Home News Ethnic “balancers” working in government become focus of ethnic divisions

Ethnic “balancers” working in government become focus of ethnic divisions


After the city government formulated a recruitment plan for 20 people this year, the head of the city’s personnel department inserted it into Balancer—— a website It is administered by the government of the Balkan country of North Macedonia.

Seconds later, he received a chart listing the mandatory ethnic breakdown of those filling the position: 16 ethnic Albanians, three ethnic Macedonians and one Roma.

The computer-generated quotas, matched to the size of different neighborhoods in Tetovo, a city with a large ethnic Albanian population in the country’s northwest, are part of one of the world’s most comprehensive and mathematically rigorous government programs to enhance ethnic diversity through affirmative action. sex.

This is also highly controversial. Critics say it prioritizes race over merit, while supporters argue it helped the country escape a racial civil war. Both agree that the program has been fraught with fraud, particularly when race-based parties have sought to exploit the system, and that the program and other efforts to promote diversity have led to a proliferation of unnecessary state-sector jobs.

The approach, seen by many in the ethnic Macedonian majority as unfair social engineering, contributed to the resounding victory in the May 8 elections for the nationalist party VMRO-DPMNE, which mainly attracts majority, and promised to abolish the Balancers.

North Macedonia has been an independent country since 1991 and was initially spared the violence that engulfed neighboring Kosovo and other parts of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, but in 2001 ethnic Albanian militants, aided by Kosovar militants, launched a A brief but bloody conflict. The weapons were targeted at security forces, who were mainly ethnic Macedonians.

The conflict, which raged in the mountain villages around Tetovo, ended with the Albanian National Liberation Army agreeing to disarm and give up any demands for an independent state or merger with Kosovo and Albania. In return, the Macedonian-led government promise “Fair representation” in public administration and “positive discrimination” in college admissions.

It also accepts Albanian as a second official language and allows public school students to be educated in their own language.

Fatmir Sabriu, Tetovo’s personnel director, said government job quotas “worked” because they brought more Albanians into state institutions, especially the police; they now account for 79% of city employees %. But he said diversity plans had been distorted by “the cancer of our society – the impact of politics on everything, especially jobs”.

He said ethnic-based parties used quotas to place their supporters in bloated state sectors, sometimes even requiring them to fake their ethnicity to satisfy the balancers. In addition to the increased staff at the new agency, which aims to promote diversity, new jobs have been created to ensure every group is represented according to the balancer’s calculations.

Mr. Sabriu said the city government now has 362 employees, up from 125 in 2006.

Shefkete Hamza, a Roma woman from Tetovo, said she found a city job through Balancer. She recalled that five other applicants – three ethnic Macedonians and two ethnic Albanians – all falsely claimed to be Roma, a particularly disadvantaged community. “I’m the only real Roma,” she said.

Since North Macedonia does not list ethnicity on birth certificates or identity cards, applicants need only self-identify as members of the ethnic group for the vacant position, even if their true identity is clear from their name and/or language. HR directors say this makes identifying fakes impossible.

The 2001 settlement led to a proliferation of government agencies tasked with enforcing its terms. Aleksandra Temenugova, a researcher at the Diversity Project, said many public agencies employ “a lot of people who are paid but don’t go to work.”

A Learning in 2020 Ms Temenugova’s Communication Institute, a Skopje-based research group, found that a ministry set up to oversee the implementation of a 2001 diversity pledge had 1,410 staff on its payroll, mostly ethnic Albanians, but only 44 People go to work.

Hostility to the quota scheme is most pronounced among Macedonia’s population, which makes up about 60 percent of the country’s 1.8 million people.

“In this country we focus too much on race rather than on merit and ability,” said Timco Mucunski, deputy leader of the winning party that won the presidency and a large number of seats in parliament.

Before the recent elections, the prime minister, as well as the finance and foreign ministers, were ethnic Albanians. (Due to the divided nature of the electorate, ethnic Macedonian parties that do not win an electoral majority often have to team up with ethnic Albanian parties in exchange for key positions.)

Mukunski’s party’s campaign slogan was “Macedonia – yours again”, but rivals denounced it as a dog whistle against minorities, particularly Albanians. Mukunski said this was simply a commitment to all groups to “take back the country that has been held hostage by the political elite.”

The constitution recognizes six official ethnic minorities: Albanians, Roma, Bosniaks, Serbs, Turks and Vlachs, who make up nearly 30% of the population.

There is no official registration of an individual’s ethnic affiliation. Last year, a government move to record race on birth and marriage certificates was ruled unconstitutional by the country’s highest court.

Last week’s election was a crushing defeat for the Social Democratic Alliance, a progressive party that came to power in 2017 promising to stamp out corruption and unite ethnic minority communities. It fails on both counts.

Bisera Kostadinovska-Stojchevska, a university professor who served as culture minister in the defeated government, blames Macedonian and Albanian nationalism for the progressives’ rout A resurgence of sentiment and a general revulsion at the abuse of a system designed to promote equal opportunity.

Last year, she was dismayed to discover that two senior officials in her department who held designated Macedonian positions were actually Albanians. They kept their jobs. “If people say they feel they are Macedonian or Albanian, there is nothing I can do about it,” she said. “If you raise this issue you could be taken to court for discrimination,” she added.

A 2001 peace deal that promised “fair representation” “solved the issue of war, but now they have all returned to nationalism,” she said, referring to the main Albanian and Macedonian parties. “They were drunk.”

Before the election, leaders of the largest ethnic Albanian party called a rally in the center of the capital, Skopje, shouting “UCK, UCK,” the Albanian abbreviation for the National Liberation Army, which terrorized ethnic Macedonian villages in 2001. To many voters in the majority population, this sounds like a call to arms.

Mixed schools that once taught primarily in Macedonian have been replaced by separate classes and segregated schools for different language groups, with ethnic communities increasingly alienated from each other.

“Instead of cooperating, communities are becoming more polarized,” said researcher Ms. Temenugova.

Geral Hodzic, deputy Bosnian director of the Community Rights Enforcement Agency, said the feeling many ethnic Macedonians feel about their low status stems in part from views typical of majority groups everywhere. “They think: We need to be the bosses and everyone else should be second-class citizens.”

But he described Balancer as a “broken tool.”

“When people with political connections apply for jobs, they are told what race they need to be,” he said.

Supporters of promoting diversity complain that well-intentioned efforts to reverse serious imbalances have been undermined by racial politics.

“We did not find the brightest and most capable people, but we found people who were loyal to the party,” said Petrit Saracini, the Albanian president of the Institute for Media and Analysis in Skopje. The result, he said, was that public administration was “full of party soldiers.”

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