Either would involve a momentous change in the Balkans' architecture. The first would be preferable, for two reasons: it would democratise Serbia in a way that would make the Balkans an altogether safer and pleasanter place, and it would end the domino effect of secession by one minority leading to secession by another. Since next-door Macedonia has a restive Albanian community that makes up a quarter to a third of its population, independence for Kosovo might well lead to its break-up. The prospects of the sort of war that was fought in Bosnia, however, seem remote.
Albania, the mother country to Albanians in Kosovo and western Macedonia, is no Serbia, and Fatos Nano, its newly elected prime minister, is no Slobodan Milosevic. He wants to lift Albania out of anarchy, not invade his neighbours on behalf of their Albanian minorities. Bulgaria, for its part, is no Croatia. Its lingering ambitions to merge with Macedonia's Slavic lands have been controlled by a combination of poverty and democracy. Bulgaria and Albania are both on World Bank and IMF -funded life support, which could be switched off if either menaced regional peace.
If their economies recover—still a big if—there is reason to hope that newly acquired democratic habits will keep their ambitions at bay.
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Greece, another potential troublemaker, has turned markedly less nationalistic since the death of Andreas Papandreou, its long-serving populist leader. Its new government is keener to join Europe's monetary union than to make regional mischief.
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What is dangerously close to happening, however, would be bad enough: an outbreak of low-level war between Kosovo and Serbia that could spread to Macedonia. After Mr Milosevic abolished Kosovo's autonomy in , stripping the province of its separate representation in Yugoslavia's government and most Albanians of their jobs in the state apparatus, the two sides settled into a hostile peace.
Kosovo's 2m Albanians established a parallel state, with a parliament, a president, taxation and an education system. Remittances from half a million Kosovars abroad keep money flowing into Albanian-owned shops and restaurants and into the coffers of the ruling party, the Democratic League LDK. The authorities tolerate an opinionated Albanian press. Serb officialdom is more venal than nationalistic. A referendum in Kosovo in —organised by the Albanians without Serbia's approval—endorsed independence.
Would it stop there? Kosovars, tireless cartographers like all Balkan tribes, dream of union with Macedonia's Albanian lands and, eventually, with Albania itself. Albanian leaders in Kosovo are unanimous in their support of independence, but differ in their degree of patience. Albanians already account for more than nine-tenths of Kosovo's population. Serbian attempts to reverse the demographic balance smack of desperation.
Serb refugees from Croatia and Bosnia are dumped there, but leave at the first opportunity; Serbs are prohibited from selling land to Albanians.
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The Albanians' high birth rate will go on tilting the balance in their favour. But Mr Rugova has little to show for his moderation, and patience is running out. An agreement he and Mr Milosevic signed in to get Albanian students back into state-school buildings, which looked like the first sign that there might be room for compromise, has not been implemented. The martial-law regime is becoming more brutal and less effective. In October police injured students demonstrating for the right to return to university buildings.
Albanians arrested on charges of terrorism claim to have been tortured. Some of Kosovo's restless youth—the average age of Kosovo's population is 25—is turning to violence. A shadowy Kosovo Liberation Army seems to control some areas of Kosovo, and there is no shortage of excitable young men eager to join up. Mr Rugova's moderation will be put to a severe test in March, when new elections are scheduled.
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Is the same nightmare in store for Macedonia? Compared with Serbia, Macedonia treats its Albanian minority decently most of the time. An Albanian party is a member of the present governing coalition, and Macedonia's president, Kiro Gligorov, says that it should always be represented. Albanians are relatively prosperous and have their own schools, using Macedonian textbooks translated into Albanian. They live separate but not brutalised lives.
Yet Albanian speakers charge that Macedonia treats them like second-class citizens. This is becoming highly contentious.
Last June parliament passed a reasonable enough law banning the display of foreign flags in government buildings. The government's use of troops and tanks to enforce the law in the western town of Gostivar provoked riots and left at least three Albanians dead. A court made matters worse by imposing a year prison sentence on Gostivar's Albanian mayor.
He has appealed. As in Kosovo, Albanian moderates are now on the defensive. The Democratic Party of Albanians, which wants the constitution to recognise Albanians as a nation, is gaining electoral support at the expense of the moderate Party for Democratic Prosperity, which is a member of the government.
If there is more than an echo here of Kosovo's discord, that is partly because Kosovo Albanians are becoming leaders of Macedonia's Albanian community. But this is not the only assault on Macedonia's nationhood. Bulgaria, for example, insists that Macedonia's language is a variant of Bulgarian. As often happens in the Balkans, that apparently academic point has political consequences. A package of treaties between the two countries languishes unsigned because Bulgaria does not want to foreclose forever the possibility of a Greater Bulgaria.
Greeks, fearing that Macedonia will claim their own province of the same name, insist on calling the other one the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or Fyromia when they are feeling especially nasty. A two-year Greek embargo to punish Macedonia for appropriating the name of a northern Greek province suffocated its economy. Sombody who you dont wanna mess around. Joe :hey That guy is Albanian , and he just beat the shit out of a guy who wanted to take his drink. John: that guy actually helped on my math project, I think he is cool guy, he might have been just pissed of.
Joe: yeah dont piss off Albanians , you know! Albanians are people of great dignity and respect. People that if u fuck wit will cop u r had off. The people of the two hadded eagle and skenderbeu.
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I am Albanian The albania hero is Skenderbeu ALbanian beat the fuck out of their hate Dat albanian is going out wit dis fine ass chick Shqiptaret u qinte nene te terve. Albanians unknown. They later achieved "independence" a joke as they were always treated just like other Turks by the Sultan. The modern-day Albanian state is the poorest, most backward, and most violent in Europe. Albanians infest other countries such as Serbia, Greece and Italy. Many dream of a ''Greater Albania'', which would encompass most of Eastern Europe.