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Macedonia adopts law to boost Albanian language status

Macedonian parliament on Wednesday passed a law bolstering official use of the Albanian language in the Balkan country, despite protests from the rightwing opposition who argue the move will endanger national unity.

In the 120-seat parliament, 64 lawmakers voted to adopt the law, without a debate requested by the opposition, MIA news agency reported.

MPs from the rightwing opposition party, the VMRO-DPMNE, staged protests against the bill — which had already been passed in January, but was again put up for a vote after conservative President Gjorge Ivanov vetoed it.

Under the Macedonian constitution, president must now sign it following the new vote.

Outside the parliament building, a few hundred protestors demonstrated against the law, but the protests passed without incident, an AFP photographer reported.

Macedonian is the primary official language used across the predominantly Slavic country.

But ethnic Albanians make up around a quarter of Macedonia’s two million people, and Albanian has until now been an official language only in areas where the minority makes up at least 20 percent of the population.

The new law will increase the use of Albanian at a national level, including in administrative, health, judicial, police and other official matters.

It can also be used in parliament by the ethnic Albanians’ elected representatives.

The adoption of the law was a demand of Macedonia’s ethnic Albanian parties before they agreed to join a ruling coalition with the Social Democrats last year.

The deal ousted the nationalist rightwing VMRO-DPMNE party, in power since 2006.

The opposition claims that the new law risks breaking up the fragile ex-Yugoslav republic.

In 2001, ethnic Albanian rebels waged an insurgency against Macedonian authorities, which left more than 100 people dead and ended with an agreement providing greater rights for the minority.

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