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Wednesday, 5 June 2013
Page: 5450

Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (09:53): I would like to raise an issue of concern on the part of my constituents of Macedonian origin as it relates to their homeland, the Republic of Macedonia. I have spoken before about Albanian separatists and the pursuit of the concept of a Greater Albania in southern Europe. When I last spoke of this I referred to villages and towns around Ohrid and Struga in the west of Macedonia where local ethnic Albanians, contrary to the laws of the republic, fly only flags of the neighbouring country of Albania.

In April, during local government elections Fatmir Dehari was elected as the ethnic Albanian mayor of Kicevo near Struga. In late 2012, he spoke in Chicago to inspire ethnic Albanians who have emigrated to the US to return to vote in the election. He said:

Dear friends and brothers, a joined Kichevo is a dream not just for its locals but for all Albanians. Now if we depart from Tirana together with its Mayor Lulzim Basha, passing through other Albanian municipalities, coming down to Struga where he will be greeted by an Albanian Mayor, continuing on to Kichevo where an Albanian Mayor also awaits, so that he then continues onto Gostivar and Tetovo so to then arrive at the capital city of Idzet Medziti, the city of Skenderberg, Hasan Prishtina and others, continuing yet again to Kumanovo. All of this is one Albanian administration and that is all we want, that is one Albania which we dreamed of.

In 2004, the Prime Minister of the centre-left government in the republic, Branko Crvenkovksi, gave in to ethnic Albanian demands to redraw local municipal boundaries to ensure ethnic Albanian mayors would be elected. Ethnic Macedonians were outraged by the social democratic government's actions and, as a result, Kicevo was 'left' for the 2013 elections in order to help ease the tensions. It should be noted that, in 2009, 2,000 Albanians flew back from overseas just to win the mayor's position in Struga.

Before the adjustments in 2013, according to the 2002 census, Kicevo had over 30,000 inhabitants, of which 53.6 per cent were Macedonian and 30 per cent Albanian. Following territorial adjustments in 2013, the municipalities of Drugovo, Vranestica, Zajas and Oslomej have been combined into the municipality. Therefore, 54 per cent of people were shown as Albanian and 36 per cent as Macedonian on the 2002 census. However, Zajas and Oslomej, which combined would have had 21,000 people according to that census, have seen 70 per cent of their residents leave to go to Western Europe and the US. In April, 4000 Albanians flew back on 20 chartered flights from Switzerland and the US to the republic to mainly vote in Kicevo and help Fatmir Dehari get elected. This is an abuse of democracy. Yes, ethnic Macedonians are unhappy, but it is not racism; it is about Albanian mayors promoting anti-Macedonian rhetoric and speaking of a greater Albania with no respect towards the Republic of Macedonia. The republic has respect for its minorities, but minorities must also respect the nation.