The Law on Languages: When Our Attempts at Europeanness Go Too Far

A potentially damaging blow to the law on languages came from an unlikely source. In a recent leak, the Venice Commission, the constitutional law advisory body of the Council of Europe, outlined major issues with the law on languages. 

According to the Venice Commission, the law goes too far in “promoting multiethnic and multilingual interconnectedness of the judicial system.” The report notes that implementing the anticipated legal framework, which guarantees Albanian language court proceedings, would be prohibitively expensive. 

Furthermore, the inherent complexity of the entire undertaking would significantly hamper the regular functioning of the courts, thus seriously jeopardizing the right to a fair and timely trial guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.  

Aside from stating obvious challenges with implementing the law, the commission report agitated certain politicians in Macedonia. Something must be rotten when European officials, the supposedly staunch defenders of minority rights, become the target of political attack by Artan Grubi.

In what can only be described as a threat, Grubi asked the Venice Commission to refrain from exposing the irrationality of the law on languages and from predicting the difficulties with implementing this horrendous law. According to Grubi, peace has no price tag, and the successful implementation of the law of languages will allow for interethnic peace in Macedonia. According to the Albanian political bloc in Macedonia, pointing out the inherent flaws of the law on languages is equivalent to inciting interethnic violence. 

Luckily, the Venice Commission thought otherwise, and pointed to numerous elements of the law on languages that actually surpass the previously defined standards for protection of ethnic minorities. 

This fact illustrates the real purpose of this law. The agenda forwarded by the law on languages is aimed not at advancing minority rights in Macedonia, but at promoting nationalistic ambitions for creating Greater Albania and undermining Macedonia’s sovereignty. 

Even before the law on languages was passed, the Albanian ethnic minority in Macedonia was already in an extraordinarily privileged position in relation to human rights and constitutionally defined protection. Some advantages conferred upon them as a result of coalition building efforts have even transcended the legal sphere, such as ability to get paid for staying at home, not paying electricity bills and taxes, and disregarding states inspections in ethnic Albanian owned businesses.

The reality is that the law on languages grossly hinders the sovereign character of our country. Maintaining a governing coalition in Macedonia has become extremely difficult because of the nationalistic and divisive demands by Albanian political subjects. As one of the key demands of the Tirana platform, the law on languages serves as the foundation upon which the current governing coalition was built. Implementing the law will be key to maintaining the coalition in the future, as Grubi’s vociferous defense of the law demonstrated.

UMD has strongly condemned the law on languages and has asked for its nullification. We hope that the Venice Commission stands by its condemnation of the law, and urges political units in Macedonia to refrain from undermining the sovereign character of our country.