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South Slavic: August 23, 2001

23 August 2001, Volume 3, Number 29


A broadcast by Nikola Gurovic of RFE/RL's South Slavic Service.

In Macedonia, the first NATO units have started preparations for a mission aimed at collecting the Albanian guerrillas' weapons. According to the president of the International Crisis Group, Garreth Evans, the mission should not be limited to 30 days, and the Alliance must do more than just collect the weapons. The ICG's report suggests that implementing the peace agreement will require great efforts and the good will of all parties.

How do the Albanians and Macedonians see the present situation and the outlook for their country?

RFE/RL: There was no trace of euphoria during the signing of the Ohrid agreement. In the next few weeks and months, Macedonia will be on unsure ground. Iso Rusi, who is a political analyst and editor of Skopje's Albanian-language weekly, "Lobi," told us:

Rusi: The most valuable thing for Macedonia concerning the political agreement is the fact that the only real alternative to it is an all-out ethnic war, with elements of a religious conflict. The only choice is to implement the agreement and try to make it a basis for future developments.

RFE/RL: Zarko Jordanovski, editor of the Macedonian-language daily "Dnevnik," feels that some aspects regarding the Ohrid agreement enable us to compare it with the [1995] Dayton peace agreement, which ended the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Jordanovski: One can easily compare the Dayton and the Ohrid agreements. Both were made under great pressure and were dictated by the representatives of the European Union and the United States....

However, the point is that none of the parties concerned is happy about this agreement. There are many controversial aspects regarding its legal and human rights provisions.

The Macedonian public feels humiliated since the violent campaign of the self-proclaimed National Liberation Army (UCK) eventually worked out to the Albanians' advantage and because the violence came to be seen as legitimate and justified.

At the same time, one can sense that the [psychological] gap between the Macedonians and the Albanians is increasing. The question of the future of living together has arisen now that the Albanians have managed to acquire big concessions by force of arms, which killed at least 70 citizens and members of the security forces of Macedonia. Some 50,000 civilians were forced out of their homes, and many of them experienced torture and ill-treatment. All these things have been ignored, and this is the reason for the dissatisfaction now that the international community legitimized it all with a deal that gives the Albanians the means to hamstring the entire political system.

RFE/RL: Mesrel Belulli, who is a member of the Macedonian parliament and of the expert group for constitutional changes from the Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD), nonetheless sees grounds for optimism.

Belulli: I am an optimist by nature, so I expect this to be the end of the war. However, there are still forces that want the war to continue. The reason is simple: they can survive only in wartime conditions. This is what permits them to still profit and to hide evidence of their previous activities.

RFE/RL: On paper, everything is clear. However, implementation poses several dilemmas. One of them is the link between disarming the Albanian guerrillas and providing amnesty for those who did not commit war crimes. For Tihomir Ilijevski, who is an ambassador within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a member of government's coordinating body dealing with the crisis, these two processes will help bring about a more normal state of affairs.

Ilijevski: In the next few days, [President Boris Trajkovski] is expected to make public the details concerning the procedure for pardoning the members of the National Liberation Army who have been proven not to have committed war crimes. That would start the process of their reintegration into society.

Together with that process, the revival of the region affected by war operations should begin. That means that infrastructure, houses, flats, and schools will be repaired, which is very important since one of the key issues that the government will have to face is the return of the displaced persons to their homes.

RFE/RL: Once the weapons are silent, the political battle will be transferred to the parliament. According to the Ohrid agreement, it has only 45 days to prepare a package of comprehensive reforms aimed at giving more rights to the Albanian minority.

Jordanovski: That is not even theoretically possible because it takes not only constitutional changes, but many extensive and complex laws must also be modified. For instance, the law about local autonomy that includes redrawing administrative boundaries will take a lot of time. In quieter times, we thought that it would take at least six months. It will be interesting to see if those laws really will be adopted so soon.

The parliament, moreover, will use stalling tactics to gain time to see if the guerrillas are indeed being disarmed. The Macedonian and Albanian sides will be engaged in a battle of wits to see which comes first: disarmament or legal changes.

Belulli: I do not think that it will be chaotic, because there is a tradition of party discipline in the parliament. This is why I think that the job will be carried out, except for a few deputies who will probably vote against [the changes].

RFE/RL: During the signing ceremony of the agreement, the international mediators -- who are already experienced in dealing with Macedonian politicians -- pointed out that signatures are worthless unless the pledges are carried out. No document can be a substitute for the political will to make peace.

Ilijevski: Implementing measures aimed at establishing mutual confidence is one of the main tasks at hand. The measures are aimed at restoring Macedonia's position as a good example of multiethnic cohabitation in the region. It is imperative for the government and the citizens alike to revitalize relations between all the citizens of Macedonia. It means that, step by step, we have to create conditions to restore mutual confidence, and, as much as possible, to set aside problems caused by the terrorist activities in Macedonia, or in some parts of Macedonia.

We also must honor the memory of the civilians and members of the security forces who died struggling against the terrorists. The terrorists' real intentions were different from those they proclaimed at the beginning of the conflict, namely to fight for human and civil rights.

We have to create conditions so that Macedonia can quickly move ahead to achieve economic prosperity and the democratization of its society, which will assist its integration into European and North Atlantic economic and security structures.

RFE/RL: It is unclear how strong the real influence of the political leaders Arben Xhaferi and Imer Imeri is on the guerrillas' leaders. Can the guerrillas' activities on the ground undo what has been agreed at the negotiating table.? Iso Rusi argues that the two leaders are now a spent force following the signing of the agreement.

Rusi: A new, enigmatic faction has emerged. The Albanian National Army appeared for the first time with the killing of two policemen in southern Serbia and then took responsibility for the incident in which 10 Albanian soldiers were killed on the Skopje-Tetovo road, [as well as other bloody incidents].... It remains a big enigma (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 14 August 2001).

RFE/RL: Commenting on Macedonian politicians' claims that the main objective of the Albanian guerrillas is to conquer territory and not to fight for human rights, Mesrel Belulli said:

Belulli: No, that is not correct. The simple reason for what happened is the ossification of democratic processes that were intended to improve individual or ethnic community rights, as well as to combat corruption and state-sponsored crime. Problems like that are the main reasons for the war.

I am certain that even without this so-called ethnic war -- although I do not consider it an ethnic war, but rather a war between the guerrillas and the government -- we would have had an internal revolution set off by the citizens' massive discontent with the economic and social situation, as well as with corruption and crime.

RFE/RL: There are internal political tensions on the Macedonian side as well. Differences between the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO-DPMNE) and the Social Democrats (SDSM) are becoming more and more obvious.

Jordanovski: The VMRO wants a tough response to the terrorists. The Social Democrats -- who used to encourage anti-NATO resentment -- began to flirt with foreign potential allies after the party joined the government. The VMRO has recently grown in popularity by distancing itself from the foreigners. The Social Democrats' ratings have suffered because they are blamed for the poor performance of the Ministry of Defense, which led to the deaths of some soldiers.

But the two parties have similar standings in the polls. This state of affairs could continue through the January 2002 elections, just as it has in the past.