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the August 2001 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 48, No.
(VOL. 48, No. 12)Overline Overline Overline
OverlineHeadline Headline Headline
Crisis Long in the Making
Venelin Tsachevski, Standart News (independent), Sofia, Bulgaria,
May 11, 2001
is now clear that the roots of the growing Macedonian crisis lie
not in temporary or random factors, but in a combination of long-standing
internal and external causes. [Macedonian troops and ethnic Albanian
rebels have been fighting on Macedonias border with Kosovo
since February.WPR] There is a real danger that the
involvement of outside parties could potentially threaten the stability
of Southeastern Europe and, to some extent, the whole continent.
CIA World Fact Book)
The crisis in Macedonia has been long in the making. Like other
conflicts in post-communist Yugoslavia, it was a consequence of
the model of regulating international and interethnic relations
that was adopted after World War II. For a long time this model
was ideologically propagated as the sole option, while in fact it
was characterized by vulnerability and instability. When the Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) disintegrated, the model showed itself
to be inadequate for the new domestic and international realities
of the late 1980s.
In the first half of the 90s, Macedonia appeared to be one
of the few states not plagued by ethnic instability. It is well-known
that its separation from Yugoslavia as an independent state in 1991
was peaceful. Until the crisis began this spring, Macedonia was
held up as an example of a country with the existing constitutional
and political foundations for a multiethnic state.
For almost a decade, Macedonian Albanians, one of the two major
ethnic communities of the population, did not raise complaints about
the restrictions on their civil, political, or economic rights.
Their two major political parties the Democratic Party of
Albanians, headed by Arben Xhaferi, and the Party for Democratic
Prosperity, headed by Imer Imerihold a total of 25 seats in
the current Macedonian parliament.
Macedonia is a country with a historically high potential for vulnerability.
The vulnerability is a consequence of the way it was formed as a
republic within FRY, the brevity of its existence as an independent
state, its dependence on the policies of neighboring countries,
and other external forces.
The difficulty of forming a unified Macedonian nation remains a
serious problem. This is especially true for ethnic Albanians, whose
nationalism became manifest under the conditions of the independent
Macedonian state and rapidly became transformed into separatism
under the strong influence of external forces. As in the majority
of the other states and peoples of the former FRY, the growth of
nationalism sprang from the inadequacy of the interethnic model
sustained for several decades.
But unlike the other former Yugoslavian republics, Macedonia fell
victim not to Serbian nationalism but to rising Albanian nationalism.
Initially, it manifested itself as an aspiration toward ethnic independence
but quickly evolved into a strategy whose final aim was the formation
of a unified Albanian state. At the core of this strategy is the
idea of the creation of a Greater Albania, which would
comprise the territories of the former Kosovo vilayet (which includes
Kosovo and Metohija), the northern part of Montenegro, southern
Serbia, and the regions around Skopje and Tetovo in Macedonia. In
1998 this idea was announced as a platform of the Academy of Science
in Albania, which rested on the ideology of Panilirism,
according to which todays Albanians are heirs to the Illyrian
peoples who in the past occupied the central part of the Balkans.
Kosovo, where Albanian separatism appeared even before the disintegration
of FRY and reached its culmination during the 1999 crisis, has a
key role in the realization of this strategy.
Undoubtedly, the extremist Albanian leaders see an opportunity to
proceed toward the next phases of the strategy to form a Greater
Albania. Under present conditions, the federalization of Macedonia
becomes part of the strategy. In this respect a logical question
arises: Why has the international community failed so far to counteract
Albanian aspirations, which pose an immediate threat to the whole
On the one hand, the policies of the NATO and European Union countries,
which imposed their own approach as the sole solution to stabilizing
the west Balkans, show their obvious inability to offer, let alone
carry out, a successful strategy for dealing with the complex problems
in the region. This is especially true for Kosovo, where the decisions
to form a functioning democratic, multiethnic civil society are
far from being carried out.
The only result of Western diplomatic activity so far has been the
escalation of Albanian demands and growing pressure on the Macedonian
government to make concessions. On the other hand, the inefficacy
of Western policies in countering Albanian aspirations to form a
Greater Albania causes apprehension as to whether that could be
a deliberate tactic to preserve the present state of affairs in
international relations, or a tactic encouraging the redrawing of
the national borders in the region.
The inability of the West to help to resolve quickly the Macedonian
crisis only increases the mistrust in the existing structures for
ensuring international peace and security.
One of the important lessons we can learn from the crisis is that
the ethnic problems in the Balkans are not over and that we should
be ready to face them, even here in Bulgaria.