Mirjana Maleska
Full Professor at the Doctoral School of Political Science, University “Ss. Cyril and Methodius”, Skopje.

Painful Confrontations

With the Framework Agreement, signed in Ohrid on 13 August 2001 by the leaders of the four biggest Macedonian parties, the concept of Macedonia as a nation-state (national state of the Macedonian people) has been greatly abandoned. [1]

The Agreement was signed after eight months of armed clashes between the forces of the central government and the local armed groups of the ethnic Albanians (the so-called National Liberation Army - NLA), with the mediation of the western countries demonstrating their ability to intervene decisively. [2] The security crisis has weakened the already fragile economy of Macedonia and has brought the country to the brink of civil war. After many months of frequent flights all to do with Brussels-Skopje relations, NATO Secretary General, G. Robertson, lost his patience and addressed the Macedonian public with the following words: "It is time that you pass from a Constitution to bread and butter". [3] He was right: according to all reports, the crisis in Macedonia has increased poverty and unemployment significantly. Official statistics are merciless: from 1991 until today, the number of unemployed has doubled, from 166,000 to 354,000 [4] . The level of poverty is rising constantly, though with the strategy for poverty reduction, the number of the poor should decrease by 3% in the following three years.[5] The crisis itself has created a deficit of 80 million dollars in the country's balance of payments in the previous year (2001). For this reason, the funds from the future Donors' conference will be targeted at filling this deficit, and will be used for the reconstruction of damaged objects, before it becomes possible to invest in development. War taxes, burdening the Macedonian economy, were introduced, and Macedonia has warned government representatives that the country will as a result of this year's crisis be the only one in Europe that will have a negative rate of gross national product, so illustrating the thesis that is often forgotten here, that economy is politics and vice versa. [6]

After these indicators of dark reality, it is expected that reason should prevail, and a new way should be courageously taken. However, on the same day as the signing of the Framework Agreement there was an incident that demonstrates clearly that there is lack of will, or that it is very weak. At the ceremony marking the signing of the Agreement, in the presence of the EU Representatives, X. Solana, G. Robertson, M. Geoana and the mediators F. Leotard and J. Pardew, and in front of the cameras of numerous reporters, the leader of the DPA, A. Xhaferi, addressed the public in the Albanian language. The right to use Albanian as the second official language had just been regulated by the Framework Agreement. Even so, the Prime Minister, Lj. Georgievski, took this as a "cold shower" and left the press conference outraged. An unpleasant feeling of insincerity with regard to respect for the previously signed agreement remained floating in the air!

The reports of the journalists that were present on the session when the constitutional changes were adopted testify to the general feeling toward the Framework Agreement. Usually, this moment is accompanied by solemn joy, but in this case, the atmosphere in the Assembly Hall at one o'clock after midnight on 16 November 2001 was reportedly mournful. [7] Some of the deputies in the Assembly even yelled "traitor" at the President of the Republic. A similar manifestation of discontent and boycott appeared one year later, during the annual address of President Trajkovski to the Assembly in December. The hall was half-empty. As far as the representatives of the international community were concerned, they welcomed the decision of the Assembly in accepting the Framework Agreement as historic and as a decision towards "peace and reconciliation". [8]

Ethnic Macedonians, extorted under pressure of arms, doubtlessly experienced the abandoning of the concept of the nation state as a shameful humiliation, whereas the international community was blamed as prejudiced with regard to the Albanian cause. "Defeat", "wound", "shame", "on our knees" were highly emotional words that appeared in the media in Macedonian language, words that did not help in calming the general situation. Thus, the beginning of a new page in Macedonian history did not promise much. [9]

The concept of nation state

The experience of the series of brutal ethnic wars that lasted for ten years and were waged over the remains of the one-time Yugoslavia has shown that the creation of national states is on the agenda of recent history in this part of the Balkans. Yugoslavia disintegrated as a result of the extreme nationalism in all Yugoslav nations, but above all, in Serbs and Croats, developing into an ethnic war.

A short overview of history tells us, that in the first half of the 20th century, the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires disintegrated under the blows of one world and several local wars, and in the process of appeasement of the region the common state of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes - Yugoslavia was formed. This state faced the appearance of irredentism and separatism at its very beginning. In the aftermath of World War II, in the newly created historic context of a world divided into blocks, Yugoslavia has transformed into a federation constituted by six equal nations of Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Bosniacs (Muslims) and several other national minorities (Albanians, Hungarians, etc.). The circumstances, above all the national security of these nations, imposed the federative solution that was to function relatively successfully for seventy years. Nevertheless, when in 1999 Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union began to disintegrate, an urgent need arose to redefine the issue of national security of the nations that constituted these federations. Unfortunately, in the case of Yugoslavia, this was done in the worst possible way through the politics of extreme nationalism and chauvinism. Since the federation was in a state of hastened dissolution, the nations constituting it started decisively to strengthen their national identity as a guarantee for a bigger security - a relatively new phenomenon, especially regarding the West European experience. Namely, at the beginning of the '90s, the European community was busy carrying out the process of integration and failed to react promptly, or completely unbiased with respect to the disintegration and the ethnic clashes in Yugoslavia. Over the years, especially in connection with the crisis in Kosovo and Macedonia, the EU has reacted far more resolutely and unanimously, although I believe that some issues that remain will be further discussed.

In the case of Macedonia, I would like to stress as a phenomenon the fact that we have easily noticed and condemned the nationalism of others, while we are full of understanding and excuses towards our own. As far as the politics of Milosevic in Bosnia and in Kosovo are concerned, there was no dilemma for the Macedonian intelligentsia that this was politics of Great Serbia nationalism and chauvinism. However, if one attempts to tell some respected journalists from the big-circulation, daily newspapers and TV stations in the Macedonian language, as well as some renowned intellectuals that their writing during the crisis incited intolerance and hatred that could have ended in civil war, they would be very perplexed. This is because not only heroism that inspires many glorious deeds, but also nationalism that leads to destruction and sometimes to atrocities, are very close states of mind that originate from the same source of charged emotions. However, one should state openly that during the political and security crisis in Macedonia in 2001, many created the atmosphere of intolerance and hatred towards the Albanians and the West i.e. the USA, NATO, and purposely manipulated public opinion. We will have to face this fact in the future and hopefully many shall be ashamed of their behavior. [10]

In 1991, the adopted Constitution of independent Macedonia has reflected the real distribution of the social force. The Assembly, constituting many Parties, voted that Macedonia represents a national (unitary) state of the Macedonian people, (where equal rights are extended to citizens of other nationalities). The Macedonian Orthodox Church gained the status of a national church and the Macedonian language was declared to be the only official language that is used on the whole territory of the state. The Constitution guaranteed to minorities the right to obligatory primary and secondary education in their mother tongue and the official use of their languages in the municipalities where they represented the majority, together with some other rights (regarding the development of their identity, culture etc.). Such regulations should not be underestimated since they contributed to the emancipation of the minorities in Macedonia. [11]Still, many issues remained open and unanswered adequately in the following ten years. The representatives of the ethnic Albanians in the Assembly (PDP) were not satisfied with the constitutional solutions, which were obviously below the level of what has been promised to them in the political process preceding the Constitution. They expected from democracy more rights than they enjoyed in the mono-party system, and did not vote for the Constitution. [12]During the following years, together with the other political parties of ethnic Albanians appearing on the Macedonian political scene later (for example A. Xhaferi's DPA that entered the government after the elections in 1998), the representatives of ethnic Albanians stressed continuously the need to grant a bigger status to the Albanians in the country, asking for their equal status with the Macedonian people and all the rights of "power-sharing" that arise from such a status: confederation, federation, autonomy and consensual democracy. In the dramatic period of disintegration of the Yugoslav federation, when each of the nations aimed to take as much as possible from what had been understood under the term "national interest", the strategy of the ethnic Albanians was built on the relationship of Pristina-Tirana-Tetovo/Skopje. At the beginning of the '90s, the present Albanian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Pascal Milo, in a text published in the Skopje magazine "Balkan Forum", wrote that Kosovo's independence, a confederation, federation or autonomy of the ethnic Albanians in Macedonia and settlement of the banished Albanian's property issues in Camarija, Greece, were priorities in the Albanian foreign policy. The most extreme manifestation of this national strategy of the Albanians from Macedonia was the declaration of "Republic Ilirida", immediately after the proclamation of the Macedonian Constitution. Even though some of the creators of the "Republic Ilirida" nowadays state that it was not secessionism, but a territorial and political autonomy, the fact remains that in the context of disintegration of the Yugoslav federation, this step by the Macedonian Albanians was on a certain road towards creating an ethnic conflict. [13] In fact, the new crisis confirmed that any kind of solution would require consent by both ethnic communities in Macedonia. "Republic Ilirida" did not gain open support from the West or from Tirana, and the reaction of the Macedonian central authority was moderate. Albania at that time was in a considerably difficult economic and political position and was counting on help above all from the West, although it was using international forums to exert pressure over Skopje.

