Denko Maleski
Professor at Doctoral School of Political Science
Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje

Macedonia Will Not Be the Same Again

The international and domestic scenes are permanently changing. Those who are not capable of adjusting to the new situation will be ruined. This is the message that springs from the historical depths of political thought. Macedonia adjusted successfully to the changes in 1991; whether or not it will make the necessary adjustments now remains to be seen. The fall of the Berlin Wall, approximately 10 years ago, marked the end of a world order founded on a bipolar power structure. We are aware of great turmoil caused by tectonic quakes in world politics from reading, for instance, about the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Ottoman Empire, whose power was exercised in our region. In 1989, we witnessed the disintegration of a world system. One of the super-powers, Russia, was economically exhausted by the 50-year long armament race. Surprisingly, with the help of the other super-powers, Russia peacefully withdrew its power back to its national boundaries. This political withdrawal of the Russian power created a huge vacuum of power in all of Eastern Europe; which is being filled by the power of the victorious block of the western industrial democracies. Democracy, human rights, market economy and integration have become trademarks of the new democracies. The political priorities of the complex states in Eastern Europe, however, were different. Their constituent parts went through difficult processes of becoming independent. Some, like the Checks and the Slovaks, did this through a peaceful process of federal dissolution, while others, such as the Yugoslav nations, provoked disintegration of the country through a series of bloody ethnic wars. The Republic of Macedonia, proclaiming its policy of peaceful self-determination fought for its freedom peacefully. In this, we were different from the other Yugoslav republics.

The moment Macedonia became a full member of the international community; one chapter in the country's history came to an end. As a small country with no influence on the world politics, our best foreign policy, from that moment onwards, had to be our interior policy. A successful interior policy of any country is one, which brings and retains stability. The political process plays the most significant role in bringing stability. The essence of the political process in a democratic, pluralist society is political accommodation. In such a society, government is not considered to be only a machine for implementing laws on individuals, but also a center where conflicting interests of various groups are accommodated. Impatient to declare the constitution of the independent state with which we would promote our international position, we declared the Constitution without the approval of the Albanians. The political model of civil society, which does not differentiate between people on ethnic grounds, but according to which people enjoy individual rights, sowed the seeds of the current conflict. This conflict has been brewing for ten years and has now exploded in convenient domestic and international circumstances. The Albanians who required certain collective rights were simply outvoted. The lessons learned in all democratic societies, which we are learning today as well, are that the requests of the large social segments in the state must not be ignored, nor could the leaders of those groups be treated as if they only represented themselves and nobody else. That kind repression seldom succeeds against large collective groups determined to defend their interests. Constant accommodation between different groups with political means is necessary in order to avoid civil war. When basic conflicts in a society (and the lack of agreement about the Constitution is one such basic conflict in Macedonia) excel the power and the capabilities of the politicians to put an end to them, then the probable outcome is civil war.

