European Council President Donald Tusk said during his visit to Macedonia that he hoped that the country would focus on advancing towards EU membership instead of fueling ethnic tensions. Macedonia has a Slav majority but is also home to a large ethnic Albanian minority, who make up a third of the population.
The Balkan state has been without a government since December when inconclusive elections led to the skirmishes over the influence of ethnic Albanians in a proposed coalition administration. The elections resulted in 51 seats for the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE and 49 seats for the Social Democrats leaving neither of the sides able to form a government without parties representing ethnic Albanians.
Last month, Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev gained the support of three Albanian parties after he promised them a law on wider use of Albanian language, which triggered protests in Skopje. However, President Ivanov refused to give Mr. Zaev a mandate to form a government. “The new government cannot be contested by anyone,” he explained following his meeting with Donald Tusk and added that “a blackmailed government is an unstable government that will only last a short time and have damaging consequences.”
This is the worse political crisis since Macedonia stood at the brink of a civil war during an ethnic Albanian insurgency in 2001. The 2001 armed conflict began when the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA) militant group began attacking the security forces of the Republic of Macedonia at the beginning of February 2001 and it was eventually solved thanks to Western diplomacy and the Ohrid Agreement. Macedonia was subsequently offered a path to membership in the European Union and of NATO.