As long as the Serb army and police controlled Kosovo and the border between Macedonia and Kosovo, the parties of ethnic Macedonians could ignore the growing Albanian nationalism. Thus, some requests that could have been reasonably answered by the government, such as for example the high education in Albanian language, were cast aside with the explanation that it was a problem that should be dealt with by the police. This attitude undoubtedly instigated Albanian radicalism and the consequences were felt soon after. Three people died and many were wounded in armed clashes between the police and ethnic Albanian demonstrators from Gostivar on 9 July 1997, thus increasing the revolt of local Albanians. The reason - the incriminated Albanian flag hanging from the municipality building! [14]

The NATO intervention in Kosovo (1999) has significantly upset the balance of power in this part of the region, and has given wings to Albanian extremist nationalism. The Serb police and army withdrew from Kosovo and the international and Macedonian forces stationed there, as well as the Macedonian army on the other side of the border, failed to "seal" the border and stop the illegal transfers of people, arms and drugs. The issue of the status of Kosovo became another important source of instability.

These "structural problems" such as the change of the existing balance of power and the defining of the border between Macedonia and FR Yugoslavia, between the Albanians that used to move with relative freedom in the space between Kosovo and South East Macedonia, are sources of instability or discontent per se and can be misused for political goals. The economic exhaustion of the country after a series of wars and sanctions in the last years is another "structural source" of instability transforming the enormous social discontent into an ethnic conflict. Additional research is needed, but judging from the first statements of members of the NLA, they were recruited primarily from the army of young, unemployed people in whom social revolt takes the form of extreme nationalism. [15] All these factors, combined with the discontent over the inefficiency of the government and the corruption in society, led to the security crisis. Since local politicians did not succeed in solving it, the international community got involved in order to prevent further destabilization of the country and the region and potentially a new refugee crisis. The result of this crisis is a significant change in the character of the Macedonian state from a national (unitary) state of the Macedonian people to a state where the institutions of collective rights of the ethnic communities are being reinforced, which can lead to a further disintegration of the country.

Local political actors. Chronology of the crisis.

back to top

At the end of February, three soldiers from the Macedonian army were killed in the border village of Tanusevci, a settlement the existence of which many Macedonian citizens were prior unaware. This event marked the beginning of the crisis, and the coalition government of the Prime Minister Lj. Georgievski as well as the Parliament condemned the "armed groups of extremists" and asked for foreign military help. [16] The public was scared, confused and not ready for what was to follow. It should be noted that at this moment the Albanian political leaders in Macedonia demonstrated a high degree of loyalty. In this context is the statement that, if necessary, the territorial integrity of Macedonia would be defended. At the beginning of March, the crisis was still treated as a border incident that occurred as a result of the demarcation of the Macedonian - Yugoslav border, but regarding the issue of how to respond to this incident, differences in opinion were noticeable between the Macedonian and Albanian political figures. [17] The initial confusion was surpassed and the necessary, uniform reaction of the big parliamentary parties of the two ethnic communities (the majority Macedonian and the minority Albanian) in response to the crisis became clear at the summit of the parties in the presidency. The leaders of VMRO-DPMNE, SDSM, DPA and PDP supported the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of Macedonia; they agreed that the army should occupy the Macedonian border and KFOR should strengthen the control on the other side of the border. The conclusion was that "following the completion of the operations to neutralize the armed groups of extremists, the political dialogue on all legitimate political parties on the open questions of interethnic relations and finding their appropriate solutions should commence". The party of ethnic Albanians, PDP, remained reserved on the formula of "neutralization of the extremists". They shared the attitude that it was not necessary to wait for the "neutralization" for the dialogue to start. "The Macedonian side" stayed firmly of the view that it could not be negotiated under pressure of the "extremists". Later, it became clear that this was a good excuse not to negotiate at all, which was to damage greatly the peace process.

The international community condemned the expressed extremism and asked for a political solution to the problems: the Albanian leaders in Macedonia and in Kosovo were expected to go a step further and, apart from public condemnation of the extremists, to start negotiations with their leaders regarding the cease fire. The leaders of the ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians parties were expected to initiate immediately serious negotiations towards a political solution to the crisis. The government, more precisely the Prime Minister and his party, VMRO-DPMNE, obviously misinterpreted the signal from the international community on the condemnation of "extremism". They thought that the condemnation meant the approval to increase the use of police forces and the army in the crisis solution and to postpone the dialogue, if there ever was the sincere intention to negotiate at all. At a press conference, held on 26 March upon the urgent visit of NATO Secretary General, George Robertson and the European Commissioner X. Solana to Skopje, the government spokesman [18] declared that there was no outside pressure to talk "with the Albanian political subjects", because there was no need for that. Supposedly, this dialogue had lasted for ten years and had never been interrupted. The order was given to begin the Macedonian army offensive and for the police to rout the armed guerilla groups that were shouting from the slopes of the Sara mountain towards Tetovo. The argument "The dialogue has not been interrupted and has been going on for ten years", (and "first victory, then dialogue") were a favorite excuse not only of politicians, but also of the Macedonian intellectuals in order to avoid any type of move towards an increased Albanian participation in the "power sharing". By doing this, they contributed shamefully to a deepening of the crisis. [19]

The leader of PDP, I. Imeri [20] , did not approve of the "neutralization" of the extremists, for the military offensive and the crisis started to get out of control with a growing number of civilian casualties and refugees from this region. Very soon it became clear that in the case of an interethnic conflict the military solution could not be the only solution, especially if the conflict had a political dimension. The more a military solution was insisted upon, the more the crisis deepened and the political attitudes of the coalition partners in the government, VMRO-DPMNE and DPA, diverged. The trust between the coalition partners was greatly shattered even before the crisis. The DPA blamed the Prime Minister and leader of VMRO-DPMNE, Lj. Georgievski, that he had not fulfilled his promise during the presidential and local elections in return for the votes of the Albanians. Thus, for example, a protest meeting took place after the local elections in 2000 in Tetovo in organization of DPA. The leaders of this party, which shared power as a partner in the government of Lj. Georgievski, sent a clear message from this protest that the Albanians expected the status of a constituent nation, Albanian to be granted the status of an official language and higher education in the Albanian language. The leaders of the party made it clear to the leader of VMRO-DPMNE and the Prime Minister that the stability of Macedonia was in their hands and he that should be aware of the fact.

