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Balkan Report: August 28, 2001


28 August 2001, Volume 5, Number 61

MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT, PRIME MINISTER HAVE DOUBTS. In recent interviews and press statements, both Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and President Boris Trajkovski have sounded very skeptical about the future of Macedonia.

The two politicians are members of the same political party -- the conservative nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE). But so far, they have been regarded as representatives of different factions, which could best be seen in their different approaches to solving the crisis. But now they seem to have drawn closer in their views.

The younger Georgievski, a poet in the mid-thirties, has demanded a military solution from the start of the crisis. On several occasions, he has called for the introduction of a "state of war." The moderate and somewhat older Trajkovski, who has favored a political solution in cooperation with the international community, always rejected such a move.

Georgievski demonstrated his hard-line approach once again on 26 August, when he demanded retaliation against the ethnic Albanian rebels of the National Liberation Army (UCK). He blamed that organization for having carried out a bomb attack on a motel in the village of Celopek south of Tetovo. Two Macedonian employees of the motel were killed in the attack.

According to the Macedonian news agency MIA, Georgievski on 25 August also raised doubts as to whether the 13 August peace agreement is legitimate at all. In a press statement, he said that he did not sign the Ohrid agreement in his capacity as prime minister, but as the leader of the VMRO-DPMNE.

He added: "regarding the legitimacy of the 'Five' who negotiated in Ohrid, I can say that I doubt [that this was the most legitimate approach]. It is also questionable whether these five are [the ones] who should sign such an agreement, or whether a different five or 10 persons should have participated." By the "Five" he meant the four leaders of the main political parties of the Macedonians and the ethnic Albanians, as well President Trajkovski.

Asked about the parliamentary procedure to ratify the Ohrid peace agreement, Georgievski answered that he does not "believe that [the peace agreement] will be supported...by all parliamentary factions. He added that "...we as a party support the framework agreement [in principle], but we will see [what will be said] during the discussion about the agreement in parliament."

It remains to be seen whether Georgievski's latest statements are part of an exit strategy for his party. The peace agreement is widely regarded among the Macedonian population as a forced deal, and the party leader is now desperately trying to regain the support he lost in the course of the recent crisis (see also "RFE/RL Balkan Report, 24 August 2001). Elections are slated for January 2002.

Georgievski has already engaged in political infighting with his ethnic Albanian justice minister over an extradition case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 August 2001). In June, German authorities arrested UCK member Semi Habibi, who was sought under an international warrant from the Macedonian police. The prime minister and the media accused Justice Minister Hixhet Mehmeti of deliberately delaying the request for Habibi's extradition by the German authorities.

In a last-minute move, Georgievski himself signed the request for extradition. At the same time, he demanded that the justice minister resign. In response, Mehmeti threatened that his party, the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD), would leave the already unstable "government of national unity."

Georgievski has also sought to convince NATO officials that the number of arms they expect to collect during Operation Essential Harvest is way too low to be effective (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 27 August 2001). When the Interior Ministry, which is headed by Ljube Boskovski, an another hard-liner from Georgievski's party, presented its estimates, it must have become clear to NATO officials that Georgievski is trying to blame any failure of Essential Harvest on the alliance. The highly inflated number of some 85,000 pieces of weaponry (including every single round of ammunition, as well as pistols and ancient rifles) was poles apart from NATO estimates of some 3,500 arms. Essential Harvest went ahead on 27 August nonetheless.

What any disappointment with the mission could mean became clear in an interview with Trajkovski in the Skopje weekly "Zum magazin" of 24 August. Trajkovski said that nobody is happy about the content of the document -- neither the Macedonian nor the Albanian side (see "RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 23 August 2001). But he stressed that the alternative to the framework peace agreement would be a full-fledged civil war.

In the course of the interview, Trajkovski showed that he is deeply concerned about the situation in Macedonia as a whole. He said that the latest attacks on police and army members, as well as the bombing of the Lesok monastery, clearly show that the rebels are far from ready to adjust to the new situation after the peace agreement: "...they cannot hide behind the [claim of] fighting for human rights any longer. They are fighting for ethnically pure territories, cleansed of Macedonians and of other non-Albanian population."

Speaking about the Essential Harvest, Trajkovski said: "The [apparent] failure of this operation has at least one positive effect: eventually the violence will be shown up for what it is. Our legitimate right to defend our country remains beyond any doubt. In any case, the Republic of Macedonia has prepared [contingency] plans and [has] able security forces. We can bring peace to the whole territory of the state and secure peace for every citizen.... Unfortunately, this would also mean more victims, destruction, and suffering."

