Kosovo Albanian girls celebrate freedom in front of a burning house, 12 June 1999. Photo: Alexandra Boulat

Kosovo Albanian girls celebrate freedom in front of a burning house, June 1999. Photo: Alexandra Boulat

Sixteen years after the Kosovo War ended, what was left unfinished by the NATO and European Union is haunting the region again. Two days ago, a  renewed conflict has erupted in Macedonia, where the Macedonian Albanian minority is still being discriminated by the Macedonian Slavs, despite the 2001 civil unrest, which ended with a peace agreement granting the Albanian community greater rights, which have not been respected.

On Saturday, hundreds of Kumanovo’s Albanian residents had to flee their homes reminiscent of the scenes from the civil unrest between Macedonian security forces and Albanian guerrillas in 2001.

The shootings coincide with growing opposition to Gruevski’s style of governing. For months, he has been embroiled in a wire-tapping scandal.

Albanian houses burned by the Macedonian police and army in ethnically mixed town of Kumanovo

Albanian houses burned by the Macedonian Slav police and army in ethnically mixed town of Kumanovo, 9 May 2015

The opposition, led by the Social Democrats, has accused the government of the illegal surveillance of over 20,000 people, including prosecutors, judges, journalists, mayors, and ministers. Opposition leaders also claim that the government has run roughshod over human rights and press freedom.

The opposition has become so critical of Gruevski and his determination to remain in power that Zoran Zaev, the leader of the Social Democrats, questioned whether Gruevski orchestrated the ethnic unrest in Kumanovo to distract the public from Macedonia’s growing economic and political crisis. If there was any grain of truth in that, then it would surely be a highly dangerous strategy and one that could easily backfire.

Although a small number of dissident ethnic Albanian militants are known to be active in Macedonia, the timing of the offensive, days ahead of major anti-government demonstrations scheduled for this weekend, has provoked suspicion among local activists, political analysts said.

Clashes between Macedonian Slav police and an alleged Albanian armed group left at least 22 people dead, 14 of them Macedonian Albanians, raising concerns about presumed ethnic-Albanian unrest in the Balkan region.