IBNA Op-Ed/ “Ohrid Agreement acts as a starting point of a joint desire for a better life for all the citizens of Macedonia; the starting point and not the finishing point. In a way, Ohrid Agreement is restricting us and not allowing us to advance… It’s finally time to turn the ethnic debate into a civilized debate, it’s time to stop talking about patriotism, but rights, needs and responsibilities”
By Laura Pollozhani
It seems that once again, the citizens of Macedonia are entering the vortex of early elections. I believe that during the upcoming electoral campaign, many politicians will talk about the Ohrid Agreement, how much was achieved, what remains to be implemented and what will political parties do to implement it. They will do this because they still believe that Ohrid Agreement is the magic word. But is it truly like this?
Alexis de Tocqueville, who traveled to America in the 18th century to see how a democratic system is led, said: “Nothing is more marvelous than the art of being free, but nothing is more difficult than to learn how to use freedom.” Perhaps, for Albanians in Macedonia, nothing was more marvelous than August 13, which marked the signature of the Ohrid Framework Agreement. This document may be considered as one of the most important documents of the history of the Republic of Macedonia, because it indicates a moment in time when the majority of population was integrated in the legal framework. This agreement was based in several columns, such as decentralization, whose aim is to be closer to the citizen and another column which relates to the concept of constitutional democracy or division of power. De Tocqueville is right when he says that it’s difficult to learn and use freedom and it seems that for the Albanians in Macedonia, this is yet to be overcome.
It’s really worrying when one hears politicians still talk about implementation or non implementation of the Ohrid Agreement, because the implementation of this agreement should have now been a fait accompli. If we analyze the Ohrid Agreement, it’s clear that this document has been drafted as a document that aims to preserve peace and not build peace. The difference between these two terms is very important.
The first one relates to the preservation of calm, in order for all parties to achieve consensus which guarantees cohabitation.
The second term is much more profound, because it includes the use of reforms and measures that offer all parties for more rights and more involvement in decision making. This way, all parties feel a part of the same thing and work to build peace and not only to preserve it. In conclusion, all parties contribute toward building the state. But we are not seeing this process take place in Macedonia. Unfortunately, the majority of politicians and all political parties, both Albanian or Macedonian, see the Ohrid Agreement as an objective, while in fact, this agreement is just the start.
The Ohrid Agreement builds several important columns which act as a foundation for the state, but these are not sufficiently specified for Albanians and other communities in Macedonia.
Ohrid Agreement acts as the starting point of a joint desire for a better life for all the citizens of Macedonia; the starting point and not the finishing point. In a way, Ohrid Agreement is restricting us and it’s not leading us forward.
Although I consider Ohrid Agreement as a very important document for more rights for Albanians, I don’t want politicians to talk about it once again. It seems as if the Ohrid Agreement is the magic word that has an effect as soon as it’s mentioned and everything else becomes irrelevant. It seems the fact that the law on local government doesn’t offer development opportunities for non-majority communities in Albania is irrelevant.
It’s also irrelevant that unemployment in Macedonia is one of the highest ones in Europe, 30% based on the latest report of the World Bank (this also includes Albanians and especially youth).
It’s irrelevant that reforms in education have not moved forward and our universities have a lot to do in order to achieve a satisfactory quality.
It’s time to turn the ethnic debate into a civilized debate. It’s not to stop talking about patriotisms and start talking about rights, needs and responsibility. Ohrid Agreement is not the answer to our pains, but a key, which if we use well, can help us move forward. It’s not an accident that the Agreement is considered to be a Framework Agreement, as it dictates several points, but it doesn’t offer the essence of what we as citizens need.
In conclusion, I have a demand for our politicians. Instead of talking about the Ohrid Agreement during this electoral campaign, talk about the reforms and alternatives that you can offer beyond it. Talk about things which have not been included in the Ohrid Agreement, but which are vital for every individual, such as quality education, transparent decision making, social opportunities, economic opportunities, professional stimulation for youngsters, better pensions, etc. It’s nice to talk about flags and monuments, but once the elections are over, monuments will not be the saviors of our current challenges. The solution must be offered by the politicians that we elect.
*Lura Pollozhani is an expert on issues of minorities and human rights in Skopje. She has had a long experience in the domain of human rights as part of international missions in Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Hungary. She has completed her bachelor studies in International Relations at Malmö University and MSc European Studies: Ideas and Identities, London School of Economics