At the end of the interview, Trajkovski expressed his hopes for the future: "Believe me, if we all stand together to defend our values, Macedonia will come out of the crisis much stronger and much more united [than it was before]. But this will be very difficult if state institutions do not have the support of the citizens.... That is why I am calling on all citizens to stand firmly behind [our] state institutions, because they face a great challenge." (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, ub@itinerarium.de)

ALBANIAN REFORM DEMOCRATS REJECT LEGISLATIVE BOYCOTT. Genc Pollo, who is secretary-general of Albania's New Democratic Party (PD e Re), told the daily "Albania" on 24 August that his party will not join the parliamentary boycott threatened by other opposition parties.

Officials from the Democratic Party (PD) and members of its opposition coalition, the Union for Victory, have been complaining about alleged irregularities during general elections on 24 June. The PD's steering committee has yet to formally endorse the boycott, "Albanian Daily News" reported. Party leader Sali Berisha wants a boycott but says that he will wait for the final election report of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

Pollo stressed that his own party's poor showings were due to both irregularities and strong competition from PD candidates (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 20 July 2001). Pollo charged the governing Socialist Party (PS), as well as the Union for Victory, with "abusing the proportional list" by running as independent candidates for direct seats what were in reality their own people -- and thereby manipulating the allocation of proportional seats to their advantage. Pollo added that "the PS...exploited...the weaknesses of the electoral system...mercilessly." But he stressed that parliamentary boycotts are "irresponsible adventures...that have failed previously." He was referring to several boycotts by the PD in the years since 1997, when it lost power. Pollo nonetheless expressed the hope that "the PD chair will adopt a mature conclusion on the elections."

The PD e Re just managed to get 5.08 percent of the votes and hence into the parliament. Pollo, one of the founders of this party and a former deputy chairman of the PD, failed to win a parliamentary seat himself, but the PD e Re will send another six of its candidates to the legislature. Pollo explained that his party used an "open list" to determine its parliamentary representatives, leaving some senior party leaders out but promoting others just starting their political careers.

Pollo said that Berisha's announcement to wait for the final ODIHR Election Report before deciding on a boycott is "evidence of his political impotence, because a politician should be master of his decisions. I do not know what they expect from ODIHR," adding that "any expectation that the international community might demand the re-holding of elections...is ill-founded."

But Pollo stressed that there is a need to reform the electoral system along ODIHR recommendations through the legislative process. He expressed hope that "PD legislators will eventually enter parliament, along with their allies and [Berisha]."

Meanwhile, "Shekulli" ran an article on 27 August, focusing on the upcoming election of a new PD e Re leadership. To date the party has had a collective leadership and a secretariat. Five senior politicians will compete for the party leadership. Besides Pollo, they include Dashamir Shehi, Tritan Shehu, and Genc Ruli -- who were former PD legislators and ministers -- and Petrit Kalakula from the small Albanian Party of the Right. Former Tirana PD Mayor Albert Brojka withdrew his candidacy and announced that he will not compete for any leading party job.

During the upcoming legislative period, PD e Re party leaders intend to set up party offices in smaller cities. So far the party has its power base in larger cities, like Shkoder, Tirana, Durres, Elbasan, Gjirokastra, and Korca.

In another report the same day, "Shekulli" said that officials from the ethnic Greek Human Rights Union party, the Social Democrats, and the Democratic Alliance have started negotiations about forming a coalition government with the PS. And PD e Re officials have pledged to cooperate with the governing coalition in trying to choose a new president by consensus. (Fabian Schmidt)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK. "If people loyal to communist principles from the past, against which I fought my whole life, are ruling this country, then it's clear there is no place for me -- not only as an ambassador, but also on the Serbian political scene in general." Sacked Yugoslav Ambassador to Washington Milan Protic, Quoted by Reuters from Belgrade on 23 August.

"The gap between Macedonian and ethnic Albanian political leaders has not been overcome." -- Aleksander Damovski, editor of "Dnevnik," to AP in Skopje on 23 August.

"We should understand that we are confronted in Europe by fundamentalism, we are confronted by people with aggressive aspirations." -- Russian President Vladimir Putin, after meeting with Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski in Kyiv on 24 August. Quoted by RFE/RL.

"I hope that, finally, we can resolve our problems among ourselves." -- Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, after meeting with his counterparts from Albania, Bulgaria, and Macedonia at Lake Prespa on 25 August. Quoted by AP.

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