NATO deputy chief supports decentralisation in Macedonia France_Presse - 2004/10/28
NATO deputy secretary general Alessandro Minuto Rizzo said here Friday that the decentralistion of Macedonia, the subject of a controversial November 7 referendum, was vital for its integration into transatlantic institutions.

"The decentralisation is a cornerstone of the Ohrid accord and an essential element to ensure the integration of the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia into euro-atlantic institutions," Rizzo told a press conference in Sofia on security in the Balkans.

The referendum in Macedonia has been organised by opposition parties which oppose an EU-backed law which changes municipal boundaries to empower the restive ethnic Albanian minority.

The law sparked riots when it was passed in early August and is widely seen among the Macedonian majority as a step toward federalisation along ethnic lines.

It has strong backing in Brussels though, where it is seen as the last step in the Ohrid peace accords which ended a six-month uprising by ethnic Albanian guerrillas in 2001.

British Minister for Europe Denis MacShane earlier this week called on Macedonians to boycott the vote, saying an expected 'No' vote would be anti-Europe.

Rizzo urged Macedonians not to sink the law when they go to the polls, saying it was "particularly important for ... Macedonia's future to ensure this decentralisation."

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