- not innocent
By Jan Oberg, TFF
offers an independent analysis of 11 reasons why
Macedonia is at the brink of war. Number
119 deals with the way the United Nations was forced
out of Macedonia and not employed in Kosovo at the time
when it could have made a difference. In short, there was
a hidden agenda. This one deals mainly with the obvious
Is Macedonia and
its various groups totally innocent?
Of course not! In some respects there is more
repression of the Albanians in Macedonia than in Kosovo.
Thus, for instance, Pristina University was the centre of
learning for Albanians while for almost a decade the
issue of higher education for Albanians have been
controversial and, since 1997, the Tetovo University
considered illegal by the majority. Albanians do not play
a role commensurate to the proportion they make up of the
population (25 - 40 pct depending on sources); whether
this is a relevant criteria is another matter. If you go
to the National Museum in Skopje you will not see a trace
of Albanian culture. The constitution is ethnic-oriented
rather than citizens-oriented.
In spite of all this, it is important to emphasise
that the situation in NO way justifies armed struggle or
the extremist claims on both sides that 'the others'
understand only weapons. True, it is not a perfect world,
but the de facto presence of Albanians in politics,
trade, schools and media in today's Macedonia make the
claim that "we are so repressed and nothing else will
help so we must take to weapons" one that borders on
hysteria or propaganda.
Those in Macedonia who had it in their power to do so
never really sustained an honest inter-ethnic dialogue
throughout society or at a government level. Informal
segregation is practised by both sides in schools, media,
clubs, restaurants and residential areas: "We don't mix
with 'them' - - "we can't live together but perhaps as
neighbours" - - "I would never have a boyfriend among
them" - - are statements visitors have heard repeated
year after year.
There was no overall policy or strategy, no leadership
or vision that could bring substantial reforms and
promote genuine trust. Muddling through by postponing
decisions and changes became the order of the day
practiced by both sides in government as well as
municipalities. And, you may say, confirmed by US and EU
diplomats who insisted on calling this fundamentally
fragile state of affairs "an oasis of peace."
Being a Macedonian in Albanian-majority areas - and
vice versa - is, to say the least not that easy. There is
fear on both sides and fear is much more important than
evil - - of which there is very little.
A marked difference from Kosovo was that there was
enough formal co-operation to make everybody pretend that
things would go well, in spite of all. The conflict in
Macedonia is more about the future than about the
present, more about structures and relative influence or
power-sharing than about violence and repression.
Generally speaking, Macedonian Albanians have had more
moderate demands than have the Kosovo-Albanians who long
ago declared that the only thing acceptable would be an
Macedonia's Albanians have been much less
confrontational. They could envisage their own influence
on all Macedonia as much greater than could the
Kosovo-Albanians in the much bigger Serbia. They have a
stake in Macedonia to an extent that Kosovo-Albanians
could not see in Serbia (at least not under
That is why moderate Albanians in Macedonia are now
squeezed. They must feel quite some sympathy for those
who have taken to arms since there is a structural as
well as direct repression. At the same time they
recognise that an armed struggle could well ruin the
vision of one whole future Macedonia over which they have
substantial, if not dominant, influence.
As easy as it is to see that there is not a completely
fair treatment of Albanians in today's Macedonia, it is
just as easy to understand that many Macedonians fear for
their relative status and influence in tomorrow's
Handing out weapons to the government and the rebels
in a situation like this serves the military-industrial
complexes in the West, the mafia and intelligence
services, not the people, not democracy, not the
much-celebrated stability in the Balkans. These actors,
rather than the parties, should now be condemned.
No military struggle will make a single Albanian or
Macedonian or future generations better off. No
co-existence and power-sharing model will become more
possible after a civil war. Intelligent and moderate
people on both sides have drawn that conclusion long ago
from Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. But they are helpless
against those in the peace-loving international community
who have destabilised Macedonia, shaken her identities
and armed both the government (to be able to join NATO)
and the Albanian side and let it all spill-over from
Why does Macedonia
somehow accept her situation?
Because it hoped to get into the Western club quickly.
In the intellectual and political vacuum after Communism,
it did not occur to it that it could exercise a new
freedom of its own and think independently. So it didn't,
it crawled from one client role to the next, from East
European to Western authoritarianism.
Macedonians, like others in Eastern Europe, have
learnt the lesson: democracy doesn't mean to have choice.
Government officials, parliamentarians and most
intellectuals see no alternative to membership in NATO
and the EU, to submitting under foreign penetration,
investments, IMF/World Bank conditionalities,
privatisation and prostitution in more than one
You just have to imagine a scenario like this: the
Macedonian government sets up a committee tasked with
producing, say, 5 different models of security and
defence policies for the future. It would be based on 2-3
years of research by independent Macedonian scholars
assisted by independent foreign experts into the
question: what are the likely economic, social, cultural,
military and other threats to the country, its society
and people, the next 20-30 years?
Only one of the five models would include NATO
membership, the rest would be mixtures of elements such
as human security, common security, Balkan cooperation,
nonviolence, civil defence, ecological balance, defensive
military defence, active peaceful foreign policy,
development of friendly neighbourly relations etc. The
costs to the Macedonian taxpayers for each model would be
estimated and the opportunity costs calculated: how much
can we get in terms of social welfare, education,
culture, economic development, basic human need
satisfaction etc for what we choose to invest in each
In short, simply give the Macedonians a real choice,
comprehensive information about the estimated costs,
benefits and risks, of each option; let them see the
broader spectrum of thinkable futures and DISCUSS them
freely and let them then vote for the one most people
would want. The international community has, of course,
guaranteed that it will support the realisation of the
future chosen by the Macedonians.
This would come close to genuine democracy. I doubt
that the Macedonians would choose NATO membership as
their first option IF helped to visualise other options.
However, should they vote for NATO membership as number
one, that would be a genuine choice, a policy chosen with
open eyes and solidly anchored in the popular will.
Why is such a perfectly natural scenario considered
Well, by acquiescing and by never speaking critically
about the U.S. or the EU, they desperately hope to
benefit a little from modernity and globalisation. In
short, they have learnt to look happy and say the right
things for the simple reason that they are smart enough
to see that their new masters want to control them
instead of setting them free.
Imperial powers have demonstrated throughout history
that control and war, threatened or real, go hand in
hand. Some call it divide et impera. They know that they
have to go hand in hand: to prevent people from getting
too liberal, independent-minded ideas about freedom and
Continued in PressInfo
This is what TFF wrote about
preventing war in Macedonia
Your ideas for peace in
Macedonia wanted (1999)
A bouquet of oeace ideas to
Macedonia...and Kosovo (1999)
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