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South Slavic: August 16, 2001

16 August 2001, Volume 3, Number 28


Part II. Part I appeared on 9 August.

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

RFE/RL: Which way is Macedonia headed, for negotiations or war?

Gligorov: I think that the only way to go is the way of negotiations. [One should discuss] the most sensitive issues, calmly and with clear arguments. Then we should see what can be done and what not. That means doing things step by step.

Once again, I would like to say that, as far as improving human and civil rights are concerned, I see no obstacle, even if it means that the constitution and some laws would have to be modified. As far as collective rights are concerned, if the general idea is to divide this country into an Albanian and a Macedonian part, that will not be possible, [because] the people will never accept it.

RFE/RL: Macedonian officials recently said that this is a war for territory.

Gligorov: Right now [the Albanians] are not talking about secession [and] joining Albania or Kosovo. However, bearing in mind the history of the so-called [Greater] Albanian concept that all Albanians should live in one state -- which started with the so-called League of Prizren [in 1878] -- then this is a development that is going in that direction, whether we like it or not.

This is why the caution of the [ethnic Macedonian] majority must be respected, since they do not want this state -- created during World War II after so many insurrections and struggles -- to lose a part of its territory or to be divided. If, for instance, Kosovo were granted independence, then it would be the second Albanian state. If a bi-national state were created in Macedonia, that would be the third Albanian state.

The Albanians do not want to be treated as a minority, and that is what this is all about. They say, "We have lived here for centuries, we are a nation, and we want recognition."

But the problem is to what extent [and] how [this will come about]. If [both peoples] want to live in the same state and to consider it [their] own, then we need a state based on civic rather than ethnic concepts. By setting up a bi-national state, we would be going back to the nineteenth century.

RFE/RL: Mr. Gligorov, a group of Macedonian academics recently proposed partitioning the country and having an exchange of territories and populations with Albania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May 2001). Are there supporters of that idea among those in power?

Gligorov: I have never heard such an idea discussed in political circles. But it is true that [Georgi Efremov], the previous president of the Macedonian Academy of Arts and Sciences, did say something like that. He stressed that it is not the best possible solution, but that it might considered if all else fails. He resigned his post after the idea received [a hostile] reception.

RFE/RL: Could there still be an all-out war in Macedonia?

Gligorov: I do not think that we should exclude the possibility of a war, although that is far from being the most desirable solution....

However, if the armed conflict continues, together with ethnic cleansing and expulsions of local populations from their homes, that will certainly create...anti-Western resentment or increased nationalism among the Macedonians....

Demonstrations should be used to express demands or dissatisfaction, and not to demolish someone else's property. Eventually, we will all have to pay for it from the state budget.

RFE/RL: Is this your private message to your fellow countrymen?

Gligorov: Yes.

RFE/RL: Do [the current] Macedonian authorities ask you for your advice and opinions? Are you [politically] active, one way or another?

Gligorov: Not directly. I talked with the present president of the Republic of Macedonia twice. The first time, [President Boris Trajkovski] asked me what I would do in this situation. I told him what I thought about it. I was not satisfied then that the problem was left to the police to deal with -- they did not have the means necessary to be effective -- while the army was not involved.

My opinion was that...the army should have been used from the very beginning, when the terrorists appeared in the village of Tanusevci [in February and March]. [Macedonian government] officials said at that time that they would not be provoked by [guerrilla] military activities and risk international isolation [and not receive outside] assistance. That was a sign for the terrorists to continue.

The second time [was when] the president asked me to help him convince Mr. Robert Badinter -- a respected [constitutional] lawyer in France, Europe, and elsewhere in the world -- to come to Macedonia and assist in searching for the right solution, and to assess the other side's demands. Mr. Badinter agreed, but he told us that he could not stay longer than two or three days. A week later he came, and I think that he helped us a lot. The only problem is that, unfortunately, the Albanian side did not accept his proposal.

RFE/RL: What do you think about the attitude of your neighbors in the current crisis?

Gligorov: For the time being, I see no danger signals from our neighbors. They insist above all that negotiation is needed. They are against violence and military activities by any side, which is good. At the beginning, Bulgaria and Greece tried to offer assistance by sending some military units, etc. Fortunately, that did not take place. The government was right to tell them that we are able to sort it out on our own, that we are grateful for their help, etc. There were no other attempts after that.

Recently there was a proposal by Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou to organize an international conference about Macedonia, which our side politely refused.

The international community is helping resolve the problem by peaceful means. The EU is represented [in various discussions] by [security policy chief Javier] Solana, NATO by [Secretary-General Lord George] Robertson, and the U.S. by [special envoy] James Pardew.... Patient work and talks are needed, as well as the determination to use military means should that prove necessary.

RFE/RL: Finally, Mr. Gligorov, there is a comparison one cannot ignore. [Macedonian nationalist Prime Minister Ljubco] Georgievski came to power [in 1998] after a deal with [Albanian nationalist Arben] Xhaferi. Nationalist parties came to power in Bosnia-Herzegovina after they made a similar deal [in 1990]. In Macedonia, the ruling parties set up their respective political and financial spheres of interest soon after they came to power, just like in Bosnia-Herzegovina. A war followed [the deals between nationalists] in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the same thing is taking place in Macedonia. As far as Macedonia is concerned, there are no projects of a Greater Serbia or a Greater Croatia in the political picture. However, can we ignore the comparison with Bosnia?

Gligorov: I do not think that such a simple comparison is possible. The situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina was far more complicated. There are three peoples there. They were all affected by nationalism. Unfortunately, there were many victims [in the 1992-1995 war], not to mention material and other damage, such as the destruction of parts of Bosnia's cultural heritage.

But for now, this is not the case in Macedonia, except in relatively isolated cases. I think that there is still a chance for a peaceful solution if a reasonable approach prevails.

RFE/RL: What should the Macedonian government and the Albanian side do to achieve it?

Gligorov: Both sides should express their firm determination to keep on talking. Bearing in mind the overall situation and attitudes present within each group, they should not lose sight of what is possible in demanding collective rights. They should similarly avoid counter-productive moves, such as seeking to divide the state into two.