These universal facts are the essence of the present conflict between the Macedonians and the Albanians. The disapproval of the Albanians with their social status, according to the Constitution, and the inability of the political structure to carry out reforms through a process of peaceful accommodation, have been the main generators of the present interethnic conflict. This conflict has lasted for the last decade. The Albanian's fight for greater rights in education is a good illustration of this. But what was it that brought this explosion of violence into our country? Again, we must look towards the co-ordinance of the domestically and internationally altered circumstances. The dramatic change of the balance of regional power came about after NATO's intervention in Kosovo, when Serbian's power was expelled from this part of the Balkans. Albanians from Macedonia took part in the fight against Milosevic's repressive regime as part of an all-Albanian armed resistance. Their political platform also centered on full-blown political coordination between all Albanian parties including those in Macedonia. The aforementioned have been strong factors of connection amongst all Albanians in the region, the war brought about a kind of a territorial connection. 
During the largest military intervention in Europe since the Second World War, armed Albanian groups used the territory of Macedonia for attacks in Kosovo and Southern Serbia. After its end, the absence of Serb soldiers on the border with Macedonia brought a practical unification of the territories and the power of all Albanians in the Balkans. When the Macedonian government decided to deal militarily with the armed Albanian groups in the territory of Macedonia, it had to take all these factors into consideration, as well as, the change in the balance of regional power and the sentiment of its own Albanian population towards the armed fighters. In conditions of such aggression coming from outside, it was very significant that the authorities gave exact and truthful assessments of the situation. The means employed in resolving the problem would depend on those assessments. Thus, an assessment stating that there were no serious problems in the interethnic relations in Macedonia would allow for military force to be used in dealing with the insurgents coming across the border because the government leans on the strong pillar of interethnic solidarity. However, if an assessment states otherwise, than one must count on the possible symbiosis between the armed groups and the local population. This was the case in Macedonia, and in such cases power does not help, but, on the contrary, it creates convenient circumstances for an armed rebellion. In Macedonia, as a result of the wrong assessment, or, what seems more probable, as a result in the faith of the power of repression, force was used where all possible instruments of diplomacy should have been used. For, although there are a lot of examples of successful military dealing with infiltrated groups, there are not examples in the world where bad interethnic relations have been improved by the use of military force. Hence, the assertions of the politicians and analysts that all the forces on disposal should be used to fight the insurgents or that general mobilization was a solution to the crisis were wrong and the right moment was missed. Another component that is also necessary, in such situations of infiltration from abroad, is the support of the actions by the central government by the moderates. Macedonian politics faced a paradox - the Albanian representatives of the government and the armed groups had identical political requests. That was a sign that the gap between the ethnic groups was enormous and that it could not be bridged with military means. At that moment, the military solution was dropped, and a political solution was urgently searched for. However, the politicians, following their political instinct for survival, wanted victory first and negotiations second. The victory was not attained. Among other things, this was so because there are no winners in ethnic wars inside one country. Even in situations when a group would manage to become dominant over the other, it is only a temporary situation, which explodes at the first convenient occasion. Only political accommodation is the way to permanent peace in ethnically divided societies.

How did the international community react towards the conflict in Macedonia? Their first reaction was to support Macedonia in the fight against the infiltrated terrorists. NATO owed Macedonia support because of its behavior during the Kosovo crisis. The problem appeared when, instead of quick victory, there was a symbiosis between the armed groups and the Albanian population. The absence of support from the Albanian parties for a military solution faced the international community with two Macedonias - a Macedonian and an Albanian one. Further support of the Macedonian government in the fight against the armed groups would have meant support for the Macedonians and not for the Albanians. For, when the international community speaks of supporting the Macedonian government, they include the Albanians as well. Hence, their insistence on a compromise that would unite, in a common policy, these two significant segments of the Macedonian society. By exercising their influence, they made the armed Albanian guerilla groups withdraw and created conditions for the two sides to find a peaceful way out of the crisis. It was only after the politicians in Macedonia could not or would not bring about a political solution, and with the experience of the regular late interventions in such Balkan crisis, that the EU and US sent their representatives to bring about such an agreement. That caused a certain "deytonization" of Macedonia. After insisting that all the main participants in the Macedonian politics create a common government, the sides were coerced to an agreement. The politicians were faced with unpopular solutions that would serve as a form of redemption. For, they could always transfer the guilt on the international community, with the pretext that this solution was forced upon them.

What will Macedonia, with the new political arrangement, achieved under strong international pressure, be like? Macedonia will certainly not be the same any more. The price for avoiding civil war through this agreement, with the help of US and EU, will open a new chapter in our political history full of uncertainties. New institutional ways for greater influence in creating the state policy of Macedonia are opened to the Albanian ethnic group, whose members fall as second-rate citizens. Their task will be to prove that the aim of their political fight is for the Albanian people to stand in dignity with the Macedonians, or even more, that the ethnic Albanian will become a political Macedonian. In the years to come, we will need a lot of creativity to discover the best formula for stability and peace in society in which everyone will feel comfortable. The Framework Agreement cannot provide this for us just by itself. The political solutions that it contains can become a source of stability but it can also become a source of instability in Macedonia. The key factor will be the moderate and tolerant behavior of people, especially those who lead the country and the intellectual elite. These facts foretell difficult days for Macedonia.