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 with the intervention of the U.S. and Europe, the Ohrid Framework Agreement (OFA) was 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 have threatened to increase Macedonia’s political instability in recent years, such as the ongoing non-clarified status of Kosovo and the situation of Kosovo-Albanians and Serbs accompanied by numerous violent inter-ethnic incidents. This is precisely why the implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement remains an essential element of democracy and the rule of law in the country. Progress has been made on implementing the law on languages, which provides for greater use of Albanian, on decentralization, and equitable representation. However, there is still the need to promote integration of the country’s ethnic communities, 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 for a multiethnic and democratic state. The country’s 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 for Macedonia’s EU accession.
The post-conflict phase started with the signing of the Ohrid Framework Agreement on August 13, 2001, but was set back by the armed clashes in November 2007 between the Macedonian security forces and armed Albanian guerillas. This shows that the implementation of the OFA still remains crucial for peace and the full political integration of the Albanian minority in Macedonia is difficult regardless. 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, Committees of Inter-community Relations (CICR) have been established. They have a direct mandate under the OFA to monitor compliance with the laws on inter-community interests. They have been created at the municipal as well as at the state level. In numerous municipalities, they monitor the legislation process of municipal assemblies and introduce resolutions on issues, such as the language used in elementary schools, public budget spending, etc., which the assembly has to vote on.
In conclusion, the implementation of the OFA and thus the full functionality of the institutions created due to it remain essential elements of democracy and the rule of law in Macedonia. Although progress has been made on implementing the law on languages, decentralization, and equal representation, communication and transparency must be further strengthened within the government and parliament bodies as well as between the state and municipal levels.
In 2006, CSSP started its work in several municipalities as a private diplomatic actor in order to bring together the different interests of the multi-community society of Macedonia. CSSP addresses conflict resolution at the local level through a bottom-up, integrative process. CSSP’s concept is for responsibility for implementing the OFA to remain in the hands of local leaders, which can be achieved by strengthening mediation as a 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 in further developing democratic structures, thereby integrating all minority groups into the political process. After an in-depth conflict analysis through numerous bilateral stakeholders at the local and state levels, CSSP conducts inter-community mediations as well as interactive training courses. 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 works using 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, where local community representatives come together to discuss, brainstorm, and negotiate with each other to resolve their local problems, are inclusive, result-oriented processes that ensure transparency, take gender into consideration, and always aim at local ownership of solutions. Building on these local experiences, CSSP transferred its knowledge to the state level. Since October 2010, the Berlin organization also applies its approach to the Parliamentary CICR and to the SIOFA in order to strengthen communication and transparency between the democratic bodies. In the following months, several activities on leadership, multi-level coordination and cooperation, participation in civil society, and dialog will be conducted with stakeholders of all levels and OFA institutions. CSSP’s elements of integrative mediation are thus approached in a comprehensive and holistic mediation process.