MACEDONIA: A RETURN TO TURMOILED TIMES
Followed by constant crises and disturbances, Macedonia has been giving the impression of a country that is simply dysfunctional – an abortive state. The inter-ethnic conflict in 2001 when Macedonians and Albanians were on the verge of a civil war seems not to have been taken seriously by the new generation politicians, which has already been factorized in the political scene in the country.
Of the five signees of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, a document that somehow brought peace to Macedonia, two are still alive – the former leaders of VMRO and SDSM, Lubco Georgievski and Branko Crvenkovski, respectively. The other three, the former President of the Republic of Macedonia – Boris Trajkovski, the former leaders of DPA and PDP – Arben Xhaferi and Ymer Ymeri, respectively, have passed away. Almost the whole generation of politicians that were involved in managing the conflict has now been replaced by new actors. Even the two living signees of that document are politically dead. Everything seems to have been forgotten what actually happened 14 years ago.
Instead of establishing a civic state where everyone would enjoy equal rights and obligations, we have been witnesses of the realization of as many mono-ethnic projects as possible. These projects have deepened the division and are likely to cause the repetition of 2001 though with far worse dimensions. The period of turmoil and wars in the territories of former Yugoslavia caused a redefinition of borders in the Balkans. This bloody process resulted in the creation of new nation states, such as Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, as well as multi-ethnic states such as Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.
Macedonia began to function as a good example of a multiethnic state. It was mentioned as a good model of interethnic and interreligious cohabitation, which could be implemented in other socially diverse countries. This was the period after the conflict when all political actors were aware they that had been lucky enough to escape the worst. Political leaders, though corruptive enough, were aware that 2002 elections represented a second chance for their political career, another possibility for the citizens to live in peace with one another and an additional chance to resolve problems and disputes wisely and peacefully.
In 2005 the country obtained the status of the candidate country for the accession to the EU, thus setting off the process of the harmonization of the whole legislation with the EU’s. In 2003, Macedonia was part of the Adriatic Group together with Albania and Croatia, as the three main countries to be admitted in NATO. The projections were that the country would become a full NATO member in 2008 whereas an EU member in 2013. Such a pace was fulfilled only by Croatia, which received the membership invitation at the Bucharest Summit along with Albania, and in 2013 became member of the EU.
The Greek veto in Bucharest was the moment that announced a dramatic shift in Macedonia. Although the government and the president at that time had accepted a compromised solution for the 20-year-old name dispute with Greece (Republic of Macedonia – Skopje), Greece once again used the veto as a blocking mechanism to prevent Macedonia from receiving the membership invitation by the NATO. This veto was a demante for the then US President, George Bush, who declared just a day earlier that there was no doubt that Macedonia would get the membership status.
Since 2008 the Macedonian Government has set forth other priorities: suffocation and obliteration of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, deterioration of hostility with Greece by peculating the antique history of the region, etc. Such politics, with mono-ethnic and mono-religious approach was a step back in the new history of Macedonia. It was a return onto a path which is likely to face the 2001 challenge once more or onto a path that guarantees nothing else but division and disintegration.
The lack of inclusive policies and enforcement of mono-ethnic projects by the Government of the Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski have turned the country into an unstable establishment. The VMRO-DPMNE – DUI government seems to have been led only by the fulfillment of certain business interests of a small number of functionaries within these political subjects. Gruveski and Ahmeti have been governing the country since 2008 and a worse governmental crisis has never been remembered before. Undersized problems have always been resolved silently and non-transparently, whereas bigger misunderstandings resulted to have been set up just to take the country to the next early general elections whereupon the VMRO’s supremacy over SDSM would increase even more.
In one word, Gruevski and Ahmeti have been functioning in perfect synchronization, without having any sense about the division and dissatisfaction caused by the ethnocentric projects of VMRO-DPMNE. In order for the calmness to be as secure as possible, the leader of the Albanian opposition, Menduh Thaci from the DPA, seems to have acted in full accordance with Gruevski as well. This situation has caused serious shatters in the political scene in Macedonia, whereupon different factors tend to articulate the interests of the Albanians in Macedonia.
The offers are also diverse – from a serious upgrade of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, in order to guarantee consensual democracy, to the re-actualization of the 1992 referendum and the revival of the project “Ilirida”, which envisages an Albanian republic within Macedonia – the same as Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
THE SALVATION IS IN NATO AND THE EU
These governmental policies after the NATO Summit in Bucharest have enabled the achievement of three main aims: largely reduce the support of the Macedonian public opinion for the integration in Euro-Atlantic structures, suffocate the Ohrid Framework Agreement, and delegitimize the main Albanian political factors in Macedonia. Such a country, without respecting the ethnic and religious diversity as European values and without clear strategic priorities, seems to have exhausted the international factors.
The Berlin Summit where all problematic Balkan leaders were gathered, revealed the new role which Albania is taking in Balkans as a model state in terms of managing social diversity and respecting it as a value. Unlike Macedonia, which has a multiethnic and multireligious society, Albania has been praised for wise and inclusive politics in relation to various different religious groups.
While Macedonia is already considered an abortive state, along with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, Albania is favored in terms of implementing its constructive and inclusive approach in the area of the whole Balkans. The support has also come from Berlin during the meeting with prime ministers from the Balkans, organized by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Also, the signals coming from the NATO say that the country was ready for membership six years ago but this does not mean that the invitation will remain open forever. NATO is undergoing a fundamental transformation as an organization and this imposes new criteria which Macedonia has to fulfill additionally if it still wants the membership.
The last in terms of the average salary and the first in terms of unemployment, this tiny multiethnic country surrounded by NATO and EU member states can secure its economic stability only as part of the Euro-Atlantic structures. Any other alternative would be welcomed only by those structures that have been constantly working towards the division and disintegration of Macedonia. This possible outcome would mean another great failure of the global decision-making centers, which invested a lot in making this state an example of coexistence among various different ethnic and religious communities.