08.09.21

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An EPO Administrative Council Exposé — Part IV: A Party Political Animal

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:21 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Series index:

  1. An EPO Administrative Council Exposé — Part I: A New EPO Balkan Affair?
  2. An EPO Administrative Council Exposé — Part II: A Mysterious Fist-Bumping Masquerade in Skopje
  3. An EPO Administrative Council Exposé — Part III: A Longtime Associate of the Doyen
  4. You are here ☞ A Party Political Animal

Emruli DUI
Emruli (on the right) enjoying a working lunch with his friends from the Democratic Union for Integration.
Party leader Ali Ahmeti is second from the left.

Summary: A closer look at the EPO delegate from North Macedonia, who mysteriously vanished a few months ago

In this part we plan to take a look at the domestic political connections of Safet Emruli, the former Director of the North Macedonian State Office for Intellectual Property (SOIP).

“In Emruli’s case as we shall see later, this seems to have been money well spent.”It’s a matter of public record that Emruli, who belongs to North Macedonia’s ethnic Albanian minority, is a full-blooded “party-political animal” and a paid-up member of the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), the largest ethnic Albanian political party in the country.

Emruli Albanian
Excerpt from the DUI accounts (2014) [PDF] showing payment of membership dues for Emruli (18,000 MKD).

There is no secret about this and it can be confirmed via the website of the State Audit Office which publishes records of financial contributions to all registered political parties in North Macedonia. For example, from the accounts submitted in 2015 for the preceding year, it can be seen that in 2014 Emruli paid party membership dues of 18,000 Macedonian Denars, which works out at around € 290.

In Emruli’s case as we shall see later, this seems to have been money well spent.

Albania flag of DUI
The Albanian flag – rather than the Macedonian one – flies in front of the DUI party headquarters in Skopje.

As was mentioned in the introduction to this series, Albanians form a significant ethnic minority in Northern Macedonia, about 25% of the overall population. The Albanian minority is predominantly concentrated in the western part of the country, in a region extending along the borders with Albania and Kosovo, in an arc from Tetovo in the north to Struga on the shores of lake Ohrid in the south. The main urban centre and unofficial capital of this region is Tetovo.

“In reality, however, the inter-ethnic tensions in the country were far more entrenched and problematic than officially admitted.”In 1991, Macedonia voted to secede from the Yugoslav Federation and became fully independent without a single shot being fired. At that time the view prevailed that – in contrast to Kosovo or Bosnia – no major inter-ethnic tensions would develop in the fledgling state.

In reality, however, the inter-ethnic tensions in the country were far more entrenched and problematic than officially admitted. In general, there was very little social contact between Macedonians and Albanians. Having different languages and different religions, they each tended to live primarily in their own parallel world with little or no mutual interaction.

“In general, there was very little social contact between Macedonians and Albanians.”Ethnic (Slav) Macedonians were concerned about secessionist tendencies among Albanians, many of whom were suspected of being sympathetic to proposals for the creation of Greater Albanian state, encompassing present-day Albania, Kosovo and Albanian dominated areas of Macedonia.

Ethnic Albanians, for their part, often felt that they were treated as second-class citizens, because, notwithstanding the equal rights clause in the Constitution, they were heavily under-represented in the civil service and in leading positions in society.

“Ethnic (Slav) Macedonians were concerned about secessionist tendencies among Albanians, many of whom were suspected of being sympathetic to proposals for the creation of Greater Albanian state, encompassing present-day Albania, Kosovo and Albanian dominated areas of Macedonia.”The level of discontent in the Albanian community increased dramatically during the late 1990s as a result of a series of repressive measures imposed by the government, including restrictions on the official use of the Albanian language and a ban on the display of the Albanian flag.

In late 2000, Albanian groups consisting of veterans of the Kosovo conflict began to penetrate across the border into western Macedonia and form a local division of the pan-Albanian paramilitary organisation known as the Ushtria Çlirimtare Kombëtare (UÇK) or “National Liberation Army” (NLA). Their efforts were supported by many young Albanian men from villages in the border area who were disaffected with the Macedonian state.

In early 2001, the NLA occupation of Tanusevci, an ethnic Albanian village on Macedonia’s northern border, and armed confrontations between the NLA and Macedonian security forces in the region of Tetovo and Kumanovo, ushered in a new phase of inter-ethnic conflict, commonly referred to as the “Albanian insurgency”. There were claims that the NLA wished to see Albanian-majority areas secede from the country but high-ranking members of the group have denied this.

“…DUI has managed to establish itself as the largest ethnic Albanian political party in North Macedonia and the third largest political party in the country.”The short-lived “Albanian insurgency” ended with the Ohrid Framework Agreement, signed on 13 August 2001.

Following the adoption of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) – in Albanian: Bashkimi Demokratik për Integrim (BDI) – was formed on 5 June 2002 under the leadership of the former NLA guerrilla leader, Ali Ahmeti, who remains at the head of the party to this day.

Ahmeti and Emruli, DUI
Left: Former guerrilla leader turned politician, Ali Ahmeti who now leads the DUI.
Right: Ahmeti with DUI party comrade Emruli.

Since then, the DUI has managed to establish itself as the largest ethnic Albanian political party in North Macedonia and the third largest political party in the country.

“The party leader Ahmeti is in his element on occasions like Albanian National Flag Day, which commemorates the Albanian declaration of independence on 28 November 1912.”Given its historical roots in the “Albanian insurgency” of 2001 and its links to the NLA, it’s not surprising that the DUI likes to indulge in ultra-nationalist rhetoric, including emotional invocations of “the martyrs of the Albanian nation”.

The party leader Ahmeti is in his element on occasions like Albanian National Flag Day, which commemorates the Albanian declaration of independence on 28 November 1912.

At such events he likes to harangue the party faithful and remind his audience that “the red and black flag … is a flag of all Albanians, which has been washed in blood and the sacrifice of the sons and daughters” and that there is no freedom and equality without blood“.

Ahmeti on DUI stage
DUI leader Ali Ahmeti haranguing the party faithful on Albanian National Flag Day, 28 November 2020.

More recently, at an event commemorating the 19th anniversary of the party’s foundation, Ahmeti announced his intention to dial down the ultra-nationalistic rhetoric and focus instead on policies for a green, developed and secure future“.

DUI greenwash
Ahmeti’s recent attempts to “greenwash” the DUI have been greeted with scepticism in many quarters

This somewhat clumsy attempt at “greenwashing” was greeted with scepticism and ridicule in many quarters. Critics of the DUI have pointed to its poor track record in environmental matters as the party currently in charge of the Ministry of the Environment.

“This somewhat clumsy attempt at “greenwashing” was greeted with scepticism and ridicule in many quarters.”Whatever one is inclined to make of the DUI, it has to be acknowledged that since its formation in 2002 it has managed to establish itself as a significant player in the political life of North Macedonia.

In the next part we will look at the party’s role as the local parliamentary “kingmaker” and see how Emruli’s professional career has benefited from his DUI connections.

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