Albanian citizens in Macedonia say they feel more equal now that they are linguistically represented on public signs.
By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 12/03/13
Posting multilingual signs in downtown Skopje signals the social inclusion of all ethnicities in Macedonia. [Tomislav Georgiev/SETimes]
Posting public signs in Skopje in Macedonian, Albanian and English is a good example for other multi-ethnic cities in the region, analysts said. With the addition of Albanian on the signs, the city is making inroads to improve interethnic relations.
Veton Latifi, a professor at the Southeast Europe University in Tetovo, told SETimes that the public use of the languages of the community will also contribute to faster spread of democratic reforms in the country.
"There is nothing wrong if a language of an ethnic group is implemented by the state and municipalities; in fact, [there is] an obligation to do. It shouldn't create tensions and disagreements. Macedonia should see its future in its multicultural identity, and help such efforts and projects to normalise relations among ethnic communities," Latifi said.
"The constitution and laws guarantee this right. No matter how much it costs, the official use of ethnic groups' languages and setting up boards in several languages costs much less than addressing inter-ethnic conflicts and tensions," Bayram Polozani, constitutional law professor at Skopje's FON University, told SETimes.
Dzevat Ademi, Democratic Union for Integration MP, told SETimes that public bilingualism in the country will make the Albanian minority feel less like second-grade citizens.
"In this way, slowly but surely, we'll turn Skopje to a truly multi-ethnic city, like so many multi-ethnic cities of Europe," Ademi said.
Skopje citizens agree.
"Public inscriptions in Albanian confirm to me that I'm a part of this country, and give me the assurance that this country knows I'm also part of it -- its equal citizen," Anita Latifi, a Skopje resident, told SETimes.
"Multi-ethnicity, which is characteristic of Skopje, makes our city special, it's something we all need to keep up and respect, be proud of," Goran Efremov, an ethnic Macedonian from Skopje, told SETimes.
According to analysts, Skopje city authorities are enforcing the law on the use of languages from the 2001 Ohrid Framework Agreement, which defines the use of languages of the country's nationalities.
The agreement defines Macedonian as the official language in the country, but in municipalities where there is more than 20 percent of a minority, their language is also official. Albanians make up slightly more than 20 percent of Skopje's population.
In Albania, public sign boards in Macedonian and Albanian are posted in the Pustec municipality, where Macedonians are the majority.
"Public signs are in three languages -- Albanian, Macedonian and English. That is according to the decision of the Pustec municipality council, and the co-operation memorandum of Korca prefecture authorities," Pustec Mayor Edmond Temelko told SETimes.
Prizren, Kosovo, provides the equal use of Albanian, Serbian and Romani languages. The bill on representation of ethnic minorities requires public and institutional signs to be in the three languages.