Medical Aid for Kosovo
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FROM THE IWPR'S BALKAN CRISIS
REPORT, NO. 228, 21 March 2001
ENDING THE VIOLENCE
Macedonian and Albanian
representatives, inside and outside government, must sit down together
and draw up far-reaching political reforms.
By Veton Surroi in Pristina
The break-up of the former Yugoslavia has demonstrated that only
war attracts the attention of the great powers. Only the use of
violence serves as a catalyst for political solution, compelling
the West to rush in to prevent conflict spreading throughout the
This was the case in Kosovo. Likewise the Presevo valley, the border
area of Serbia, where ethnic Albanians have endured extreme hardship
at the hands of Yugoslav forces following their withdrawal from
Appealing to human rights organisations was one option, but only
by resorting to violence were Presevo Albanians able to force international
The lessons are important for Macedonia, which has always been seen
as one of the most complicated issues in the region, both because
of the country's ethnic composition and the strong competing interests
of all of its immediate neighbours.
Now Albanian guerrillas are organising themselves throughout the
republic. Violence is being applied as a catalyst for political
goals, as in the case of Presevo, which was itself taken from Kosovo.
The first imperative is to clear up the political fog being created
by both parties. The Macedonian state claims that the present crisis
has been exported from Kosovo - implying that conditions for armed
conflict did not exist in the country.
Yet it is a matter of fact that the demands of the National Liberation
Army (NLA - UCK Ushtria �lirimtare Komb�tare) coincide with little
more than what Albanian parties in Macedonia have been demanding
for the past decade. There is a wide consensus among Albanians in
Macedonia that their constitutional status must be upgraded from
that of a minority to a "constitutive" nation. They want to be equal
But Albanian guerrillas also cloud the issue when they talk of "Macedonian
conquerors" and "Macedonian barbarism", and claim they were forced
The truth is that the past ten years have produced an impressive
improvement in the position of Albanians in Macedonia, including
direct representation in government. Their situation is much different
from the systematic repression that forced Albanians in Kosovo to
launch their armed resistance against Slobodan Milosevic.
Now that parties are fighting each other, the young Macedonian state
may be facing its greatest challenge. Despite many crises, it has
avoided war so far because of the accommodation among its different
ethnic groups, the evolution of their rights and, crucially, international
The least important factor has been the Macedonian security forces.
Anyone who thinks the country's territorial integrity can be defended
through the police or Macedonian army is not serious.
Albanian guerrillas cannot afford a full-scale war, but neither
can the Macedonian state eradicate them. Macedonian security forces
face a potential guerrilla war around Albanian areas stretching
from Kumanovo to Struga.
Every attack they make will only attract more guerrillas, and the
logic of guerrilla conflict is to attack the state wherever possible
to provoke a reaction. The current status quo cannot be preserved.
If fighting continues, it will completely divide the different nationalities
in Macedonia, create ethnic armies, and potentially bring the drastic
result of a geographical division of the main ethnic groups.
NATO military involvement is also highly unlikely, as it considers
this an internal conflict. Extending K-For to cover Macedonia is
out of the question under the current US administration. European
states will be extremely reserved about sending troops into a situation
where guerrillas and police are chasing each other around the hills.
There are two ways out: reform or revolution. Revolution would mean
the partition of Macedonia along ethnic lines. If that is to be
averted, serious reform will be required, addressing three main
factors: internal accommodation, human rights and international
A new internal agreement must be based on reform of the Macedonian
state. Electoral democracy has provided evident advantages, but
it has not been able to move beyond voting along ethnic lines.
The immediate priority is to find the tools to achieve a political
and social consensus which is not the product of ethnic voting.
The most constructive mechanism would be a round table to draw up
a reform agenda.
The character of these reforms must also be defined. Ethnic Macedonians
need to feel that Macedonia is their national state, but Albanians
and other ethnic minorities need to feel that they are constituent
part of it and have equal rights.
Macedonia must find a new balance between the individual rights
of citizens and the collective rights of ethnic groups.
Obviously, representatives of all political persuasions must be
included in any round table process, but the position of the guerrillas
complicates the equation for a country which has organised successful
The best approach would be to legitimise the guerrillas as a social
force, and then condition their participation through existing parties
or newly formed ones.
Any new internal agreements would not only provide for proportional
participation of Albanians in state institutions, but would demonstrate
their success in establishing the conditions for that participation.
Such an evolution would provide a positive example for all groups
in the country, and for the state itself. It would demonstrate that
the evolution of collective rights for the non-Macedonian population
can go hand in hand with the positive development of the state itself,
away from totalitarian Yugoslav models towards participatory European
International support for such a process is critical, and the US
and the EU should move beyond condemning the violence and undertake
active efforts to find a solution, and re-energise the ultimate
strategic aim of integrating Macedonia into the European Union.
Such an initiative would also address the concerns that Macedonia's
internal problems will have a domino effect on the whole region.
These are old fears from the past century, and while such thinking
does persist in some quarters, Macedonia has never had better neighbours.
Bulgaria's sights are firmly on the EU; Greece, already a member,
is the biggest inward investor; Albania has enjoyed two years of
stability; Serbia is in transition after Milosevic's departure;
and Kosovo, although lacking an efficient government, has a strong
By the way, NATO could do more, but I don't agree that its presence
in Kosovo is producing instability: imagine the consequences now
in Presevo and Macedonia if it were not in the immediate vicinity.
More positively, Macedonia should be exploited as a positive factor
for regional economic development. With EU support, Macedonia, Albania,
and Bulgaria should urgently complete talks to establish a regional
free-trade zone. This could draw in other neighbours and providing
a fresh model for Balkan politics.
In practical terms, the only way to start is for Macedonians and
Albanians to sit down together and put all their cards on the table.
They must declare, once and for all, what they want. This would
dispel concerns that if Albanians ask, for example, to open their
own university, they are not in fact preparing the path to "Greater
Albanians in other areas and from other political parties should
also openly declare their positions before the EU. This would demonstrate
that the underlying policy for which Albanians seek Western support
is not the changing of existing borders but the opening of communications
across those borders.
Such complex and uncertain relationships have played a part in the
current crisis, and a positive solution in Macedonia would go a
long way towards stabilising the region and confirming European
approaches throughout the Balkans.
Veton Surroi is publisher of Koha Ditore, and has served as an independent
representative of Kosovo Albanians in international negotiations.
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