AIM: start

MON, 28 JAN 2002 12:06:57 GMT

Will There Be War in Spring?

No one can answer this question, which Macedonians have been asking for days now. Maybe in the light of growing misunderstanding at the top, where the VMRO-DPMNE is in control, the right question is who wants war and why. Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgijevski and his faithful Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski are on one side and all the others are on the other.

AIM Skopje, January 21, 2002

There won't be any spring offensive in Macedonia, said EU special envoy for Macedonia Allain Le Roi in Tetovo at a meeting with a bloc of Macedonian parties and relatives of missing people only a day after a press conference in which he also participated, and which was in fact a debate whether this spring will bring new and stronger fighting. But in Tetovo Le Roi also said that not a single foreign intelligence service had found elements indicating that a catastrophe was indeed pending.

The story about new clashes -- a continuation of the war between Macedonian security forces and ethnic Albanian extremists is nothing new. It has been in circulation ever since the signing of the fragile peace agreement in Ohrid, especially when it became clear that its implementation was not proceeding as planned.

At the very end of last year Macedonian media began reporting that a (pan) Albanian offensive was to begin in the spring. In his New Year interview for MTV, Premier Ljubco Georgijevski said that anything was possible in the region --from a spring offensive by Macedonian Albanians, to riots due to the declaration Kosovo's independence, to a renewal of clashes in southern Serbia, and even to a possible Albanian uprising in Montenegro and Greece. The very same day Macedonian Parliament Speaker Stojan Andov and Defense Minister Vlado Popovski expressed the opposite views on the issue. The former said no such clashes would occur, and the latter initially agreed with him, but only several days later said "clashes are possible, but not a military crisis." The CIA was also involved in the story. A report by this agency saying that new clashes were possible was widely used as proof that unrest is indeed pending. An OSCE spokesman therefore had to remind the media that the document was based on data gathered by the OSCE up till Aug. 15 last year. An initiative launched by Ali Ahmeti, former political representative of the now disbanded ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA), for the unification of all Albanian political forces, was also brought in connection with a spring offensive. The Nova Makedonija daily, controlled by the VMRO-DPMNE, published an editorial entitled "A Symptomatic Unification," in which it said the following: "It is symptomatic that statements on the unification (of ethnic Albanian political factors) came simultaneously with threats by the disbanded NLA and the newly-formed Albanian National Army (ANA) for launching a new war against 'Slavic Macedonians' next spring. Is this to say that the Albanians in Macedonia have a contingency plan in case their demands are not met within a certain period? Having in view past and ongoing events, it seems that the contingency plan is, in fact, the only plan."

Such views dominate Macedonian media when it comes to the possibility of new clashes next spring. The danger, as a rule, is coming from the other side. And, as a rule, it has nothing to do with failure to fulfill conditions for implementing the Ohrid agreement, such as the passage of a self-government bill by the Macedonian Parliament, or a decision to pardon former NLA fighters, against which is not only the Macedonian prime minister, but the opposition Social Democratic Alliance as well. And even though in this particular case Ali Ahmeti, in interviews to the Macedonian section of Radio Deutsche Welle and Radio Free Europe, denied all such claims and said a spring offensive was mentioned only to divert domestic and international public attention.

At the same time there is an ongoing clash in Macedonia over the implementation of a plan to redeploy police forces into towns and villages they did not control before the war broke out, which is being carried out jointly by the Macedonian government and the OSCE, with security being provided by NATO forces. Namely, at a session of Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski's Security Council, consisting of the parliament speaker, the prime minister, the interior, foreign, and defense ministers, and three other members elected by the president, a dispute broke between the president and Deputy Prime Minister Dosta Dimovska on the one side and Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski on the other. The former wanted the police redeployment to proceed as agreed earlier by the Interior Ministry and the cabinet, which also required the removal of police checkpoints near the villages police are supposed to enter. Georgijevski and Boskovski were firmly against. The deadlock was supposed to be resolved by changing the original plan, but the process seems to be going rather slowly. In his latest interview to TV Sitel on Jan. 17, the prime minister called the removal of the police checkpoints "high treason."

EU special envoy Le Roi recently said on several occasions that he could not comprehend why the Macedonian side would not accept an around-the-lock presence in villages which it had not controlled for months, and preferred instead to maintain police checkpoints which, according to international organizations, irritate the local population because of their "specific attitude." The issue is further complicated by the fact that these checkpoints are manned by so-called Lions, ethnically pure Macedonian special para-police units that were recently legalized, whereas the forces that should enter the villages are ethnically mixed "ordinary" police.

This interview prompted Dosta Dimovska, the sole remaining founder of the VMRO-DPMNE and the closest collaborator of the prime minister and the party leader, to resign from all state and party offices. Namely, Georgijevski said the security council was a body with no competence and no responsibilities, and that Dosta Dimovska, as head of the government coordinating team for resolving the crisis, was consulting the opposition Social Democratic Alliance more frequently than her own party. In her resignation Dimovska said that she wished the prime minister and the interior minister, who obviously believe themselves to be greater patriots than anybody else, the best of luck in their efforts to preserve Macedonia. Georgijevski did not respond in public, but it is rumored that he wants her to withdraw the resignation. Some media outlets, however, have reported that the elimination of Dimovska is not the last move. According to them, President Trajkovski would also be forced to resign so that in ensuing early presidential elections Ljube Boskovski would run as the VMRO-DPMNE candidate. Although this scenario appears rather surreal (Trajkovski is supported by the international community which, on the other hand, perceives Boskovski as an obstacle to the peace process), the fact is that Boskovski is very popular with Macedonian hardliners. After all, the prime minister said in an interview that if Boskovski is ousted, that would confirm the existence of plans to destroy Macedonia. His claims that Boskovski is the greatest defender of the country and that without his support there will be no Macedonia, were further strengthened by his view of Boskovski as a hero, and not a as man who should be sent to The Hague.

The question of whether a new war -- genuine, very bloody, and mostly affecting the cities -- is in store for Macedonia, practically brings up another question: who actually wants war in Macedonia and why does he need it?

Iso Rusi