At the moment when one fraction of the government (VMRO-DPMNE) headed by the Prime Minister asked for the proclamation of a state of war, and the Albanian political leaders threatened to leave both the Parliament and the government, Macedonia came closer to the very brink of civil war. [21]

Even in April, there appeared a lack of any sincere will for political negotiations, and it became clear that the government of Georgievski wanted to avoid being blamed for "national treason" if it chose to negotiate. In the meantime, the government launched a diplomatic offensive, turning to Russia in the hope that it would be given political support, and to Ukraine, particularly with regard to the purchase of modern weapons such as helicopters and military aircraft. The Albanian political parties reacted with threats in response to the strengthened military preparations and actions on the part of the ruling establishment. They were to leave the government and the parliament! It meant that the conflict "slid" with greater resoluteness towards civil war. The Albanian guerrillas initially constituted for the most part Kosovo Albanians; during the course of May, it grew markedly with 75% of its 3000-strong army being filled by Albanians from Macedonia. [22] In June the Prime Minister admitted that there was an armed insurgency of Albanians from Macedonia.

In order to stop the civil war towards which the course of actions was undoubtedly leading, the international community launched an intensive diplomatic activity in the relations Skopje-Brussels-Washington. The idea was to form a "grand coalition" consisting of the two biggest Macedonian parties (VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM) and the two biggest Albanian parties (DPA and PDP). Such a coalition was supposed to "unlock" the political dialogue and accept the necessary compromise. In May, before the very eyes of the disappointed and skeptical Macedonian public, the Grand coalition government was formed, consisting of VMRO-DPMNE, SDSM, DPA and PDP. [23] Even though the coalition was expected to find a solution for the crisis, the political differences were not surpassed as had been expected, and dialogue remained "frozen". Additional research is probably necessary in order to determine the consequences of the clashes among fractions in the government, especially the clash between the army, controlled by SDSM, and the police, controlled by VMRO-DPMNE. For now though, in the streets, one hears that since the establishment of the grand coalition, Macedonia has lost significant territory. [24]

The establishment of the "grand coalition" was a clear signal from the international community that it had lost its patience and required an urgent solution. This created a panic reaction by the Prime Minister and the people from his party. The idea for an exchange of people and territories between Macedonia and Albania, originating from some Academicians from the Macedonian Academy of Sciences (MANU), was along the same lines as that of the Prime Minister and those from the government hierarchy, who shared his opinion. It was a desperate measure to avoid political agreement. This measure could have jeopardized the unitary character and the identity of ethnic Macedonians. [25] Confirmation of this view was to be found in the media, which announced that the Prime Minister was disappointed with how this "projection" had been received, and stated that in this case, he was going to agree with the coalition partners to design Macedonia "according to Albanian wishes". The idea for an exchange of territories and people was criticized by ethnic Albanians themselves, who have said many times that in this scenario half of the Macedonian Albanians would remain on the other side of the imaginary dividing line. In the case of a division, the actual suggestion regarding divisions of territory is not acceptable for the Albanians. [26] The start of a program of auctioning territories could have awakened some of the appetites of interested neighboring states. So, this idea for an exchange of territories and people was seen as being far more complicated than had been expected by its creators. The public criticized this idea as a means of worsening the difficult political and security situation, since it would create additional problems in the country and the region.

Almost all of the statements of the political actors just two weeks following the forming of the grand coalition government speak of an internal collision between the SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE. The SDSM supported the proportionate use of force against the NLA that were barricaded up in the Albanian villages in the regions of Lipkovo - Kumanovo and Tetovo - Gostivar, together with a parallel-running political dialogue. On the other hand, VMRO-DPMNE opted to use unlimited military force and only then to start with political negotiations. This attitude can be confirmed in the words of the Prime Minister Lj. Georgievski: "If we are all taking sides, I believe that it is high time that the SDSM clarifies when it will stop blocking the military offensive against terrorists in the Republic of Macedonia, when it will stop blocking the supplies of military arsenal and to state that we should find common grounds with the terrorists with political solutions, instead of using the only way we can talk to them, i.e. by a fierce and persistent offensive until they are scattered" (from an article in Aktuel, 8 June 2001). During this period, with the help from people close to VMRO-DPMNE and with some dubious funds, paramilitary formations were formed; this was later to be confirmed by the Minister of Defense in the grand coalition, Vlado Buckovski. He stated: "It showed that a part of the police reserve forces is not controlled by the Ministry of the Interior. It is obvious that someone should bear the consequences for a matter this serious." [27] In December 2001, open condemnation that the legalized paramilitary formations known as "Lions" represented a factor of instability was identified by the OSCE and EU representatives in Macedonia.

On 10 June the settlement of Aracinovo, ten kilometers away from Skopje, was occupied for the first time by about 450 members of the NLA. This represented the biggest number of people engaged in a single battle. [28] On 22 June an offensive by the Macedonian forces with helicopters, tanks and heavy artillery was launched; it lasted for three days. According to then Minister of Defense, V. Buckovski, this hot spot of the crisis occurred as a result of a variety of circumstances, namely, NLA soldiers intermingled with six to eight thousand civilians from the region of Lipkovo - Kumanovo that were heading towards Aracinovo and so entered the settlement unnoticed by the police.

Some signs suggested that Aracinovo internationalized the conflict due to its vicinity to the oil refinery, the airport and the highway, since among other things the peace mission to Kosovo could have been endangered. The international community did not approve of the use of "non-proportional force" and the demolition of the settlement by the central authorities (in the knowledge that the majority of its inhabitants had fled) since this could have led to possible civilian casualties. Some of the circumstances of the "Aracinovo" case have still not been clarified, but it seems that under pressure by the international community, the Macedonian government reached the decision to stop the offensive, and with assistance from NATO to transfer NLA members from Aracinovo to the village of Nikustak. On 26 June NATO provided 16 buses and 2 trucks, accompanied by two police vehicles, in which the NLA members with their armament were transported outside of Aracinovo. Inhabitants from the surrounding settlements blocked the road so as to disable the transport. However after several hours of dramatic negotiations, the convoy made its way.

The event angered the Macedonian public that needed a victory after enduring such humiliations. On the evening of 26 June, a large number of protestors gathered in front of the Parliament building. They poured out their anger by shooting in the air and demolishing nearby shops as well as some rooms in the Parliament building. According to a press release, the protestors were organized by extremist sympathizers of VMRO-DPMNE, and there was even an attempted coup d'etat. It is a fact that the entire leadership of the state and the Minister of Defense were evacuated from the Parliament building.

Controversy remains over some of the firm actions undertaken by the international community, but what is certain is that the internationalization of the crisis in Macedonia began with Aracinovo. That was confirmed by the then Minister of Defense, V. Buckovski, who stated: "…It became clear that the international community has serious intentions of getting involved in solving the problem". [29]

The intensive military conflict in Aracinovo came immediately after a political dialogue that had been frozen for more than two months, although the government and the Prime Minister had promised that by 25 June, when the Luxembourg Summit took place, they would be proud of the advance in the political talks. The deployment of a massive offensive in which property was demolished and the number of civilian casualties increased, was another important reason for the internationalization of the conflict. The EU and NATO, as well as foreign diplomats in Skopje, criticized the use of such great force in Aracinovo. From the aspect of the international community it was a sure way to civil war. The Skopje government had already been criticized by Brussels and Washington for its inability to deal with the crisis. Brussels made it clear that the Stabilization and Association Agreement, which was of vital importance to everybody in Macedonia, would be frozen and the funds from the Stability Pact cancelled. Several days before the clashes in Aracinovo, the NATO Secretary General, George Robertson, arrived on a visit to Skopje and had talks with the Macedonian political leadership. They assured him that it was not possible to hold political negotiations during the siege of Aracinovo, which he believed. According to Ambassador D. Speckhard, Robertson promised that NATO would help find way out of this situation, [30] but it seems that some fractions in the government wanted to make use of it. It is not clear whether there existed an agreement between the Minister of Internal Affairs and the Minister of Defence. Nevertheless, President Trajkovski decided on the attack on Aracinovo, with the army and police under joint command. This decision was preceded by another set of failed political talks among the local political leaders.

