AIM: start

WED, 11 APR 2001 00:33:29 GMT

What Is to Be Done?

Almost everyone in Macedonia is asking oneself this after the end of the “mini war” operations in this country. There is plenty of uncertainty about the announced Macedonian-Albanian dialogue: when it will start, what will be the content of the talks and to what extent the two parties are ready to make a compromise. For the time being, representatives of the international community have the worst time because allegedly they are imposing a solution conditioning with it a quick signing of the agreement on cooperation and association with the European Union.

AIM Skopje, April 3, 2001

The message on the front page of Makedonija danas daily was today: "Solana we don't need you!" The superscript headline of this message was: "World Mediators in Macedonia Again", and the content of the message was very clear: "Wherever it got involved (meaning "good old Europe"), there was nothing but war. Such destructive diplomacy is what Macedonia needs the least at this moment, so we join the citizens of Tetovo who have proclaimed Solana a persona non grata by accusing him of acting in favour of the Greater Albanian cause, and also wish to tell him to go home. Basura, vasa ce a casa!"

The fourth visit in a row of the European chief of foreign affairs and security this time together with the European Commissar Chris Patten was met with hostility, because before the visit the impression was created that Solana himself was exerting pressure on Macedonian state leadership to begin negotiations with the local Albanians before signing of the agreement on cooperation and association which Macedonian and the EU according to announcements should sign on April 9 in Luxembourg. Moreover, that in the name of Europe Solana is conditioning signing of the agreement with the acceptance of the demands of the Albanians which do not essentially differ much from the political demands of the National Liberation Army which is militarily, Macedonians are convinced, definitely defeated after the recent offensive of the security forces around Tetovo and along the northern border with Kosovo, between Blace and Tanusevac.

Indeed Javier Solana was proclaimed responsible for the fact that after military victory Macedonian authorities have to sit down at the negotiating table and make concessions which is not fitting for a victor, while the Albanians, defeated in war, are getting quite a lot!

Skopje Dnevnik daily published last Thursday reports of its correspondent from Brussels who wrote about the meeting of Solana with the members of the foreign policy committee of European parliament. According to this source, among other, Solana said the following to European parliamentarians: "The Government of Macedonia, although it has not been publicly declared, agrees with me that the Preamble of the Constitution of Macedonia is not adequate and that it should be amended". The Preamble is a political declaration on the centuries' old wish of the Macedonians to have their own state and it is the only part of the Constitution dominated by the ethnic concept, unlike the civil one which dominates in the normative part). A part of the Macedonian public has understood this as an already reached agreement between Solana and Macedonian government to initiate amendments of the Constitution in the announced negotiations with the Albanian party and after that accept all the demands of the Albanians which have been repeated for ten years already (state university education in Albanian, use of Albanian language as official, use of flag and ethnic insignia...).

All kinds of similar rumours circled around Solana's visits to Macedonia. During the first one, at the very beginning of the crisis, instead of military action against the rebels Solana had allegedly tried to persuade President of Macedonia Boris Trajkovski that it was necessary to start a dialogue with the Albanians. Trajkovski allegedly refused to listen to the end to this proposal of Solana's. During the second Solana's stay, on the eve of the European summit in Stockholm, this time together with Swedish Foreign Minister Ane Lind as the chairman of the EU and Euro-Commissar Chris Patten, Solana allegedly convinced Macedonian state leadership to postpone the action of Macedonian security forces after the ultimatum given to the rebels.

Just a day before Solana’s arrival in Skopje for the third time, this time together with NATO Secretary General George Robertson, Macedonian combined military and police forces launched an offensive in the surroundings of Tetovo, despite alleged promise of President Trajkovski given in Stockholm that no action of this type would be taken. Before the offensive Trajkovski was exposed to severe pressure among other by parliamentarians from VMRO-DPMNE whose presidential candidate he had been. Western news agencies had announced the visit of Solana and Robertson with slogans such as: “The war is over, it is time for negotiations”.

Reactions to such developments are statements almost in unison of all the media in Macedonian with the common denominator such as “Victory as Defeat”. Before Solana’s latest visit, leader of Social Democratic League of Macedonia (SDSM) and the opposition Branko Crvenkovski appeared in public and warned Prime Minister Georgievski: “SDSM has no intention to stand idly and watch abnormal authorities which work against the interest of Macedonia destroy the country”. Crvenkovski demanded formation of a broad coalition government or resignation of Georgievski, by hook or by crook – announcing that he would call the people to gather in the street. Prime Minister Georgievski immediately answered that he would invite Crvenkovski to talks on a broad coalition government and declared by the way that he was not for deletion of the Preamble from the Constitution, that he had no secret agreement with the leader of Democratic Party of the Albanians (DPA) Arben Xhaferi and that he would not accept any of his demands which might be against Macedonian national interest. Spokesman of VMRO-DPMNE also appeared in public with the statement that this party would not negotiate on constitutional amendments.

At the same time, statements of Arben Xhaferi, leader of DPA, given to “New York Times” (that if negotiations did not begin in a month and if they did not yield tangible results nobody would be able to stop armed conflicts between ethnic Albanians and Macedonian authorities) and certain other Western media were in this sense estimated as blackmail of the ethnic Macedonian part of the administration and were broadly condemned even by government controlled media. And Xhaferi himself and his DPA, indeed like other existing ethnic Albanian parties, are receiving messages from ordinary ethic Albanians almost every day that they have lost faith because of the inefficiency that has lasted for years – by failing to keep the promises they won elections with.

The whole atmosphere significantly differs from the atmosphere of just ten odd days ago when the ethnic Macedonian part of the authorities, for instance through its informal advisor Ljubomir Frckovski, former minister of internal and foreign affairs in the cabinets of Branko Crvenkovski, tested the public about the question whether the Preamble of the Constitution should be subject of talks and whether in negotiations with the ethnic Albanian party it would be necessary to demand international presence. Even Prime Minister Georgievski who visited Tetovo at the height of the offensive declared that the preamble could be a subject to discussion.

At the meetings Solana and Patten had on Monday with the state leadership, President of Macedonia Trajkovski informed them on the meeting he had with leaders of parliamentarian parties where support was given to the forthcoming signing of the agreement with the EU. The official statement on the meeting contains the following formulation: “the commitment was stressed of the Republic of Macedonia for intensifying political dialogue on further steps towards full stabilisation of the situation in the state and clear definition of the orientation towards civil society”.

Newspaper reports on the meeting of Trajkovski with the leaders of political parties represented in the Assembly (which leader of Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity – PDP – Imer Imeri did not attend on pretext that he did not wish to serve as a setting for Trajkovski) speak of the offered document by President Trajkovski as the initial paper for further discussion, about which the leaders should give their opinion within a week. The following statement of Trajkovski was quoted: “It is necessary to have a clear option for building a democratic, civil and open society in which accent will be put on the citizen as an individual”.

There is an obvious difference between the disposition in Macedonian public and what President Trajkovski is hinting at because consistent application of the civil concept of Macedonian society demands elimination of the Preamble of the Constitution.

This leaves the impression of uncertainty concerning the rate of the establishment, the nature and the subject of future dialogue in Macedonian society which used to be imposed by the international community from the very beginning of the “mini-war” in Macedonia, and the internal protagonists, at least the ones in power, accepted.

Now it seems as if everything is in a phase of expectations or delay. And Misa Gleni, one of the known analysts of the developments in the Balkans says the following in an interview for Lobi weekly in Albanian language: if major demands of ethnic Albanians are not resolved in six months, there will be war again!

AIM Skopje