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3/2/04 - MACEDONIA - 2004-03-03

Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski and eight other people died in a plane crash in southern Bosnia. Mr. Trajkovski will be remembered for using his authority to ease ethnic tensions in the Balkan nation, and moving Macedonia closer to the Euro-Atlantic community.

In 2001, Macedonia faced an insurgency by ethnic Albanians. With NATO assistance, President Trajkovski helped arrange a cease-fire. He led talks between the major parties represented in Macedonia’s parliament that culminated in an agreement in August 2001. By the end of 2001, the government had amended the constitution and begun to pass legislation to advance the rights of Macedonia’s minorities, including the Albanian community.

After parliamentary elections in September 2002, a multiethnic governing coalition was formed. Among the coalition members was an ethnic Albanian party that included former insurgents. Macedonia’s constitution now recognizes the rights of minorities. Albanian has been recognized as an official language in parliament and on identity documents. Minorities have been accorded growing representation in government institutions. The University of Tetovo, an Albanian-language institution, has been officially recognized.

Macedonia has now achieved a great measure of political stability, says U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell:

“When I became Secretary of State in January of 2001, one of the first issues I had to deal with was a crisis in Macedonia. The place was coming apart and the new president who was in great difficulty and in anguish as to how to deal with the problems he was facing, and that was Boris Trajkovski... And we worked through the problems in Macedonia to the point now where Macedonia is on a stable footing.”

Macedonia has been a strong supporter of the global war against terrorism. Macedonian troops are serving alongside U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. President Boris Trajkovski worked to ensure that Macedonia would be a model for the promotion of tolerance in an ethnically diverse region.