From the perspective of the international community, the military victory of the central government over Aracinovo would have lasted longer than the estimated three days and would have led to massive destruction and a deepening of the discontent on the part of the Albanian community. This could have postponed the political dialogue and prolonged the war that could have pushed Macedonia, economically and otherwise, into the chaos and poverty of a prolonged ethnic conflict. Such "victory" was not necessary. Thus, the international community took on the unblocking of Aracinovo through negotiations. It showed greater readiness to participate in solving the crisis. The Special Representative F. Leotard was soon to arrive in the country, and he participated actively in the name of EU as the third party in the negotiations between the political representatives of the Macedonians and the Albanians. The international community committed itself to implement the agreement and NATO committed itself to collect the NLA arms handed over voluntarily. The international community became part of the solution.

Even though, from present perspective, the international community did the right thing in bringing a halt to the central government's offensive in Aracinovo, it is sad that almost nobody in Macedonia, even the political fractions in the government that opted for political dialogue, was prepared for as big a compromise as was made in the Framework Agreement in Ohrid. In July, commenting on the events surrounding Aracinovo, the then Minister of Defence, V. Buckovski, still had hopes that the behavior of the SDSM during the crisis would be appropriately rewarded by the international community. He stated: "I guarantee that the position of the Albanian political parties is much worse that the one of the Macedonian political parties at the present. Above all I refer to the position of Mr. A. Xhaferi…I do not think that if he continues to support the idea of binational state and consensual democracy, he would get the support of the mediators and experts that will join the negotiations." [31] On 13 October the Framework Agreement was signed in the presence of the participating international mediators F. Leotard, J. Pardew and experts such as Badintaire. With this agreement, the concept of Macedonia as a national (unitary) state was largely abandoned, and the consensual way of parliamentary decision-making was introduced. Envoy P. Feith commented that the Albanians had succeeded in their goal of internationalizing the conflict and bringing international representatives to Macedonia. The Macedonians had lost the initiative because in the last ten years the government had been unwilling to hold discussions about constitutional changes. The cult of the "civil concept" was being developed, and ethnic Albanians felt it as a way of obtaining greater status.

The crisis and the international factor. The politics of Bulgaria.

back to top

"Indeed apart from four Albanians and two Macedonians - members of the military police, the whole Parliament yesterday criticized the "armed groups of extremists" and asked for foreign military support". So, the rebels busy on the hills above Tetovo represent a minority. Said in these words, it does not follow that a great number of Macedonian Albanians does not support their goals…as was commented by a journalist of 'The Guardian' on 19 March 2001. This was quite an accurate observation, since several days later, the leader of DPA, A. Xhaferi confirmed for Suddeutsche Zeitung: "I am not against the ideals of the NLA, but I do not approve of their means for realization of their requests". Somewhat later, one of the regular members of the opposition party of ethnic Albanians, PDP, M. Nesimi, in an interview for the journal "Aktuel" from 18 May 2001, confirmed: "Ultimately, maybe all Albanians support the NLA and are with it. All other statements are pure demagogue and empty stories…"

At the beginning of the crisis, the international community condemned decisively and resolutely the extremism of the armed Albanian guerillas, although it did not take measures to become militarily involved in the country, as in the case of Kosovo where Milosevic's regime caused a humanitarian catastrophe in 1999. On 23 March, the UN Security Council passed a Resolution with which it condemned fiercely the violence of the Albanian extremists in Macedonia and Yugoslavia, and demanded from them "to hand over the weapons and return to their homes".

The international community politics at that time limited itself to verbal critics of extremism, and appealed to KFOR to continue the action in order to stop unauthorized movement of illegal packages of arms across the borders in the region. The Resolution appealed to the leaders of the Albanian ethnic community as well, to publicly condone violence and ethnic intolerance and to use their influence towards providing a peaceful solution. With this Resolution, the international community remained loyal to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Macedonia, and called on Albania to isolate the extremists.

On 22 March, X. Solana, A. Lindt and C. Patten arrived in Skopje. The clashes between the armed Albanian guerillas and the central government started to escalate, new hot-spots opened up in villages inhabited by ethnic Albanians, one police officer was badly wounded and another was killed in the center of Skopje. According to reports in daily newspapers, the Macedonian Army was preparing itself for a new offensive that was then postponed under the pressure of senior EU representatives.

The EU strategy regarding the crisis in March mainly consisted of condoning the armed extremism of the Macedonian Albanians that could have provoked an extreme reaction on the part of the government and by doing so deepen the conflict and provoke civilian casualties. The government in Skopje was expected to give a controlled military response, whereas the leaders of the Kosovo Albanians were under international pressure in order to condone the extremism. At the same time, the ability of KFOR to stop the infiltration of the extremists across the border between Kosovo and Macedonia increased.

At the same time, the international community requested that negotiations be begun between Macedonians and Albanians in Macedonia. At the press conference during his visit to Skopje at the beginning of the crisis [32] , X. Solana requested once more that negotiations between legitimate political representatives of the Macedonian and Albanian political parties be started as soon as possible, and promised economic and political support to Macedonia for reforms that would take the country closer to EU membership. The option of deployment of NATO military troops was excluded; this was confirmed by the Commander of the NATO joined armed forces in Europe, American General J. Ralston, before the American Senate's Commission for Distribution of Defense Funds, stating that the conflict in Macedonia was a political and not a military problem and thus armed forces of the Alliance should not be sent. He declared that the Alliance should act unbiased regarding this conflict. According to another NATO representative, the Skopje government did not ask for "such action from NATO inside the country". [33]

The Committee of Ministers in the Council of Europe joined the criticism in a Declaration, where it supported all attempts of the relevant international organizations to promote interethnic relations and to strengthen democracy and human rights. In the Declaration, the Committee repeated its loyalty to the inviolability of the internationally recognized borders and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Macedonia.

In April, upon his visit to Skopje, NATO Secretary G. Robertson confirmed the politics of proportionality accepted by the Alliance as a reciprocal one, because in this way the dangerous passions, revenge and a new cycle of violence would be avoided. The State Department welcomed the start of dialogue between the leaders of the Albanian and the Macedonian political parties "to reach a broad consensus and to improve inter-ethnic relations", [34] and the US Secretary of State, C. Powell, announced his visit to Skopje. With the intention of redirecting the attention from the conflict to the future, the EU invited all leaders of the political parties in Macedonia to sign the Agreement for Stabilization and Association with the European Union that was scheduled for 9 April.

In the context of the international community's politics, it should be observed that Bulgaria followed completely EU Foreign policy. With the primary thought of joining the Union, Bulgarian officials "cooled" every hope of the Macedonian nationalists for a military solution to the conflict that Bulgaria was supposed to support. On 1 April, in Svilengrad, The Bulgarian Prime Minister, Ivan Kostov, called upon the Macedonian leadership to start negotiating, since contrary to others he expected the coalition government to disintegrate and the crisis to get out of control. According to Dnevnik from 1 April 2001, he stated: "I call upon the Macedonian government not to be led astray by the councils to use force in solving the conflict. That would mean involvement in an ethnic conflict, and we know that no government has ever won in such a conflict".

In June, by which time the crisis had reached its peak and the number of casualties in the army, the police and the civilian population had increased, the NATO, USA and EU Ambassadors, Eif, Einik and Dickinson (the Ambassador of Great Britain who represented the EU) joined the negotiations. At the same time, Envoy P. Feith maintained contact with the NLA's political representative, Ali Ahmeti, in order to pacify the armed conflict, to persuade the NLA to dissolve the organization and to hand in the weapons.

