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South Slavic: August 9, 2001

9 August 2001, Volume 3, Number 27


Part I. Part II will appear on 16 August.

An Interview With Former Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov, by Branka Mihajlovic.

RFE/RL: Is there a reason for Macedonians' anti-Western attitudes, which they displayed in Skopje in the recent protests (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 2001)? Are there elements of "paranoia and anti-Western hysteria" within ruling circles, as a Western diplomat in Skopje recently said?

Gligorov: This is a misperception. There is ill-feeling caused by the two proposals made by Mr. [James] Pardew and Mr. [Francois] Leotard, and about which the Macedonian side was not previously consulted. Since the issue is a very sensitive one, and since, in the meantime, the military conflict provoked by the terrorists has escalated and people have started to leave their homes -- many of whom were forced to do so -- one should understand that the ill-feeling was unavoidable. Some even got the idea that maybe all those things happened under someone's sponsorship, or that maybe it was directed by Western forces, which I do not believe (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 July 2001).

RFE/RL: This is why it was said in some Macedonian political circles that the American and European representatives, Pardew and Leotard, had taken the Albanian side.

Gligorov: I find it more an emotional than a reasonable reaction. I do not believe that NATO or the EU, and even less so the U.S., could take an anti-Macedonian position.

RFE/RL: What do you think about President George W. Bush's message to Kosovo's Albanians during his visit to Kosovo that they must not be a base for the rebellion in Macedonia? Do you believe his message was sincere and that this Kosovo connection [of the Macedonian Albanian guerrillas] has been cut, bearing in mind that there are rumors circulating in Skopje that NATO and KFOR are supplying Macedonian extremists with weapons?

Gligorov: I believe in that message. It was not new. Several U.S. government spokesmen, including the White House spokesman, had already stressed it several times. This is why I see it as a sincere wish to prevent the present conflict from threatening the peace and stability of the entire region.

RFE/RL: Mr. Gligorov, is the letter that Prime Minister [Ljubco] Georgievski sent to President [Boris] Trajkovski -- demanding an offensive in the Tetovo region -- a sign of a split among those in power in Macedonia?

Gligorov: Whatever the case may be, I do not think it is good. Those things should be discussed in an institution like, for example, the [Macedonian] Security Council, the government, the parliament, etc., instead of in public statements. They only serve to put an end to dialogue, which is something I do not want to see happen.

[Georgievski's statement] is a form of pressure aimed at launching military actions by our army and police. But there is always the question as to whether such a move will achieve its goal, or whether [the armed action] will simply provoke a counter-reaction from the Albanian extremists.

RFE/RL: Mr. Gligorov, if you were Macedonian president, what would you do right now?

Gligorov: First, I think that it is very important that the international community -- through the EU, the U.S., and NATO -- support the Macedonian point of view. This is that problems that can only be resolved through dialogue, tolerance, and mutual understanding should not be resolved forcefully. That is a stand that Macedonia must not abandon.

Nor should Macedonia, for instance, fool itself into thinking that a big military action might resolve everything in 24 hours. I think that we should be equally active on the diplomatic field searching for partners, allies, etc.

On the other hand we should be ready to react to every provocation. Provocations, unfortunately, take place every night and lead to the deaths of innocent people. Not to mention those who are forced to leave their homes, not knowing where to go.

RFE/RL: Among other things, you are credited for the fact that Macedonia managed to avoid bloodshed during the process of the disintegration of Yugoslavia. But now there is bloodshed. Is the new government up to handling the situation? Is the government partly to blame for the present situation in Macedonia?

Gligorov: Well, anyway, there is not only one cause for everything.... We won the fight for our freedom and statehood during World War II.... There was no need to pay a price a second time [in 1991].

RFE/RL: Now answer the second part of my question: is the new government up to the task?

Gligorov: I do not believe that the government does not want to save this state. This is true for the president, the prime minister, the ministers, and the parliament....

I think that what happened in southern Serbia -- in the towns of Presevo, Bujanovac, and Medvedja -- as well as what happened later in Macedonia, is not only due to the competence or incompetence of a national leadership in preserving the peace. It is also due to things that had happened in Kosovo, especially when the Kosovo Albanians were given signals or messages that Kosovo might become independent. [These signals came] after the [introduction in 1999 of] UN Security Council Resolution 1244, in which it is clearly stated that Kosovo remains within the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia.

RFE/RL: Do you think that Macedonian Albanians were also given such a clear message from the international community?

Gligorov: They were given the message that the international community will not support violent methods to obtain various rights.

Almost everyone in Macedonia would understand if civil rights were at issue, regardless of what some extremists might think. But now Albanian extremists do not demand human and civic rights, but collective rights. They want Macedonians in Albania to become a constitutional people and Macedonia to become a state of two peoples.

At the beginning, they demanded that no law be adopted unless both Macedonian and Albanian factions in parliament agree -- which means a consensus -- and I do not think that a state can function that way. After that, they demanded that the vice president of the state be an Albanian, which is O.K., but after that they asked that he have the right to veto any decision. This, of course, would mean that the state would be unable to make decisions, with all the political, economic, and many other consequences [that would entail].

Those two demands are no longer being stressed, but it is still demanded that Albanian become the second official language in Macedonia. They also want the illegal university [in Tetovo] -- the one that was not approved by the state -- to become a state-run university financed from the state budget, although another one is being built [under the sponsorship of the OSCE] for studies in the Albanian, English, and Macedonian languages.

RFE/RL: Do you think that the Albanian side was right not to accept the original "political framework" proposed by the European Union [and the U.S.] (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9, 10, and 12 July 2001)?

Gligorov: The [envoy of the] European Union and the representative of the United States are two mediators whose task is to facilitate the talks. However, their [most recent] two proposals have provoked a harsh reaction from the Macedonian people. They proposed making Albanian the second official language in Macedonia and that Albanians [be proportionally represented in the local police forces]. They also wanted local police chiefs to be Albanians in all places where more than half the total population is Albanian. That is a very delicate issue in a situation like this, and that has provoked a popular reaction.

RFE/RL: Do you approve the Macedonian side's decision not to accept that proposal?

Gligorov: That proposal -- as it was formulated -- can hardly be accepted by anyone (sic) in Macedonia. Another problem is that such a constitutional change...cannot be adopted without a referendum or some other special procedure, as is used for changing constitutions [in other countries].