Mirjana Maleska
Full Professor at the Doctoral School of Political Science, University “Ss. Cyril and Methodius”, Skopje.





This analyses is a result of a large empirical research, held at early September 2009. The respondents, 943 of them, answered to the questions about several aspects of their life and the life of their household. Interethnic relations, analysed here, are one aspect of the survey “People Cantered Analyses”, supported by UNDP. The main finding in these fact-finding analyses is that, while it is dangerous for social cohesion and stability of the country when a minority is dissatisfied, it is even more dangerous when the majority is dissatisfied. According to this research, that is the situation in the Republic of Macedonia. The majority of Macedonians, who work in large scale industry and in the public sector, have been adversely affected by the economic crisis, and feel economically insecure. Dissatisfaction or pessimism among middle-lower class people can negatively affect inter-ethnic relations because this class group will instinctively demand a better status, more by pushing aside people from different ethnic backgrounds. Such people are susceptible to political manipulation, and social conflicts can easily turn into interethnic conflicts. 
Key words: ethnic groups, ethnic communities, interethnic conflict; consociational democracy, Ohrid Framework Agreement

Conflicts between ethnic groups or between the states in which they reside present a serious and growing challenge to domestic and international security. Such conflicts are often brutal and violent (Gurr 1998), and as Horowitz (1985) noted, “ethnicity has fought and bled and burned its way into public consciousness”. Moynihan (1993) observed that the interest in ethnicity has sprung not from rational analysis by armchair philosophers, but from the desperate search for solutions to end the acute ethnic conflicts which began with the end of the Cold War. In political theory, there are several explanations for ethno-political conflicts, which are sometimes called “internal conflicts”. Some authors focus on security issues, in which fear and mistrust between ethnic groups can develop into armed conflict (Posen, 1983). Others emphasize the role of “domestic factors”, such as the economy, the capacity of the state, nationalism, or the immaturity of the democratic process (Brown 1993). Yet others locate the basic reason for the outbreak of conflicts in the exclusion of minorities from accessing the instruments of power (Lijphart, 1984). We should also mention the socio-psychological approach, which draws attention to false history or myths that are transmitted from one generation to the next, because they play a significant role in the creation of ethnic identity (Horowitz, 1985). William Zartman (1995) summarized the problem of excluding minorities, saying that “national conflicts … may be summed up in two related categories – negligence and discrimination, or problem of distribution and problem of identity.”

In the Republic of Macedonia, separatist ethno-territorial demands have been accommodated through the Ohrid Framework Agreement (OFA). The OFA was aimed at including ethnic Albanians and other minorities in the government through power-sharing, and at broadening their group and individual rights. Yet even now, after the eighth anniversary of the agreement, there are still many institutional gaps in the extent of decentralization of power in relation to curriculum reform in education, in improved social services to support social integration, in public debate over decisions that affect different ethnic groups and in many other areas. Moreover, according to the OFA principle of equitable representation, the percentage of ethnic Albanians employed in the public institutions should eventually reach over 25%, but as yet many institutions still do not fulfil this stipulation.

Macedonian society can be described as simultaneously multiethnic, multinational, plural and multicultural. In such societies the risk of ethnic conflicts is especially high if the government neglects or discriminates against minority groups.1 In 2001 the country experiencedan armed conflict between the central government and ethnic Albanian guerrilla fighters. The conflict ended in August 2001 with the signing of the Ohrid Framework Agreement (OFA). However, the internal relations between the ethnic Macedonians, ethnic Albanians and other ethnic minorities have remained the most sensitive issue that affects the stability and security of the country, as well as its perspective for integration into the European Union. After the signing of the OFA, ethnic tensions diminished for a while. However, the laws for the use of the Albanian language, and the law for using national symbols have proved to be controversial. Many have argued that there is a greater need for public access to information, and for more public debate on these issues.

After a brief review of the structure of ethnic affiliation associated with the survey findings, the chapter will be organized around four interrelated factors. The first of these is the economic problems and discriminatory consequences of the economic system and the widening of the so-called frustration gap; the second is the redistribution of public resources and political power through equitable representation, decentralization and other non-discriminatory policies; the third is the role of political parties and leaders; and the fourth is the perception of interethnic relations through fear, mistrust, and prejudice.


Ethnic Affiliation


The distribution of respondents according to the ethnic affiliation in the sample broadly follows the distribution of ethnic affiliation in the society as a whole (see Table 1).2






Ethnic affiliation















Source: PCA Household Survey September 2009

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