The military actions of the Macedonian army and police in the region Lipkovo-Kumanovo caused a massive destruction of property that was not approved by the international community. The fact that the guerillas used these villages for their fortification did not help much. There was still hope that by political agreement within the framework of the unitary Macedonian State, the serious threat of civil war could be removed. Western political representatives shared the conviction that something should be done in favor of Albanians through a democratic process in order to isolate the extremists. The general opinion was that if the Albanians were given indeed equal rights that would make them feel at home in Macedonia, which is their country as well, the chances for the armed NLA would diminish. It is of great importance in understanding the role of the international community during this crisis, to stress that this community felt that part of the requests of the ethnic Albanians was legitimate. However, the June negotiations between the local leaders with the mediation of Eif, Einik and Dickinson failed to give the signal that the international community and NATO would have to get more involved in solving the crisis. The Albanian political parties posed requests that were seen by ethnic Macedonians as dangerous for the territorial integrity of the country. Those were requests for a federative arrangement: a two-house parliament and the right to veto; a Vice-president of the state with the right to veto; use of the Albanian language as the second official language and a strong local government.

The armed clashes in Aracinovo showed that the conflict could take on serious proportions, it could escalate even more and that it was high time the international community "entered" in the conflict as part of the solution: political negotiations with the mediation of the West, voluntary disarmament of the NLA carried out by NATO, and its dismemberment. The mediators in the negotiations, F. Leotard and J. Pardew, held negotiations with both sides of the conflict on the basis of an expertise document presented by the well-known French lawyer R. Badintaire.

At the beginning of July, Leotard and Pardew suggested a framework document for constitutional and legal changes in the Republic of Macedonia. The document set several basic principles: the use of violence for the achievement of political goals was completely and unconditionally rejected; the sovereignty, territorial integrity and the unity of Macedonia were guaranteed; the multiethnic character of the state was to reflect in the public life and institutions; the development of a decentralized government; the development of local self-government in accordance with the European Declaration for local self-government; equal participation of the national communities in public administration; the right to veto for minorities in affairs regarding cultural and linguistic interests, but the right to veto even when the law of local self-government and municipality borders was in procedure, etc.

At the same time, the NLA political representative, A. Ahmeti, submitted even bigger requests that could have violated the principle of unity of the state, but they were not accepted. He declared for the newspaper Figaro (according to Utrinski Vesnik from 10 July) that the crisis could be solved by a confederate solution for the country. "The federative model we support is the model of Switzerland or Belgium", was declared by Ahmeti. According to him, the division of Macedonia was never part of the NLA platform.

The political platform of the legal political parties of the Albanians from Macedonia is not much different from the one of NLA. In 1998 in his book "Challenges for the Democracy in Multiethnic States", A. Xhaferi elaborated on his program and the program of the DPA with respect to the anticipated changes. He supports the right to responsible self-determination i.e. political and territorial autonomy of the Albanians in Macedonia; a bi-national and multicultural system; state formation for the Albanian community; official use of the Albanian language and other symbols; a two-house parliament; free movement of the Albanian people, ideas and goods through Albanian territories, etc. This agreement, writes Xhaferi, does not request changes in the borders and does not interfere with state and national interest of the Slovene - Macedonians (according to Makedonija Denes from 23 March 2001). During the crisis, Xhaferi stated in Suddeutsche Zeitung that he did not know what were the NLA's requests, but that he was in favor of "consensual democracy and an equal status for the Albanians".

During the crisis, the opposition party of the ethnic Albanians, the PDP, submitted identical requests: the Albanian language to gain the status of an official language; the decentralization of local self-government; a stop to the outvoting of the Albanian representatives in the parliament; proportional participation of Albanians in the institutions of the system; the legalization of Tetovo university, etc.

Following several dramatic months during the crisis in 2001, under the strong pressure of the international community, especially from the USA to which the Albanians owed the NATO intervention in Kosovo, the Declaration of Prizren was signed. With the Declaration, the three important political actors of the ethnic Albanians, A. Xhaferi, I. Imeri and A. Ahmeti coordinated their positions. The Declaration confirms that there can not be territorial solutions as a way out of the crisis; the territorial integrity of Macedonia will be respected, but in return a change of the character of the state is requested together with the requests for guarantees for the Albanian community's collective rights; the official use of the Albanian language and other symbols; decentralization of the government and the right to veto. The media in Macedonian language and the public reacted with total incomprehension and unanimous rejection of the Declaration, which postponed the peace process for several more months.

Lessons from the crisis

back to top

What separates extreme, malignant or aggressive nationalism from patriotism and loyalty to the nation, when both originate from the deepest sources of human emotions?

In the recent political history of the Balkans, "malignant nationalism" was first described by the American diplomat and historian George Kennan in his introduction to the Carnegy Report on the reasons and the developments of the Balkan Wars in the first half of the 20th century. Commenting on the disintegration of Yugoslavia, he says that these nations gained a lot of things - independence in a very short time and not knowing where to stop. The newly created independent states have nourished, instigated, organized and finally openly supported the secessionism of their countrymen on the other side of the border, thus causing secessionism and, most recently, war and instability in the region. Other authorities such as Daniel P. Moynihan ("Ethnicity and International Politics") or William Pfaff("The Wrath of Nations") mainly share the opinion that "the right to secession" that has caused so many headaches and problems in the region is more a political than a legal issue. Its application depends above all on the fact as to whether it will provoke regional or international instability.

On an individual level, everybody personally must discover the difference between nationalism and patriotism. It is a matter of upbringing, tradition, measure, civilized behavior and tolerance: to care about the other, not to hurt the other, to tolerate and understand the position of the other…On a global level, however, the peoples from ex Yugoslavia showed that they had lost the feeling of measure. Politics and the politicians reached for the deepest feelings of people as the identity, and used them for political goals. The national minorities, that after the disintegration of Yugoslavia remained living in the neighboring countries, misused their right to self-determination by declaring their mini-states within states. This, in a certain way, was a reaction provoked by the national egoism of the majority in the newly created independent states, which did not have an understanding of the fear, worries or rights of their minorities. In this manner Yugoslavia dissolved ten years ago, and now the same has repeated itself in Macedonia, fortunately to a lesser extent and with a smaller intensity. The social problems that have shaken Macedonia in the last ten years and the inefficacy and corruption of the state have contributed toward the social revolt taking an ethnic form.

[35] When the collision between the national egoism of the majority and the growing aggressive nationalism of the minority threatens to question the territorial integrity of the country, the first reaction of any government is to use military force to return the sovereignty over the territory in question. In the case of an ethnic conflict, the military solution cannot be the only one, because it leads to solidarity developing within the group, and in time, in the absence of a political agreement by the local leaders, the crisis becomes more complicated. Usually there is a divergence of several political factions that blame themselves mutually for the failure.

