The Ohrid Agreement prevented the conflict but not its source
The recent demonstrations and protests in Macedonia are a clear indicator that political agreements aimed at resolving the inter-ethnic conflict should generate tangible integration impacts in practice in order to attain sustainable stability.
Although the Ohrid Agreement has been in effect for 13 years, which sought full integration of Albanians in the Macedonian state, it is clear that the discrimination was prevalent, along with the lack of political will of the Macedonian majority to build a functioning state, in compliance with international obligations it assumed. In fact, the Ohrid Agreement viable in paper but proven to be almost unfeasible in practice. This document, which contains good integration policies failed to produce any impact on the well-being and full integration of all the citizens of Macedonia.
The widely debated decentralization and establishment of many municipalities with Albanian majority, in addition to establishing the municipality and self-administration of the resident Albanians, these municipalities never developed into institutions that would pursue their substantial integration in decision-making and the political life. In this case, the central level, failed to transfer necessary resources for development of these municipalities; it merely devolved some responsibilities but withheld the resources, especially the funding for capital investment. As a result of that, a clear discrimination of the Albanian municipalities was perpetuated.
An issue provided for in the Ohrid Agreement was the decision-making that sanctions the Badenter principles, which even after 13 years of operation, is clearly failing to meet the needs of this population for preventing majorization. On the contrary; this principle is being exploited to prevent the municipalities from achieving their objectives, extending even in cases of municipalities with Albanian majority that are blocked through this principle. The track record of Kosova, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina clearly demonstrate that there is no effective local governance and development without the support from the centre, meaning, no decentralization without proper central governance.
An objective evaluation would show that 13 years after the Ohrid Agreement, the imbalance in capital projects investment, especially those in infrastructure is quite significant. A glance at the last investments in Skopje would suffice to see the discrimination clearly. Therefore, there is no decentralization and equality, as long as Albanian municipalities in Macedonia have no resources to carry out their functions, making it difficult to deliver basic services to its citizens. In such an environment, there is no hope for integration and development either.
In view of the situation, all should exercise great care in their qualifications and assessment of protests, in spite of dissatisfaction on the Monstra case and its inadequate handling, the issue should be seen from a broader perspective. Efforts should be focused in addressing what may be deemed a discriminatory policy applied for the past 13 years. It is imperative that the international community reacts to this situation and invite the parties to a dialogue by ensuring equality as the stepping stone to stability, integrity and development for the region.