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


There are at least two significant reasons why it is of interest to Macedonia to resolve the dilemma whether it should be NATO or European forces in favour of NATO. The first one reason is because of contradictions inside the European Union, while the second is because of those in the relations between the EU and the United States, which could, in moments of possible future crisis, reflect negatively on the security of our country.

The lesson that we learned ten years ago is that the European Union lacks a common will when resolving serious crises on the continent. The lack of a common will results from the conflicting national interests of the European states, states that have difficulty in translating them into a joint foreign and security policy. The anecdote related to Kissinger, who, at someone’s remark that Europe thinks in this or that way, demanded the impossible - its telephone number -, is still didactic. In other words, it will be some time before the Danes and the Greeks, or the British and the Portuguese, have mutually shared views of the foreign and the security policy of the EU. Nevertheless, three EU member states strongly support the idea of European forces in Macedonia: Greece, France and Spain. What are their interests?

We do not have to learn from the experiences of others; it is sufficient not to forget the lessons from our own experiences. We border the EU, which could be a great advantage, but Greece has its own view concerning us, its neighbour, which doesn’t have to coincide with the views of the other EU member states. That view, burdened by common, historical traumas that all countries in the Balkans present as if they happened only to them, has evolved - from denial to recognition. We have experienced and survived the difficult period of denial, during which many countries from the European Union, such as the Netherlands or Denmark, offered us a helping hand, in spite of protests and threats from Greece. However, many of our past and, possibly, future difficulties have originated from one fact of reality - that alliances are formed in order to protect the interests of their members. Greece is a member of the alliance called the European Union, and, unfortunately, we still are not. Politics in general, and foreign politics likewise, is a struggle for power and influence, through which the state projects its national interests on the international scene. In the present debate on European forces in Macedonia, Greece, in an attempt to increase its influence in the Balkans and, of course, in our country, is one of the promoters of this idea. Whether Macedonia needs further strengthening of Greek influence, this time military, is open for debate. When our country becomes a member of the EU and NATO, we will be partners. However, in the meantime, the remaining, disputed issues should be resolved, for which there are divergent views inside the country. The increased, Greek influence, to the advantage of a domestic political option, which is close to Greece's views, could cause internal splits and threaten the stability of the country. Thence the conclusion, that at the present moment, we do not need an increase in Greek military influence in Macedonia.

France is also another promoter of the idea for European forces in Macedonia. Yet we should not forget that, in one important dimension, this French position is part of the traditional French opposition to American power in Europe. Many pages have been written on the confrontational attitude of France towards the US, with the objective of creating more space for the influence of French political, economic and cultural interests and values. In this decades-long rivalry, the US tolerates France's confrontational behaviour, whereas France, in moments of serious crises, always stands alongside America. Of course, for a small country like Macedonia, with very narrow margins for political manoeuvring, it is very significant what happens in the intervals of confrontation with the mightiest power in the world, and how this is reflected on the Balkans and in Macedonia. Thence the conclusion, that it is not in the interests of the stability of Macedonia that their disagreements confront on our territory.

Spain is the third country that favours the idea of European forces in Macedonia. It seems that the main reason for this position is - Javier Solana. This hardworking and capable Spanish politician, who made a distinct career in NATO, and now in the EU, influences the foreign policy of Spain to support his ambitions, in the service of creating joint European military forces. However, Macedonia’s problems could reappear as a result of the equivocal relations between EU forces and NATO, i.e. Europe and the US. In his latest book, Kissinger writes that Solana’s statements lead to the conclusion that he sees the European forces as an independent military organisation, which will negotiate with NATO in a similar way as with other world factors. This is unacceptable to the Americans, and for our own security it is important what the US thinks.

Namely, the United States of America is the only country in the world today that can lead the European states towards a common goal. This is enabled by its enormous and concentrated power, projected from one decision-making centre - Washington. Divided European power is not in a position to compete with it, at least not for the time being. In the first years of the Yugoslav crisis a decade ago, we witnessed the behaviour of European states in the absence of American power. Namely, since no European state was in a position to impose itself on the others as their leader, each of them marked its own zone of influence, with a range compatible to its force and its interests. Thus, a day before the report of the Commission of Badenterre was announced, Germany, satisfying its regional ambitions, recognised Slovenia and Croatia, while France stood behind its traditional ally, Serbia. Smaller European countries, such as the Netherlands and Denmark, tried to help Macedonia, but did not recognise it, awaiting the formulation of a common policy with the more powerful European states and Greece. In the shadow of this rivalry, a horrible war gained in momentum, causing death and suffering unseen in Europe since World War II. The United Nations could not help prevent it, since it is an organisation that can maintain peace, but not create it. Eventually it was necessary, for the third time in the twentieth century, that American power be projected on our continent in order to stop the war in Bosnia, and later on, in Kosovo and in Macedonia. Regardless of personal sympathies or antipathies towards this country, it is clear to anyone who has had the means to follow closely international politics, in whose centre are power relations, that Europe needs the US, far more so than the US needs Europe. As a country with serious security problems, Macedonia should hold on to both power centres. This would be accomplished through co-operation, and then membership in NATO, an organisation which, despite disagreements, unites the United States and the European Union.

However, we in Macedonia have a problem when it comes to the feelings of Macedonians towards NATO - and sentiments are important. Because when one breaks down the states into their composite parts, one understands that even such an abstraction as international politics is, is made of individuals and their feelings. The combined sentiments of all individuals that compose the state produce the behaviour of the state in international society. Going to extremes is conspicuous of the behaviour of the people from our region. In its relations with the big powers, Macedonian politics, until recently, was emphasising with a tone of protest the sovereign right of the state to make independent decisions. Today, when an important issue is discussed at NATO and the EU, an issue that directly affects us, the same Macedonian political representatives refuse to think with their own heads, and to come up with their own position concerning the dilemma of NATO or EU forces in Macedonia? Why is that so? How can a rational discussion be held on such an issue, when Macedonian politics produced such anti-NATO sentiments among the Macedonians, sentiments that these days exist only in Republika Srpska. And which political party in the country, before elections, would initiate such a debate and face the popular anger towards NATO, which it itself produced. That it is really quite possible that the further presence of NATO may be necessary from the aspect of the interests of peace in Macedonia, and that we could end up with the first experimental corpus of European forces, is unimportant from the point of view of the personal interests of politicians. They simply have to win the elections. Thus, it is in the interests of Macedonian politicians not to speak their mind on this issue. And this is what they do, leaving the decision in the hands of others, with the explanation that the decision is not ours anyway. In the fullness of time, that could very well be so, but we as individuals search for alternatives to make our lives safer and happier, even though in the end we are all mortals. However, the problem is that Macedonian politics is entrapped by negative feelings of ethnic Macedonians towards NATO. How can such sentiments be overcome? Here is one suggestion: let’s start by facing a tragic incident that weighs on our conscience.

Seven months ago, several young men from the suburbs of Skopje threw stones at NATO vehicles, and in the process killed a 22 year-old British soldier, Ian Collins. Ever since, his parents have been frequent visitors to Skopje. The father, a former miner from Sheffield who had dug coal underground for thirteen years, and the mother, a housewife, had raised Ian. They say that their son was very handsome, and that these days he would have been 23. What are they doing so often in Skopje? They are seeking justice. Without the least hatred for the citizens of this unknown city in which they lost their child, they say that those who are capable of throwing stones are capable of answering for their act. And that is all. They know nothing of the existence of an accomplice - the xenophobia created by politicians, intellectuals and journalists...