The problem in time usually comes down to the choice between civil war and peace: one fraction of the government is against negotiations until the rebels are militarily defeated, while another fraction may prefer a parallel action: military and diplomatic. The conflict in the governing structure spreads to society as a whole, and it lives in a fever. Homogenization along ethnic lines occurs and the moderate voices of reason are silenced or completely marginalized. The crisis in Macedonia followed this somewhat-known model of similar conflicts. [36] From the moment when several journalists from A1 television were captured by the armed members of NLA in the village of Tanusevci at the end of February 2001, until the battles for Aracinovo (from 10 to 24 June 2001), there was a serious threat that the crisis would escalate into civil war. The loss of territories and the casualties among members of the army and the police has radicalized the society. [37] The majority reacted in a high degree of ethnic homogenization, while the minority rejected loyalty to the state where they lived. The use of force by the central authority caused destruction of property and civilian casualties, which increased the revolt of the minority, while the failure of the political dialogue amnestied violent methods for solving problems. In March, journalists from the foreign media reported that for "the villagers and the NLA fighters this is a war of self-defense that has started because, at a certain point, the Macedonian forces have gone too far". [38] According to the version of the present Minister of Defense, who was at the time a member of the state's Security Council, once the chance to defeat the "terrorists" militarily was missed, "they descended into the inhabited places and gathered a great mass of the local population, after which they were transformed into romantic rebels supposedly fighting for human rights." [39]

Politicians, journalists, writers and professors from Macedonian nationality have put themselves in defense of their national cause. We have been witnesses once to similar national homogenization of Serbs, Croats, Bosniacs etc., but that did not help. If our celebrated creators of public opinion learned something from these wars, it was how to lead skillfully the propaganda war in the name of their cause. In the media on Macedonian language (I cannot speak of the media in Albanian, because I have not followed them systematically), there was a great outpouring of cynicism, intolerance and immoderacy in the wording, hatred and war mongering. The fatal atmosphere of "the worse, the better" has been supported in order to show that we cannot live together. It was being created in the relations between the government and some media that created anti-Albanian and anti-Western attitude. [40] The ethnic homogenization closed the process for alternative thinking and a moderate political option, and only analyses in the direction of a strengthening of the unitary character of the state (called "civic") and the politics of "strong response" were released to the public. In these circumstances, the view that the crisis had been "imported" from Kosovo and that the "extremists" did not have the support of the local population dominated, was shown to be false. The public remained unprepared for the dramatic changes that will follow with the signing of the Framework Agreement, it felt them to be imposed and reacted painfully to the injury to its national dignity.

When society homogenizes into two enemy ethnic groups and the local leaders are not in a position to reach a compromise, it is possible that the conflict can expand into civil war. The security crisis in Macedonia in June has entered its zenith and has threatened to endanger the peace efforts of the international community in Kosovo, it caused a new refugee flow, moreover a regional conflict. The scope of the military actions and the engagement of a great number of uniformed people in Aracinovo were decision-making factors. The international community entered the conflict as part of its solution. Certainly, this would be difficult if the feeling of responsibility for the peace did not prevail among local political leaders themselves. During the peak of the crisis, there resulted a divergence of the political parties in the government regarding the ways of its solving. Those who were more moderate asked for political dialogue and restraint in the use of excessive force, whereas the other option that was supported by the Prime Minister and his men required that all military force should be used and then a political solution be imposed. The international community supported the moderate option, offered to mediate and guarantee the implementation of the political agreement for peaceful democratic development.

The Framework Agreement signed in Ohrid on the 13 August 2001 is a compromise in many ways. Everyone has denounced a part of their requests. The Albanians, as was stated by P. Feith, the man who negotiated with the NLA on behalf of the Alliance, achieved their goals: they imposed constitutional changes and brought NATO into Macedonia. [41] This was a hard blow to Macedonian nationalists. On the other hand, they recognized the territorial integrity, sovereignty and the completeness of Macedonia; the NLA committed itself to hand in its weapons voluntarily and disband. The Macedonian side had to agree to painful changes that could disintegrate Macedonia. The citizens were not ready for the final solution and reacted fiercely to the Ohrid Framework Agreement. The most important changes with this Agreement include: the right to veto of the Albanians in the Parliament, the decentralization of the government, the use of the Albanian language as the second official language in the country and the proportional participation of the ethnic communities in the governmental bodies and public administration. The international community has shown that it can intervene resolutely before the outburst of a civil war, by investing money and diplomacy in order to provide for the lack of security in Macedonia.

Nevertheless, as was said with great comprehension and compassion by the mediator of the negotiations, F. Leotard, for "Utrinski Vesnik" (from 27 September 2001), "the agreement on paper is not enough. A true mutual recognition is necessary for the communities to live together, despite differences that confront or separate them. Actions must follow the words." This is the difficulty. War has deepened the mistrust and disbelief between Macedonians and Albanians. The first steps towards taking "action" are burdensome, unpleasant and hard, with lot of doubts and obstructions. There is lack of good will, but there is no other way, apart from the misery toward which every military conflict leads. One of the possible consequences of this "political earthquake" is the strengthening of national self-sentiment in ethnic Albanians, and the reaction in Macedonians of the need to strengthen their own national identity. This shall not be painless. Although severely criticized by some painters and art critics as "a worthless exhibition, woven with affinity for the political party", the exhibition of Rodoljub Anastasov, "Macedonian iconostas - the 12 Apostles of VMRO", where the portraits of the "left" and the "right" VMRO legends are set side-by-side, is doubtless one of the signs that the controversial issues regarding Macedonian history and identity are yet to be opened.42


back to top

[1] The Framework Agreement was signed by the leaders of the two biggest political parties of the Macedonians and the two political parties of the Albanians in Macedonia: Ljubco Georgievski (VMRO-DPMNE), Branko Crvenkovski (SDSM), Arben Xhaferi (DPA) and Imer Imeri (PDP).

[2] The ability to intervene in a decisive manner does not mean that there was no problem in reaching decisions. In the interview for the newspaper Forum from 14.12.2001, the OSCE Ambassador to Macedonia, Craig Jenness says: "I have no doubts that the international community has made mistakes. Personally, I have made mistakes as well. One of the mistakes was the formed impression that the international community is some kind of monolithic super structure that always knows what it does and wants. In fact, it is composed of many different persons that originate from tens of different countries that possess the same human weaknesses as the people here. Therefore, there is no doubt that there were things that could have been performed better…"

[3] Dnevnik on October 26, 2001, quotes NATO Secretary General, George Robertson, on the debate of the Alliance with journalists from several Macedonian media (without Albanian journalists): "Children cannot be fed with Constitutions. It is time that you pass from the Constitution to bread and butter", declared Robertson.

[4] Utrinski Vesnik on October 29, 2001, reported information indicating that the poverty index has grown to 40%. It has also grown in the case of people with university education, and according to last year's information, it has reached 3.7%, representing an increase of 2.3% on the figure from 1997. There are 500,000 poor people in the country, and 77,000 families are beneficiaries of social welfare in the amount of 1,700 denars, or about 25 Euro. One family should put aside 11,000 denars for the consumer's basket with basic nutrients, while the average salary is about 10,000 denars. Meanwhile the budget surplus has transformed into a huge deficit of 80 million denars. According to N. Gruevski, Minister of Finance in the Government of Lj. Georgievski; Z. Krstevski, Vice Prime Minister in the same government and N. Nikolovska, Professor, the Donors conference for Macedonia should primarily cover the deficit of 80 million dollars in the balance of payments. According to Gruevski, besides this, the Donors conference funds will be needed for the reconstruction of damaged objects and the implementation of the Framework Agreement. (Aktuel, 7.12.2001)

[5] In the text "Macedonia becomes a country of hungry people," published in the daily Utrinski Vesnik on 14 December, 2001, the journalist A. Stevkovska published official data indicating that the total summary index of relative poverty in Macedonia from 1997 to 2000 has the following tendency: it reached 19.0% in 1997, it was 20.7% in 1998, 21.0% in 1999 and 22.3% in 2000. The index of poverty depth has increased from 4.6% in 1997 to 6.0% in 2000.

[6] According to a statement from the government Councilor, Prof. Trajko Slaveski, published in Utrinski Vesnik on 14 December 2001. In the daily "Dnevnik" from 20 September 2001, Dr. Slavevski states the fact that with the recent rebalancing of the state's budget, the Ministry of Defence has received 440 million DM, 317 million DM more than the planned 123 million DM. The Ministry of the Interior, which has a peacetime budget of 147 million DM, has now been allowed to spend 267 million DM - or 120 million DM extra funds. He criticized these Ministries for acting very irrationally in their spending of funds.

