THE HAGUE, 20 November 2001 (OSCE) - This morning, in an official ceremony, the South East European University was formally opened in Tetovo, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Speaking at the ceremony, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Rolf Ekeus, said: "Today is a good day for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and a good day for Europe. At a time when good news is in short supply, it is heartening to see that progress can be made towards building peace among people".
The university is open to all students regardless of ethnicity. The curriculum will be in Albanian, Macedonian, English and other European languages. The university will include faculties of law, business administration, public administration, teacher training, communications and computer studies.
Higher education has been one of the points of contention between the Macedonian and Albanian communities in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In July 2000, a new education law was introduced to allow for the use of the Albanian language and other languages in private institutions of higher education in the country. Soon afterwards, Max van der Stoel, then the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities and now the Personal Envoy of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, initiated a project to develop a university, which would improve the opportunities for higher education in minority languages.
Funds for the project were sought from the international community, and 33 million euros have been pledged so far. The Macedonian Government donated the piece of land where the university is situated. Construction was completed within six months, despite the difficult security situation.
In their addresses, both Mr. Ekeus and Mr. van der Stoel - who is also the Chairman of the university's international advisory board - noted the importance of the university in the broader context of inter-ethnic integration in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Mr. van der Stoel stressed the importance of inter-ethnic harmony, while Mr. Ekeus said: "I hope that the event we are witnessing today can offer inspiration to all citizens of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, so that their country can move ahead and take steps towards building a better future - a future that can enrich all people of this country, regardless of ethnicity".