AIM: start

TUE, 27 NOV 2001 22:37:00 GMT

The Principle of Ethnic Albanian Cause and Effect

Confronted with the fact that elections in Kosovo went by smoothly - notwithstanding a considerable show of force on the part of the UN military forces - the creators of the public opinion in Macedonia, if anyone ever thought of giving them such a chance, would have preferred to boil things down to a single question: that of asking where, exactly, Kosovo begins and ends

AIM Skopje, November 21, 2001

November 17 has come and gone, yet no sign of an all-out Albanian uprising was to be seen! All those who had taken for earnest the predictions of the Macedonian media to the contrary heaved a sigh of relief. No one found it necessary to apologize to the misled, apparently following the logic: if not now, it is bound to happen some day soon! When might that be? When the time comes, we will be sure to inform you. In any case, you will be the first to know ....

This is but an illustration of the wretched way in which the local media have dealt with the event on which Washington, Europe and neighboring Balkan countries have pinned such high hopes. To be fair, it has to be said that all self-respecting Skopje newspapers and TV stations sent their crews to Kosovo on that fateful Saturday in order to bring the elections closer to their public - with the reservation lurking somewhere at the back of their minds that some kind of mischief was likely to come about. As it happened, Kosovo elections turned out to be almost as dull and predictable as the Swiss ones! Noted for never overexerting themselves regarding the swiftness of their reactions, Macedonian officials really outdid themselves this time: a whole three days later, still no sign of a forthcoming official statement regarding the event... Not counting incidental remarks made prior to and after the elections, like the one that Kosovo remains "a source of regional instability" or - as Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski so deftly and almost poetically put it - "a source of an all-out ethnic Albanian uprising". Aha! So, the media had not made up a single thing! They were merely informing the public of what the Prime Minister himself had passed on to them.

Undoubtedly, the winner of Kosovo elections Ibrahim Rugova has been voicing his intent on establishing an independent Kosovo in a way too straightforward manner to the liking of local political parties belonging to the so called "Macedonian block". UN Security Council Resolution 1244 - at one time, a source of unending jokes in the local media ever ready to explain its true meaning to the uniformed public (that of it being a scheme on the part of the international community meant to secure independence for Kosovo) - is now being seen almost as a blessing from above compared to the harsh reality of the moment. Just as Macedonian parties are lately going out of their way to stress that the province of Kosovo is merely a constitutive part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, ethnic Albanian parties in Macedonia are sticking to the contrary view. Similarly to their brethren in Kosovo, they too believe that "November 17 is a historic date in the struggle for establishing democracy in Kosovo". (Ilijaz Halimi, vice-president of the Democratic Party of Albanians).

In the past decade, Macedoniaís official policy concerning Kosovo has undergone considerable changes. Up to the fall of 1998, at the time the Social Democratic Union (SDSM) ruled the country, Milosevicís regime was being openly accused of violating the human rights of ethnic Albanians. Somewhat less publicly, as it was to turn out later on, the security forces of the two countries were carrying on a rather fruitful cooperation regarding the "ethnic Albanian issue". In fact, some recent testimonies of political figures prominent at the time, go to prove that during Milosevicís era Macedonian security forces stationed along the border with Kosovo depended almost entirely on intelligence data passed on to them by their Yugoslav colleagues. Some even claim the cooperation went much further, up to the point where Macedonian security forces adopted the methods of their Serbian counterparts, including such radical measures as mining their own border. The extreme measures in question were, apparently, meant as a determent to any further "import" of the "Kosovo syndrome" onto Macedonian soil. The necessary political background for such a stand was provided by the train of thought at the time represented by Ljubomir Frckovski - onetime Interior Minister later to become Foreign Minister of Macedonia - according to whom ethnic Albanians in Macedonia were not to be likened to their compatriots in neighboring countries. In other words, what the minister was saying ran: "There is no ethnic Albanian problem in the Balkans to speak of!"

The change of power in Macedonia coincided with the beginning of the NATO operation in Yugoslavia. Several tens of thousands of NATO soldiers were deployed on Macedonian soil and over 360 thousand refugees poured into the country. Although reluctantly, Macedonia sheltered them all which is a fact that cannot be denied. It was from Macedonian soil that - following the Kumanovo Agreement - the troops of the most powerful political and military alliance in the world entered Kosovo in June 1999. Nowadays, Prime Minister Georgievski would probably do anything for a TV report dating back to those days not to have been shot - his friendly embrace with Hasim Thaci who had undone his cartridge belt virtually only minutes earlier. At the time, the Prime Minister solemnly declared that his country would be the first to establish diplomatic relations with Kosovo!?! All subsequent attempts of Georgievskiís aids to justify his gesture by saying he was coaxed into it by his coalition partner Arben Xhaferi, head of the Democratic Party of Albanians, were to no avail.

With the onset of the crisis in Macedonia itself, once again advocates of the principle of cause and effect in its Macedonian version gained prominence. In their interpretation, the general law runs something like this: "Ethnic Albanians from one region (cause), are bound to stir up trouble among their kin in other regions (effect)". In other words, the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA) and its armed fractions operating in Macedonia are merely carrying out the plan for establishing "Greater Albania" or "Greater Kosovo", whatever these things are supposed to mean. In dealing with the international community, the stance of the Macedonian government runs as follows: the country is being confronted with an aggression originating in Kosovo (a protectorate of the very same international community!) and the said aggression enjoys the support of ethnic Albanians in Macedonia. If for no other reason than being the one supposedly controlling the situation, the UN administration in Kosovo prefers singling out some other reasons for the outbreak of the current conflict in Macedonia, mainly those coming from within the afflicted country itself.

No one is disputing that politicians in Skopje have valid reasons for concern over the fact that not a single ethnic Albanian party in Kosovo is free of harboring aspirations for the establishment of an independent Kosovo as their ultimate goal. But, first of all, Macedonia should deal with the issue in a cool-headed manner. For starters, certain crucial questions need to be answered. For one, that of determining which of the ethnic Albanian political parties equates the independence of Kosovo with the establishment of a "unified Albanian state" (i.e. "Greater Albania" or "Greater Kosovo", whatever the case happens to be). Secondly, have all possible roots of the dissatisfaction of the ethnic Albanian community within Macedonia been rooted out? Thirdly, what is the actual state of affairs within the international community concerning the proclaimed goal of an independent state of Kosovo? And so on...

President Trajkovski is probably absolutely right when claiming that all the prerequisites for putting a stop to the activities of the extremists among the ethnic Albanian community in Macedonia have been met. At least that is what the recently adopted changes to the constitution seem to point to. As for the international community, it seems to be relying on the said changes as an acceptable pattern for appeasing extremists on both sides. In reality, whether the adamant advocates of the ever present conspiracy theory concerning the Balkans are to prevail or not, Macedonian fans of all such scenarios have as much hope as any of their Balkan predecessors. Meaning their only alternative - as in so many prior instances - remains the option of reconciling with the current state of things.