[7] Utrinski Vesnik from 17-18 November 2001 reported that, at its session on 16 November, after a 13 hour debate, at one o'clock in the morning and with 94 votes for and 13 against, the Macedonian Assembly adopted the changes in the Constitution that resulted from the Framework Agreement. The journalist of Utrinski Vesnik, O. Vojnovska, writes: "…The act itself was far from solemn. On the contrary, the atmosphere in the Assembly and the plenary hall, without exaggeration, was mournful. It was very obvious that the deputies were not happy to have pressed the green buttons, in fact, the sour expression on their faces spoke of their mood. Some of the deputies from the back rows, in the moment when Trajkovski (the President of the state) appeared in the hall, yelled traitor!"

It is indicative to note that at president Trajkovski's annual address held in the Assembly on 21 December 2001, the hall was half-empty. The journalist of Utrinski Vesnik, O. Bojnovska, observed that the absence of deputies of VMRO-DPMNE was noticeable, that some of the party's deputies were laughing at him and that the overall atmosphere in the hall was very unpleasant.

[8] Statements of X. Solana and G. Robertson published by "Utrinski Vesnik" from 17-18 November 2001.

[9] "Defeated, wounded and ashamed, Macedonia prepares itself for elections…" are the opening words in the comment by the Editor-in-chief of the biggest daily newspaper in the Macedonian language "Dnevnik", B. Gerovski. In almost all the press in Macedonian language, there prevails the same feeling that the Macedonians have been defeated, ashamed and humiliated.

The same newspaper, for example, not only in the comments of the main editors, but also in the informative texts, stresses the editorial's disagreement with the politics of the state's top officials and the international community. ("Under blackmail of the international community" is one of the most frequently used phrases).

In the opening lines of Aktuel (18 May 2001), the editor J. K. Krtolica accused the NATO Alliance for prejudice: "The first man of the NATO Alliance, in whose embrace OVK grew and transformed into ONA (NLA)…"

[10] Before the arrival of the NATO mission - "Harvest" in Macedonia, an anti-western and anti-NATO sentiment grew in such a way that it was not by accident that a group of young people has stoned the convoy of NATO soldiers, killing the English soldier Ian Collins.

[11] In the text "The Albanians in Macedonia live in the best conditions in the whole of the Balkans" published in Utrinski Vesnik on 31 March - 1 April 2001, the journalist G. Duvnjak gives more indicators for this. The participation of the Albanian population in administration has an increasing trend. In 1993 there were 3% of ethnic Albanians in the administration, while this number has presently reached almost 10%. Two of the seven members of the Republic's Judiciary Council are Albanian. There were 26 Albanian mayors from 123 municipality centers elected at the last local elections and the number of municipality councils in which a majority is represented by councilors from the Albanian parties is very large.

Of the total number of pupils in primary schools in the academic year 2000-2001, 30.41% are Albanians - 77,479 pupils studying in 2,986 classes. In secondary schools the number of Albanian students is 15,302 or 17% studying in 450 classes. At Macedonian universities, among other factors, due to "positive discrimination", the number of students of Albanian nationality is increasing together with the number of newspapers, magazines and books in the Albanian language.

[12] According to Aktuel from 14 September 2001, the journalist J. Dukovska, in the text "Dossier Macedonians and Albanians", writes that according to anonymous sources, at a meeting in Ohrid in 1990, President Gligorov promised cultural autonomy to some of the Albanian politicians from Macedonia, but he has never fulfilled that promise. K. Gligorov himself, in the published memoirs "Macedonia is all we have", confirms that the Albanians have repeatedly requested the position of "constitutional people" regulated with the Constitution, showing particular discontent for the suggested constitutional solutions, which were for some degree, under the level of the former, particularly those from the Constitutions of 1974.

[13] In an interview for Aktuel from 8 June 2001, one of the participants in the establishment of "Republic Ilirida", Mirhad Emini, declared that the request for territorial and political autonomy of the Albanians from Macedonia was not a request for secession of the Albanians, but a request for equality and their improved inclusion in the state system.

"The foreigners and officials from Tirana have said No", I was told much later by one of the creators of "Ilirida" who preferred to stay anonymous.

[14] The police enforced the decision by the Constitutional court that the exhibiting of the Albanian flag on the municipality building was contrary to the regulations of the Macedonian Constitution from 1991.

[15] On one of his visits to Tetovo during the crisis, Max Van Der Stoel, the EU High Commissioner on Minority Rights, declared that there were many students from the unofficial Tetovo University among the members of the NLA. Mirhad Emini, in an interview for Aktuel from 8 June 2001, stated apropos the crisis: "I see primarily elements for social revolt, these young people up in the hills are unemployed, with no perspectives, disappointed…"

In his interview for Aktuel from 18 March 2001, the Secretary of the Party of Albanians, PDP, Mahi Nesimi writes: "…the armed conflict between the Albanians and the Macedonian authorities is a reflection of decades of accumulated discontent of the Albanians with their general position. It is a reflection of discontent, a discontent that surges from the bottom of the heart, from the bottom of the soul. This discontent is general, all-national…"

[16] At the session of the Macedonian Assembly on 18 March the Declaration condemning the "armed groups of extremists" was passed. This condemnation was supported not only by the DPA of A. Xhaferi, but also by the opposition Albanian party PDP of Imer Imeri.

[17] Several statements by the representatives of the parliamentary parties were published in "Puls" from 9 March. G. Spasov from SDSM supported the political and military intervention in cooperation with the international community. N. Ziberi from PDP supported the thesis for the only political way of solving the crisis, and stated that the situation around Tanusevci was over-dramatized. M. Tachi from DPA stated that there was never and there never will be ethnic cleansing in Macedonia.

[18] "Utrinski Vesnik" from 27 March 2001 reported this statement from the Government Spokesman, A. Milosovski

[19] Dr. Lj. Frckovski, ex Minister of Defence and Minister of Interior and, during the crisis, Councilor of the President, writes in the daily Dnevnik on 24-25 March: " If we break the spine of this Kacak gang…it can be the start of the process of disintegration of Albanian militant extremism…In fact, what are we waiting for? … We all need a quick victory… But the most important and politically the most mature phases after the victory over the terrorists should be the political offer for talks among the political subjects in Macedonia, instead of an interethnic plan…"

[20] "The army shoots with cannons, and on the other side there are only bullets and maybe hand grenades", was stated by I. Imeri, according to Utrinski Vesnik from 23 March 2001 in the text "The party leaders at the meeting with the European trio".

[21] On 10/11 March the daily Makedonija Denes published on the front page "This is War". The journalist M. Gjurovski reports: "A hard blow was given to the Macedonian armed forces and police in the past 24 hours. War is being waged on the border at Brest, Kodra Fura and Tanusevci…the situation cannot be got under control at the moment due to the emergence of a new hot spot near the village of Brest, so there are fears of the military conflict spreading along the line of the Macedonian-Yugoslav border towards Kosovo. The state leadership is alarmed and in panic".

[22] Jean-Francois Terral, the French Ambassador to Macedonia, in an interview for Dnevnik from 26 September 2001 stated: "The turning point was sometime during the course of May. It happened when the Macedonian army responded to the external aggression with a very strong military response, i.e. it bombed Macedonian villages. According to our estimations, corresponding with other estimations, from that moment the composition of the NLA was 25% people from outside, i.e. external aggressors, and the rest was composed of Macedonian Albanians who joined them."

