Macedonia lawmakers approve Albanian as second language

Macedonia's parliament has approved a draft law making Albanian the country's second official language, amid harsh criticism from the conservative opposition.

Lawmakers voted 66-41 Wednesday in favor of the bill that extends the official use of Albanian to the entire country, in order to ease the communication of Macedonia's ethnic Albanian minority with institutions, hospitals and courts.

Ethnic Albanians make up a quarter of Macedonia's 2.1 million population.

The previous law, which arose from a 2001 peace deal that ended an armed conflict between ethnic Albanian rebels and government forces, secured the official use of the Albanian language in communities where the minority is more than 20 percent of the population.

The conservative opposition party opposes the law, claiming it "doesn't improve inter-ethnic relations."