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Skopje Municipal Mayor Proposes Renaming Streets after NATO’s Kosovo War Heroes

January 27, 2007

(Balkanalysis.com Research Service)-  According to a report from A1 TV yesterday, Izet Mexhiti, the young Albanian mayor of Skopje’s Cair municipality, from the DUI party of former NLA leader Ali Ahmeti, has proposed that 20 percent of the city’s streets should be renamed to honor the many heroes of the Albanian people.

Among these heroes, apparently, are Bill Clinton, Wesley Clark and Tony Blair- the prime architects of NATO’s bombing campaign in 1999 in neighboring Kosovo.

In that bombing, an incompetent NATO failed to damage the Yugoslav Army, but did eventually triumph after bombing bridges, hospitals, schools, TV stations and markets, not to mention the supremely reckless deliberate destruction of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade.

In the wake of the air campaign, hundreds of thousands of non-Albanians were ethnically cleansed from Kosovo, and NATO’s own soldiers (especially Italians) came down with cancer, while Kosovar Albanians too began to suffer as a result of the dangers of the depleted uranium NATO expended over the Serbian province. Every now and again a small child, usually Albanian, is injured or killed from playing with a random piece of ordinance left undetected in a field. The cluster bombs are especially fun.

The street renaming proposal, like all others made by the Albanian parties in Macedonia since the war, comes by way of analogy to the Ohrid Agreement’s 20-percent-threshold of minority population for things such as language usage and flag-waving to kick in. Most things seem to apply to this analogy.

Said the mayor, “our request will be for at least 20 percent of the names of the boulevards and major streets of Skopje to have the names of persons or events from Albanian history.”

While there was a public debate in the municipality of Cair to give proposals for names, the debate was conducted only in the Albanian language, stated A1, though Macedonians, Turks and Roma also live in Cair. The report added that the procedure of changing the names would involve taking the suggestions to the council of Skopje municipalities, which will look at the list, before going before a government commission which would decide.

Mayor Mexhiti won his office in March 2005 and has since pledged to stamp out crime. He is said to be an insider in Ali Ahmeti’s DUI party, the political incarnation of the 2001 paramilitary NLA. When the DUI was not selected to join the ruling coalition following July 2006 elections, the party cried foul and ominously intimated that it could not be held responsible if further violence broke out, forcing Western ambassadors to embark on a tedious and time-wasting round of baby-sitting and hand-holding. DUI’s recent announcement that it would boycott parliament is bound to only intensify this trend, just at a time when other more important issues need to be dealt with.

While the DUI has protested its exclusion from government despite being called obstructionist and unhelpful by the international community, party leader Ahmeti did take time out of his busy schedule to deal with an important issue: the erection of a statue of perceived national hero Skanderbeg, also in Cair. The statue had been cast in Albania and carried to rapturous applause throughout western Macedonia on the way to its final resting place in Skopje.

Earlier last year, there was some controversy over whether the polarizing statue would be erected. Yet erected it was. On Nov. 28, 2006, Independence Day in the Republic of Albania, self-proclaimed spokesman for the Albanian people Ahmeti orated to great applause from a large crowd of Albanian Muslims in Cair. Skanderbeg (real name, Gjergji Kastrioti) battled the Ottoman Turks, and was honored by Pope Paul II as an Athleta Christi, a “champion of Christ” for his work in… killing Muslims.

Somewhat later, in 1944, Heinrich Himmler created a Nazi SS division of Kosovo Muslim Albanians named after Skanderbeg, to kill the Christian Serbs of Kosovo.

So what do Clinton, Clark and Blair think of their incorporation into the great family of Albanian heroes, side-by-side with Mother Teresa and John Belushi? We’ll probably never know.

The Cair mayor justified the initiative by pointing out that other Skopje streets have long been named after great Americans presidents such as Roosevelt and Kennedy. So what’s the harm in honoring one somewhat less great ex-president, one failed presidential candidate, and one presidential poodle from Britain? After all, Kosovo is already full of streets, structures and red-light bordellos named after such people.

Yet it might all seem a ribald enough gesture, certainly a less menacing one, were these adopted heroes to have some association with the Albanian history of Macedonia, rather than that of Kosovo. For those who fear a possible transition from FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) to FMRK (Future Macedonian Republic of Kosovo) a distinct possibility, naming Macedonian streets after the foreign “heroes” of an immoral and illegal war conducted in a third country, a war deeply opposed by the Macedonian majority, is a disconcerting idea.

More immediately, these grand initiatives of statues and streets have allowed ordinary Albanians in Macedonia to continue to be manipulated by political leaders offering a lot of symbolic triumphs in place of something more substantial. A sickly devotion to political correctness, however, means that few outsiders dare draw attention to this travesty.

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