Macedonian Romani observers of the recent violence in Macedonia repeatedly emphasise that the fate of the approximately 250,000 Roma in their country cannot be separated from that of ethnic Albanians, Macedonians, Turks and others in the culturally diverse fabric of their land. In other words, if there is violence, bloodshed and population dispersal, all citizens of Macedonia would be the sufferers.
When the recent violence between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and the Macedonian army erupted, many Romani non-governmental organisations were quick to sign on and promote within Macedonian civil society the "NGO [non-governmental organisation] Appeal for Peace," whereby many groups condemned the use of violence and terrorism to achieve political goals. This has been a sign of the maturation of Romani participation in the public life of Macedonia, despite the on-going problems of socio-economic exclusion confronting many Romani communities in the country.
The maintenance of inter-ethnic solidarity is a crucial endeavour. It is true that the recent responses by the Macedonian government to curb extremist violence on the border with Kosovo and northern Macedonia and to begin to consider more seriously the demands of ethnic Albanians may well result in holding the Macedonian state together, and save it from the brink of civil war.
However, the lessons from Bosnia and Kosovo, and in particular, the vulnerability of the Romani communities from those lands is a harbinger of what is to come if once again Roma are excluded from the negotiating table.
Inclusivity at the negotiating table