AIM: start

MON, 02 APR 2001 23:51:40 GMT

Beauty of Dialogue

When arms are silenced, dialogue begins! During all this time of crisis in Macedonia the most often mentioned word was "dialogue". Everybody speaks of dialogue, but they all mean different things by that word

AIM Skopje, March 28, 2001

The crisis in Macedonia, no matter what anybody may think, is passing from its armed into its political phase. In the next few days and weeks, arms should be replaced by a dialogue which was indeed mentioned many times before although nobody wished to be specific what was meant by it. >From the very first shots fired in Tanusevci representatives of international community were sending messages to Macedonian officials to give advantage to political means and dialogue, although none of them had at that moment a specific idea what nature of dialogue they had in mind. On the other hand, the Liberation National Army as a representative of the extremists issued statements offering the same: a dialogue, always appealing on Macedonian security forces to lay down arms...

Military action of security forces in Tetovo was the turning point. Advisor of the President of the Republic for national security Nikola Dimitrov is probably right when he says that the developments in Tetovo cannot be repeated, but he does not eliminate other forms of action of the extremists. Nevertheless, from the aspect of the international community, it is increasingly suggested that time has come to seriously consider the possibility of initiating a dialogue on open political questions. The European Union is gradually emerging as the future coordinator of the process which should lead to the elimination of the cause of the present crisis. High Representative of the European Union for defence and foreign policy Javier Solana visited Skopje three times in just a week (and Tetovo during his latest visit) so activities of the international community are justly linked to his name. The possible and very desirable assistance will arrive from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) whose envoy Robert Frowick is feeling the pulse of the people in the state leadership. Many issues which should be discussed around a "green table" are from the domain of work of the OSCE. The talks which were so far in political circles of the country implied by political dialogue mostly took place in cooperation with the OSCE, but the latest armed conflicts seem to have shown that it is necessary to speed things up.

The question that was logically raised is what should be the topic of future talks? Each relevant political subject in the country has its own opinion which either in nuances but often roughly differs from that of others. First, the future coordinator will need to determine exactly who will talk with whom and on what. Just a week ago government officials claimed that they would not talk with the extremists about anything, least of all have a political dialogue with them; as concerning the Albanians in general it was stressed that the dialogue had never been interrupted - so there was no need to open a new one. Two parties of the Albanians incorporated in the system gladly spoke about the need for a dialogue, especially while they are not in the administration. Operations of armed Albanians have in a sense caught them unprepared, and in order not to be eliminated from the "game", they readily joined in the talks about a future dialogue. All potential participants in that dialogue are present but with starting points that need to be brought closer together.

Javier Solana as the representative of the European Union (in this case, also in the capacity of the representative of the international community in general) is inclined to meet the demands of the Albanians starting from the one on the amendment of the Constitution which would make it civil in nature, but also the demand on decentralisation of the country, equating Macedonian and Albanian language - all these are questions on which Solana would talk, at least judging by the statements he has unsparingly given. However, he keeps repeating that the international community will not offer models of talks and specific solutions but only help create an atmosphere for a political dialogue. Some local media in Macedonian language immediately interpreted this as "generosity" at the expense of the Macedonians with which the EU wishes to make up for its bad policy towards Macedonia and the region in near past.

Leader of Democratic Party of the Albanians Arben Xhaferi speaks of the need for a multi-centric state which would correspond to a multi-ethnic society, in other words, on the need to change the concept of the state. Judging according to latest statements, Xhaferi is not in favour of federalisation of the country, but a higher level of autonomy is according to his judgement, inevitable. After his talks with Solana in Tetovo on Tuesday Xhaferi stated three questions about which the future dialogue will take place; first, about the legal concept, second, about the proportionate representation of the Albanians in the institutions of the system, and third, about census. The other party of the Albanians, the opposition Party of Democratic Prosperity, also persists on the amendment of the Constitution and creation of a civil society.

Within the ethnic Macedonian political block there are essential differences. Prime Minister Georgievski hinted in Tetovo on Sunday that a dialogue could be opened on all questions although he was suspicious about the possibility to talk on bilingualism. But for every opened question Georgievski seeks arguments from the ones who will propose them. Leader of the opposition Social Democratic League Branko Crvenkovski notes with bitterness that the country is in the position to have somebody else offer solutions and be invited to sit down at the negotiating table. He seems to have disregarded that his party had the opportunity for six long years to dictate the rate and content of an interethnic dialogue. According to Crvenkovski, questions which belong in the domain of human rights and the rights of ethnic minorities can be on the agenda of the talks. Crvenkovski warns that changing of the internal state concept by advocating federalisation or autonomy would eventually open the door to disruption of territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country.

Media have devoted great attention to the questions which could become the subject of a future dialogue. Majority of them fear that the preamble of the Constitution which promotes the exclusive rights of the Macedonian people will be the first to come under “attack”: "Macedonia is a national state of the Macedonian people in which full equality is provided for the Albanians, Turks, Vlachs and other peoples". In their earlier appearances in the course of the past years leaders of the parties of the Albanians were not against the amendment of the preamble so that it would stress that Macedonia was a state of the Macedonian and the Albanian people. It is more probable that representatives of the international community will "encourage" (as they like to euphemistically say) the acceptance of the formulation that Macedonia is the state of all its citizens which should stress its civil nature as believed to be in the spirit of European goals. Leader of the opposition Social Democratic League Branko Crvenkovski who could have been expected to be one of the most ardent opponents of a dialogue of this sort, wonders: what will the Albanians or someone else gain if Macedonia or the Macedonian people give up on their being the constitutive nation or the historic genesis of the state?" He believes that this is meant to "satisfy somebody's vanity".

The stands are very distant. If it had not been for the international community, it would have been hard to believe that they would get closer together in the next century or two. As it is, after everything that has happened in the past month and a half the international community has started to doubt that political protagonists in Macedonia can resolve the problem on their own. Or rather it is not ready to believe them that they can do it. In Brussels and elsewhere they are not ready any more to believe anything only by taking somebody’s word for it.

AIM Skopje