One Small Step for Macedonia

Breaking the ancient bonds of ethnic rivalry is a rare sight in the Balkans these days. Most states of the former Yugoslavia seem destined to keep their ethnic enclaves, with little hope that democracy can ever melt down old antagonisms.

Macedonia, which is still racked by fighting between the Slav-dominated government and Albanian rebels, has just advanced a notch toward ethnic harmony. An accord reached on Wednesday would recognize the use of the Albanian language, integrate Albanians into the police, and make other constitutional changes that may help the minority Albanians (one-third of the population) feel less like second-class citizens.

NATO stands poised to deploy troops in Macedonia to disarm the rebels and keep the peace, in an operation dubbed "Essential Harvest." And the European Union has dangled the hope of financial aid to bolster the economy. Both of these actions show just how much the West has learned about heading off ethnic violence in the Balkans before it erupts into war.

But the peace accord, which is due to be signed Monday, has created a violent backlash. Obviously, the EU and NATO must speak louder to this nation that lies on the fringe of Europe, both geographically and politically.

And the West must also quickly solve problems in neighboring Kosovo to truly ensure Macedonia's peace. A spill-over of Albanian nationalism from Kosovo could trouble the region for years. The Macedonia accord is a model for a better way.

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