Macedonia: Town mayors 'fall out over road signs'

A Macedonian town mayor threatened to flatten a church in a row over the language used for road signs, it's reported.

It all started when the state highway authority removed bilingual signs leading to the Albanian-majority town of Struga, reports the Balkan Insight website. It seems they were replaced with signs in Macedonian Cyrillic, dropping the Albanian language, at the request of Vevcani mayor Cvetomir Ugrinoski. He's quoted as saying the Cyrillic-Albanian signs weren't needed because his area is "100% populated by ethnic Macedonians".

But Struga mayor Ziadin Sela's threatened to retaliate by demolishing a decorative entrance gate to Vevcani and a church close to the boundary, the news site says. It seems a government minister's now waded in, saying the church mustn't be touched but adding that Ugrinoski had "acted with prejudice" in removing the original signs. Ethnic Albanians make up around 25% of Macedonia's 2.1m people but tensions have remained since they rose up to demand greater rights in 2001. Among the provisions of the subsequent peace accord was a requirement that a town with more than 20% of a non-majority population should allow official use of its language alongside Macedonian.

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