Cablegate: Macedonia: The Ohrid Framework Agreement

Published: Wed 6 Jan 2010 12:56 PM
DE RUEHSQ #0006/01 0061256
P 061256Z JAN 10 ZDK
E.O. 12958: N/A
SKOPJE 00000006 001.2 OF 004
1. (U) Summary: Though eight years old, the Ohrid Framework
Agreement (OFA) remains the key instrument for maintaining
interethnic harmony in Macedonia. Even though it has been
imperfectly implemented, it is still an effective tool to
reduce the risk of another civil conflict. This cable
contains background of the events leading up to the signing
of the OFA, a summary of the Agreement's contents, and an
overview of the Agreement's implementation to date. (End
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The 2001 Conflict and Creation of the Framework Agreement
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2. (U) In the final months of 2000, tensions between the
ethnic-Albanian community and ethnic Macedonian community
began to rise in the primarily e-Albanian villages along
Macedonia's north-western border. The e-Albanians
(comprising approximately 25% of Macedonia's population) were
angered by an environment of discrimination and a perceived
general deterioration of their rights in Macedonia since the
country's independence in 1991. They specifically cited a
downgraded status under Macedonia's post-independence
constitution, which declared Macedonia to be a "national
state of the (ethnic-) Macedonian people. Conversely,
Macedonia's previous, Yugoslavia-era constitution defined the
e-Macedonians, e-Albanians, and e-Turks as three equal
nationalities comprising the Socialist Republic of Macedonia.
In January 2001 the situation rapidly deteriorated when the
newly-formed e-Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA), (led
by current government coalition party leader Ali Ahmeti)
attacked a police station in the village of Tearce, killing
one police officer. The fallout from that event led to a
clash between the NLA and Macedonian security forces in
February in the border town of Tanusevci that resulted in the
deaths of three police and one e-Albanian. The clash in
Tanusevci launched the country into a wider armed conflict
that lasted into the summer of 2001 and resulted in an
estimated 100 to 200 deaths and more than 170,000 displaced
3. (U) In June 2001, the two sides agreed to a cease fire and
began peace negotiations. The e-Albanian and e-Macedonian
sides were each represented by the leaders of their two
largest political parties at the time: DPA and PDP on the
e-Albanian side, and VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM on the e-Macedonian
side. The NLA did not participate in the talks directly.
The negotiations took place in the city of Ohrid, situated on
the shore of Lake Ohrid in southwest Macedonia, and focused
on establishing a legal framework and implementation plan for
improving ethnic equity in Macedonia. Representatives from
the United States and the European Union mediated the
negotiations. The OFA is the result of those negotiations
and was signed on August 13, 2001 by: then-president of
Macedonia Boris Trajkovski (VMRO), then-Prime Minister Ljubco
Georgievski (VMRO), then SDSM leader and future president of
Macedonia Branko Crvenkovski, DPA leader Arben Xhaferi, PDP
leader Imer Imeri, U.S. mediator James W. Pardew and EU
mediator Francois Leotard. NATO played a key part in the
resolution of the conflict through Operation
Harvest,8 which disarmed the NLA, and the OSCE Spillover
mission in Macedonia assumed a central role in the
implementation of the Agreement. The U.S., EU, NATO and OSCE
are widely considered to be informal guarantors of the OFA
based on their aforementioned roles in resolving the conflict
and implementing the OFA.
The Ohrid Framework Agreement
4. (U) The OFA consists of nine main sections and three
annexes which outline the terms of the cease fire, new laws
to be adopted, required changes to existing laws, benchmarks
to be reached for a successful implementation of the
Agreement, and a timetable for reaching those benchmarks.
The specific areas addressed by each section of the Agreement
are: decentralization of the Government, non-discrimination,
equitable ethnic representation in public institutions,
restructuring of Parliamentary procedures, the use of
languages, education, and permissible expressions of
A. Decentralization - One of the first tasks mandated by the
OFA is a new national census in order to accurately assess
the ethnic composition of the population. Using the results
of the census the OFA then calls for Macedonia's municipal
boundaries to be redefined to rectify ethnic inequities
within the municipalities. The Agreement also calls for a
legislative framework that delegates more power and financial
authority to local governments to ensure individual
municipalities have adequate levels of influence over local
policy and resources.
B. Equitable Representation - To address ethnic inequities in
the government and public administrations, the Agreement
mandates hiring policies that ensure all of Macedonia's
public institutions generally reflect the ethnic composition
of the population of Macedonia.
C. Parliamentary Procedures - Under the agreement, laws
pertaining to local-self government, culture, use of
language, education, personal documentation and the use of
symbols are all subject to a Badinter double-majority voting
system, which requires a majority of the ethnic minority
members of parliament in addition to an overall majority of
parliament to vote in favor of a law for the law to be
D. Use of Language - The OFA states that in addition to
Macedonian, any language spoken by at least 20% of the
population is also considered an official language according
to terms specified by the agreement. Languages not spoken by
20% of the population at the national level but spoken by at
least 20% of the population in any individual municipality
are also considered official languages within that
E. Education - The Agreement mandates equitable school and
university funding, the availability of education in
languages spoken by more than 20% of the population, and the
application of positive discrimination in state university
F. Expressions of Identity - Under the agreement, majority
ethnic groups in any municipality are permitted to place
emblems representing their cultural identity alongside the
emblem of the State. (Note - this was specifically included
to allow ethnic Albanian municipalities to fly the Albanian
flag in front of municipal buildings, an issue that resulted
in violent inter-ethnic clashes four years before the 2001
Implementation: A Mixed Bag
5. (SBU) Successive governments have successfully pushed
through virtually all the legislation and constitutional
amendments called for by the Agreement. However, in the case
of the law on the use of languages, the GoM hastily adopted
legislation in Parliament in a form that international
observers and some within the GoM believe was poorly
formulated and more detrimental than positive. In other
cases, working closely with the international community, the
GoM has drawn up relevant pieces of legislation more
meticulously and made efforts to obtain broad political
consensus for their approval.