This is also confirmed by the present Macedonian Minister of Defense, Dr. V. Popovski, who, according to Utrinski Vesnik from 15-16 December, declared that the reason for the failure was the desertion that took place in the army at the beginning of the crisis. Later it became too late because the terrorists had entered the inhabited settlements and gathered a huge number of the local population "who changed into romantically-directed rebels for supposed human rights".

[23] The Editor-in-Chief of Aktuel, J. Kocovska-Krtolica wrote on 18 May 2001 that "It is a general feeling that Macedonia has a government composed of hardship, under pressure of arms and the bands of NLA, under strong pressure by Washington and Brussels and as a result of the strangely born idea of the Prime Minister, who supposedly frightened the foreigners with the intention of asking for proclamation of a state of war."

[24] According to the Minister of Defense, Dr. V. Popovski in Utrinski Vesnik from 15-16 December 2001.

[25] According to Aktuel from 8 June 2001, Prime Minister Georgievski declared: "I fear that in less than a month the Macedonians will start thinking that it was not such a bad idea". The Academician Nikola Kljusev, a member of VMRO-DPMNE, stated for A1 Television that the political hierarchy has accepted the idea of exchange of people and territories with enthusiasm and has given authorization for it to be made public.

[26] We quote the opinion of M. Emini, one of the leaders of the PDP, from Aktuel from 8 June 2001 as a characteristic one: If people from MANU and those who share their opinion want to separate from the Albanians, "the Albanians shall not accept their map and their division".

[27] Aktuel from 31 August 2001. The same edition of the weekly from 31 August 2001, in the text "Dossier, paramilitary in the Macedonian way", published data from foreign information services on the organizing of paramilitary formations, with the centre composed of members of VMRO-DPMNE. In December, at the OSCE and EU press conference, chiefs of missions K. Vollers, K. Jenness and A. Le Roy directed criticism towards "the Lions" unit as a factor of destabilization and "unnecessary for the security"…They asked for dismemberment or distancing of the "Lions" formation from the hot-spots of the crisis.

[28] In his interview for Zum, from 6 July 2001, G. Robertson's Councilor for political issues, Daniel Speckhard, speaks of the number of 450 "well-organized and disciplined " NLA extremists" in Aracinovo.

[29] According to Aktuel from 29 June 2001.

[30] Interview for Zum with Daniel Speckhard, Councilor for political issues for the NATO Secretary General, George Robertson.

[31] Interview with Vlado Buckovski in Aktuel from 29 June 2001.

[32] "Utrinski Vesnik" comments that this was the fifth meeting of Solana with the Macedonian politicians in just ten days (Tuesday, 27 March 2001).

[33] According to Dnevnik from 23 March 2001, "there is not an Albanian problem, but only Albanian extremism". On the subject of NATO's military intervention in Macedonia, an anonymous NATO representative stated in Brussels that the Skopje government did not ask for that.

[34] According to Utrinski Vesnik from 5 April 2001.

[35] Mahi Nesimi states in an interview for Aktuel from 18 May 2001, that "The Macedonians are still incapable of abandoning the past, and even the present practice of corruption and taking bribes from the Albanians, for releasing personal identification documents, for issuing a passport, a birth certificate, even a death certificate, for registering a newly born, issuing a driving license, enrolment in university and in high school, for surgeries and many other things…"

[36] On his visit to Kavadarci, Vlado Popovski, The Minister of Defense in the seventh Cabinet of Lj. Georgievski, and a member of the Security Council, blamed the then Minister of Defense and the Chief of Staff for "incompatibility" in the cooperation between the army and the police. According to Popovski, Macedonia did not at that time use decisively the whole military capacity of the defence forces at a time when the international community supported the government. According to his estimation, the international community gave Macedonia two or three months to solve the problem militarily, but the state did not show its readiness to do so, due to the unpreparedness and fright of the Ministry of Defence, while the police could not enter into action alone. Besides this, V. Popovski blames the 250 "Scorpions", that is, the members of this special unit, for deserting, because they have "slept through the whole crisis" on sick leave and also many other professionals did not respond, although have received salaries "for difficult situations" for a whole decade. When the crisis ended, they were again on the pay list. He also declared that the clash between the army and the police during the period of the grand coalition government, on the ways of responding to the crisis, was another reason for the loss of territories and "ethnic cleansing" of the Macedonians from these territories.

[37] It is estimated that the total number of victims on both sides is around 200. These are unofficial estimates regarding the Albanian side, whereas on the Macedonian side, up to the time of writing this analysis, 63 members of the security forces and 16 civilians had died. At the peak of the crisis, there were around 100,000 internally displaced persons.

[38] According to P. Wood from the BBC, in the article "Signs for possible escalation of violence", published in the daily Makedonija Denes, from 10/11 March 2001.

[39] According to the statement by the Minister of Defense, Dr. Vlado Popovski, upon his visit to Kavadarci, from an article published in Utrinski Vesnik in December 2001.

[40] Here I shall give just a few characteristic examples: A1 television caused a scandal by blaming the Macedonian Army Headquarters' Chief of staff for giving information to CIA, which ended up in hands of the "terrorists". "The source" was a member of the Defense Council of the Republics, which speaks of a conflict of concepts inside this highest body on security issues. The scandal had no epilogue, but the Chief of Staff resigned and pressed charges against A1.

A second example is "the Aracinovo case". It began with the information, published by all daily newspapers and TV stations, that NATO had helped "terrorists" withdraw from Aracinovo, near Skopje, in order to cover up the fact that there were 17 American instructors in the NLA lines. At that moment, the government (the government, army and police spokesmen) did not deny these claims. This denial was given several months later by the same spokesman from the army, who had been given the function of Advisor to the President of the Republic.

A third example was the information that "NATO provides the terrorists with arms by helicopter". The Macedonian authority did not deny this "information" at the time it was released, but did so much later. S. Pendarovski, Advisor to the President of the Republic on the forum "Macedonia and NATO", organized by the Euro Atlantic club, did not deny the reports that there were 17 American instructors in the NLA in Aracinovo as the "biggest joke"; regarding the supplying of containers to the NLA by NATO he stated: "It is incredible how everybody believed in the container episode…" (a quotation from Utrinski Vesnik from 1-2 September 2001)

In an article "Discussion on the truth and prejudice of the public and politicians regarding NATO", the Utrinski Vesnik journalist S. Jovanovska (in that paper from 1-2 September 2001) reports the statements by the then Minister of Defense from SDSM, Dr. Vlado Buckovski, that he was deeply embarrassed when, in the German Parliament, where he was a guest, statements by the spokesman of Georgievski's government relating to NATO's mission to Macedonia were quoted to him. "Someone creates the opinion that NATO soldiers are enemies of Macedonia and afterwards they are stoned". The journalist of Utrinski Vesnik comments: "At this first pro-NATO debate in public", the President's Advisor S. Pendarovski stated that NATO's credibility in the country has been reduced as a result of the manipulations and incorrect information, since "no politician in the country is brave enough to say that NATO is our friend, and not an enemy".

[41] Dnevnik from 26 October 2001 reports the statement of P. Faith: "They have no other demands. Ahmeti told me this. He made you (the Macedonians) look bad. The Albanians were laughing when they saw what kind of problems Stojan Andov and other politicians encounter…"

42 In one of his interviews on the occasion of his exhibition, the painter Rodoljub Anastasov stated that he painted the portraits of the incriminated Todor Aleksandrov and Vanco Mihajlov because they fought for an independent and united Macedonia just as Goce Delcev, Pere Tosev, Gorce Petrov and the other apostles of VMRO had done, and that a national reconciliation was needed. Historian Ivan Kantardziev reacted to this, stating that there could be no national reconciliation between killers and victims. (Radio Deutsche Welle from 2 December 2001).