In early 2001, Macedonia’s fragile stability was jeopardized by an eight-month enduring conflict between ethnic Albanian forces and Macedonian police and security forces and almost lead to another extended conflict in the Balkans. In the same year, at the International Community’s urging, namely at the U.S. and European intervention, the Ohrid Framework Agreement (OFA) could be signed as a peace agreement for Macedonia. The OFA outlined a package of political reforms to expand the rights of the ethnic Albanian minority while rebel forces were disarmed and disbanded under NATO supervision.
At first, implementation of the OFA proceeded slowly. Several challenges threatened to increase Macedonia’s political instability in recent years, such as the ongoing non-clarified status of Kosovo and its situation of Kosovo-Albanians and Serbs accompanied by numerous violent inter-ethnic incidents. Just therefore, the implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement remains an essential element of the democracy and the rule of law in the country. There has been made progress on implementing the law on languages, which provides for greater use of Albanian language, on decentralization and equitable representation. However, there is still the need to promote integration of the ethnic communities of the country, particularly in education. The concerns of the smaller ethnic minorities, such as Albanians, Vlachs, Turks, Serbs, Bosniaks, Roma, etc. continue to be insufficiently addressed. The OFA remains a crucial guarantee of the rights of the non-majority communities in the country.
Regarding the name dispute, the United States announced its decision to recognize Macedonia by its constitutional name, the Republic of Macedonia, rather than its interim name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as an expression of support to a multiethnic and democratic state. Its name, however, remains in dispute with neighboring Greece, and U.N.-sponsored talks to resolve the dispute are ongoing. The resolution of the name dispute is also decisive to Macedonia’s EU accession.
The post-conflict phase started with the signing of the Ohrid Framework Agreement on 13 August 2001 but was repulsed with the armed clashes in November 2007 between the Macedonian security forces and armed Albanian guerilla. This shows that the implementation of the OFA still remains crucial for positive peace and the full political integration of the Albanian minority in Macedonia is regardless difficult. Therefore, in line with the OFA, Macedonia established a Secretariat for the Implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement (SIOFA) which is under the supervision of the Deputy Prime Minister. It is responsible for the implementation of the agreement, especially concerning decentralization and equal representation of all communities in public employment. On the legislative side so-called Committees of Inter-community Relations (CICR) have been established. They have a direct mandate out of the OFA to monitor the legislative abidance by the laws on inter-community interests. They are created on municipal level as well as on state level. In numerous municipalities they monitor the legislation process of municipal assemblies and bring in resolutions on issues, such as the language used in elementary schools, public budget spending, etc. which the assembly has to vote on.
Summarizing the implementation of the OFA and thus, the full functioning of the therefore created institutions remain essential elements of democracy and the rule of law in Macedonia. Although, there has been made progress on implementing the law on languages, decentralization and equal representation, communication and transparency within the government and parliament bodies as well as between the state and the municipal level needs to be further strengthened.
In 2006, CSSP has started its work in several municipalities as a private diplomacy actor in order to bring together the different interests of the multi-community society of Macedonia. CSSP is addressing conflict resolution at the local level through a bottom-up, integrative process. It envisions that responsibility for implementing the OFA remains in the hands of local leaders by strengthening mediation as credible alternative to imposed solutions. By bringing stakeholders, such as community representatives, together in various formats in an integrative process CSSP challenges barriers to consensus-building and assists local leaders to further develop democratic structures and thereby integrate all minorities into the political process. After an in-depth conflict analysis through numerous bilateral stakeholders on the local and state level, CSSP conducts inter-community mediations as well as interactive trainings. By this, local stakeholder resolute their own inter-community issues within the save space of CSSP’s mediators. CSSP’s work goes beyond a single mediation session and rather accompanies the process of implementation of the OFA in the country. Macedonia is a very good example of CSSP’s approach based on the idea of an outsider’s perspective supporting local initiatives and focusing on the issues of the conflict parties to strengthen self-initiative, creative thinking, and problem-solving.
Concretely, CSSP is working through different formats, such as bilateral consultations, meetings and workshops, together with local community representatives in the multi-community municipalities in Kicevo, Struga and Kumanovo. Such mediation processes were local community representatives come together to discuss, brainstorm, and negotiate with each other to resolve their local problems, are inclusive, result-oriented processes ensuring transparency, gender consideration and always aiming at local ownership of the solutions. Out of these local experiences, CSSP is transferring its knowledge to the state level. Since October 2010, the Berlin organization applies its approach also to the Parliamentary CICR and to the SIOFA in order to strengthen communication and transparency between the democratic bodies. In the next couple of months several activities on leadership, multi-level coordination and cooperation as well as civil-society participation and dialogue are going to be conducted with members of stakeholders of all levels and OFA institutions. Hereby, CSSP’s elements of integrative mediation are approached in a comprehensive and holistic mediation process.