6. (SBU) In the year following the signing of the Agreement,
the GoM also set up the Secretariat for the Implementation of
the Ohrid Framework Agreement, headed by the Deputy Prime
Minister for Framework Agreement Implementation. However,
since its inception, the Secretariat has been granted little
power, left exclusively in the hands of e-Albanian
leadership, and the e-Macedonian leadership has shown little
sense of responsibility for the Secretariat's success or
failure. Some e-Macedonian politicians (especially in the
ruling VMRO party) have even suggested that implementation of
the Agreement is an exercise solely for the e-Albanians and
that by providing them with the Secretariat and a Deputy
Prime Minister the Macedonian leadership has fulfilled its
end of the bargain, and they are aggravated by calls for
their continued involvement in the process.
7. (SBU) The weakness of the Secretariat combined with spotty
political will has made the successful real-world
implementation of the OFA challenging. Some parts of the OFA
have been well implemented. Performing a census in 2002 and
re-drawing municipal boundaries was done competently and
within the timelines set forth in the Agreement. The
government has largely respected the use of the Badinter
voting system in parliament. In the years since the
conflict, the display of cultural emblems (primarily Albanian
and Turkish flags) in non-ethnic-majority municipalities has
been widespread and sparks almost no controversy. However,
the implementation of other laws has been sluggish. While
appropriate legislation has been passed on government
decentralization, municipal governments still have
considerable financial constraints imposed on them by the
central government, limited power over state-owned land
resources, and receive a small percentage of their
citizenry's tax revenue compared with the central government.
Additionally, wide disparities along ethnic lines still
exist in tax revenue distribution to municipalities.
Achieving the Agreement's benchmarks for equitable ethnic
minority representation in public administration has also
proved challenging. No reliable system for assessing
equitable representation statistics currently exists, and
where numbers do exist they show positive increases in ethnic
minority representation but continue to reflect overall
shortfalls compared with the ethnic composition of
Macedonia's population. The tendency of the e-Albanian party
in power to create artificial jobs within the government
under the guise of improving equitable representation and use
those jobs to buy party support is an unfortunate byproduct
of equitable representation efforts as well.
8. (SBU) Evaluators of the OFA often refer to its
versus its when accessing the success of its
implementation. This is another oft-criticized area of
implementation. While the government has adopted much of the
legislation required under the agreement and taken some
strides to implement it, the implementation efforts are often
half-hearted and scoffed at by the e-Macedonian leadership as
unwelcome chores imposed by the international community and
by e-Albanian threats of renewed conflict. One example is
the Agreement's guidelines on the use of languages. Language
legislation has been adopted but it is not widely respected.
In many ethnically mixed municipalities the local
governments, without flagrantly violating the law, make it
bureaucratically impossible for ethnic minority groups
comprising more than 20% of the population to carry out
business with the local government in their native language,
a provision required by the law. (However, a recent OSCE
survey found that only 4 percent of respondents had language
problems in dealing with their municipal governments.)
Additionally, small gestures that would illustrate a
commitment to the of the legislation, such as
dual-language signage in government buildings, is almost
non-existent. In fact, much of the public signage displayed
in Skopje,s government buildings carry Macedonian with an
English translation, neglecting the Albanian language
9. (U) On August 13 of this year, the 8th Anniversary of the
signing of the OFA, the principal officers of the four
"guarantors" the OFA (the U.S., EU, NATO and OSCE) presented
an assessment of its implementation to date to Prime Minister
Gruevski. (REFTEL) The objective of the presentation was to
jump start new implementation efforts in areas that have
stalled. The Principals cited education, decentralization,
equitable ethnic representation, non-discrimination, and use
of minority languages as areas for further implementation.
In early 2010, the Principals are planning a follow-up
meeting with the PM to assess what steps the government has
undertaken to remedy these implementation shortfalls since
the August assessment.
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General View of the Agreement within Macedonia
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10. (SBU) In general, senior e-Macedonian government
officials understand the International Community's
expectations pertaining to OFA implementation, and their
public statements reflect that understanding. However, their
actions and private assertions about the Agreement often
betray those statements. While International Republican
Institute polling shows that 52% of Macedonia's population
support the OFA and believe its implementation will make
Macedonia more stable, many e-Macedonians also believe the
OFA represents huge concessions to the e-Albanian community
and feel the Agreement is a symbol of the Macedonian security
forces, humiliating defeat at the hands of e-Albanian
Even though much of Macedonia's e-Albanian
population has resided within Macedonia's modern borders for
centuries or more, many e-Macedonians still view them as
outsiders. On the other hand, the e-Albanian leadership
tends to over-invoke the OFA in their grievances, citing
virtually every perceived slight against the e-Albanians as a
violation of the Agreement. E-Albanian leaders also have a
tendency to view the OFA as a means of furthering only their
constituency's interests, overlooking other minority groups
in Macedonia. One formally powerful but now struggling
e-Albanian political party, DPA, (one of the signatories of
the OFA) has recently declared the OFA a complete failure and
is calling for a new agreement (which they have already
prepared). This campaign has gained almost no traction
outside of DPA,s inner circle. The international community
has publicly reiterated its support of the OFA and its
continued implementation as the only logical way forward.
The Embassy endeavors to highlight the OFA as exactly what it
is: a framework, to guide citizens of this multi-ethnic
state to find strength and stability through diversity,
tolerance, and mutual respect.
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