonian Information Agency (MIA) [Skopje]. 14 May 2003. "Macedonia: Issuing of Bilingual Identity Cards to Begin on 15 May." (BBC Monitoring 14 May 2003/NEXIS)

_____. 8 August 2002. "Macedonian Interior Ministry Confirms ‘Army of the Republic of Ilirida' Exists." (BBC Monitoring/CSEES) [Accessed 4 July 2003]

Macedonian Radio [Skopje, in Macedonian]. 8 May 2003. "Macedonian Premier Outlines Government's Priorities, Achievements in Brussels." (BBC Monitoring/NEXIS)

Makedonija Denes [Skopje, in Macedonian]. 7 June 2003. Georgi Ajanovski. "Macedonian Commentary Urges Government to Fight Albanian ‘Terrorist Groups'." (Centre for SouthEast European Studies 7 June 2003) [Accessed 3 July 2003]

MTV1 Televizija [Skopje, in Macedonian]. 11 February 2003. "FYROM PM Crvenkovski on Ethnic Rights, Ohrid Accord, IMF Talks, Security, Crime." (FBIS-EEU-2003-0212 13 Feb. 2003/WNC)

Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) [Geneva]. 1 April 2003. Global IDP Project. "Macedonia: Total IDP Population as of 1 April 2003: 9,500 Persons." [Accessed 7 July 2003]

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). 18 November 2002. Spillover Monitor Mission to Skopje, Police Development Unit. "Background Paper." [Accessed 3 July 2003]

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). 20 June 2002. Jolyon Naegele. "Macedonia: Parliament Adopts Albanian-Rights Laws, Proposes Dual Passports." [Accessed 3 July 2003]

_____. 8 March 2002a. Jolyon Naegele. "Macedonia: Parliament Passes General Amnesty Law." [Accessed 3 July 2003]

_____. 8 March 2002b. "Macedonia: Parliament Adopts Amnesty Law." [Accessed 8 July 2003]

Radio Netherlands. 28 September 2001. "Essential Harvest Finished." [Accessed 7 July 2003]

Reality Macedonia [Skopje]. 9 September 2002. "ANA Claims Responsibility for Recent Attack on Macedonian Army Patrol." [Accessed 8 July 2003]

_____. 11 January 2002. "‘Formally Disbanded' NLA Threatens with New Violence." [Accessed 7 July 2003]

Reuters. 10 August 2002. Ana Petruseva. "NATO Detains 19 in Kosovo Amid Macedonia Warnings." (Balkan Peace) [Accessed 4 July 2003]

United States Institute of Peace (USIP). 30 November 2002. Brenda Pearson. "Special Report: Putting Peace into Practice - Can Macedonia's New Government Meet the Challenge?" (Relief Web) [Accessed 2 July 2003]

Western Policy Center [Washington]. 23 May 2003. "Macedonia: ANA Guerrillas Attack Military Installation." [Accessed 8 July 2003]

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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