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New Macedonia gov't to focus on EU bid

Latest update : 2008-07-27

On Saturday Macedonia's parliament voted in a new coalition, headed by conservative Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, that will focus on trying to get the county's EU and NATO bids back on track.

SKOPJE - Macedonia's parliament on Saturday voted in a new conservative coalition government thatwill try to get the country's NATO and EU bids back on track while preserving a fragile ethnic peace.
 

The government led by conservative Prime Minister Nikola
Gruevski was elected with 78 votes for and none against in a
late evening session boycotted by the main opposition parties.
 

Gruevski's VMRO-DPMNE party won a majority of 63 seats in
the 120-seat parliament in a June 1 election that was marred by
violence and fraud among Macedonia's 25 percent Albanian
minority.
 

For the sake of stability, the new coalition government
includes the largest ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic Union
of Integration, headed by former guerrilla leader Ali Ahmeti.
 

Since splitting peacefully from Yugoslavia in 1991,
Macedonia has sought coalitions that include an Albanian party.
This has taken on greater significance since a 2001 insurgency
fought for greater rights and representation for the country's
500,000 Albanians.
 

A row with Greece over Macedonia's name, coupled with the
election violence, have stalled Macedonia's bid to join NATO and
cast doubt over its chances of opening accession talks with the
EU this year.
 

"We will work day and night to get into the EU and NATO,"
Gruevski told parliament. "But if Greece keeps on blocking our
accession in the long term, we will still continue working
towards economic prosperity."
 

He said the government's top five priorities were to achieve
annual economic growth of at least 6 percent, join the EU and
NATO, fight corruption, achieve good ethnic relations and offer
better education to all its citizens.
 

Athens vetoed an invitation for Macedonia to join NATO in
April, demanding the country first change its chosen name, which
is the same as Greece's northern province.
 

The EU has said the 18-year-old name row must be finally
resolved for Macedonia to get a date for membership talks, and
made clear it will be watching to see how the country
deals with the election violence.
 

Gruevski vowed his government would continue with
U.N.-sponsored talks with Greece, but would never accept a
solution that would threaten Macedonia's national identity.
 

Macedonia's main opposition party, the Social Democrats,
boycotted the parliament session in protest at the recent arrest
of a senior party member on charges of fraud.
 

The Democratic Party of Albanians, the country's
second-largest minority party, also boycotted the vote, saying
election fraud had kept them from emerging as the most popular
group among the country's Albanians.
 

Date created : 2008-07-27

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