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South Slavic: September 27, 2001

27 September 2001, Volume 3, Number 34

The Next Issue Of South Slavic Report Will Appear On 25 October.


This interview with Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski was made soon after the 11 September terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. This is why the first question is about the possible consequences of this attack on U.S. policy and how that could affect the Balkans. President Trajkovski said that he does not expect any growing isolation of the United States toward the world. Quite the contrary (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 18 September 2001).

Trajkovski: In order to respond to that sort of violence, I expect a broad front for a fight against terrorism to be set up, led by the United States of America, not only in the Balkans but worldwide. We have to fight a terrorism that does not care about targets or methods. It promotes its own system of values, which are different from democratic values and the principles of liberalism, and which are contrary to the protection of human rights and liberties.

The North Atlantic Alliance has made decisions for an increased level of joint struggle [on both the military and political levels]. Macedonia must join that front against terrorism whenever and under whatever conditions. [We must] make our contributions to the eradication and complete elimination of terrorism, which has become an open wound in the 21st century.

RFE/RL: Talking about developments in Macedonia, the next question is: Should one expect a security vacuum after the NATO mission called Essential Harvest is over [on 26 September]? Do you find your peace plan, the Ohrid agreement, going in the right direction?

Trajkovski: We are now in the fourth phase of the peace plan, which means the return of law and order, when all state institutions are supposed to carry out their normal tasks once again. This will be ensured by a security force.

There is already a plan to ensure the return to peace and the rule of law in the critical regions [editor's note: These are areas under Macedonian National Liberation Army (UCK) control or which have seen a considerable amount of fighting in recent months]. This operation, which is very important, is going to be carried out together and in coordination with the OSCE and EU observers. During that process, we intend to involve local observers, too -- representatives of the local population, local NGOs. In regions with a mixed population, there will be both Albanians and Macedonians present.

This is provided for in the Ohrid agreement, which assures the local population that government institutions will return to the critical regions in keeping with professional standards and the law. I think that a prolonged presence of or a mandate [for stationing] foreign troops, regardless of their strength, would deprive the peace agreement of any sense. That could also preserve for a long time the ethnic division of Macedonia [into Albanian and Macedonian zones].

RFE/RL: Is that what you meant two days ago when you said that it would not be good if the NATO mission in Macedonia stayed longer then agreed?

Trajkovski: We already cooperate with NATO. Some 2,000 KFOR troops are already in Macedonia. When I said that the NATO mission should not be extended, I was talking about Essential Harvest, whose mandate, goal, and schedule are precisely determined. Its goal is to collect weapons. That is what we expect them to do, and that is the end of their mission. If you have read my peace plan, you would see that the fourth phase of the peace agreement -- the return of law and order -- will be carried out in coordination with KFOR and NATO.

RFE/RL: In other words, NATO stays but the mission Essential Harvest ends. You have recently demanded that the UN mission [UNPREDEP] be reintroduced. Are you talking about a mission [to patrol and secure] Macedonia's borders, or is there more than that?

Trajkovski: I was talking about temporary UN monitoring of the borders with Albania, Yugoslavia, and Kosovo. One could say that we have special reasons for that. We had a positive experience with the UNPREDEP mission in Macedonia in 1998. Together with Macedonian security forces, it was successful, especially in securing the borders. I am sorry that the mission unfortunately had to end because of Chinese opposition [editor's note: In the Security Council, Beijing vetoed the mission's extension after Macedonia recognized Taipei. Macedonia has since switched its recognition back to Beijing].

On the other hand, representatives of NATO and KFOR keep reiterating that the huge quantity of weapons coming into Macedonia from Albania and Kosovo creates problems [for them]. They claim to be unable to control those borders completely. Many armed and unarmed people continue to cross them in both directions [illegally].

The third thing is that I think that only the presence of a force under UN control, together with KFOR, can help complete the task successfully. That could create a sort of competition [between the forces] aimed at eliminating the present problems on our borders.