Kosovo/Macedonia: a few comments

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Date: Tue, 13 Oct 1998 11:42:05 +0300 (EET DST)
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Subject: Kosovo/Macedonia: a few comments

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Original sender: Francesco Strazzari <strazzar@datacomm.iue.it>

Kosovo/Macedonia: a few comments

I wish I could share the relatively optimist interpretation of the
"Macedonian Side of the Kosovo Conflict" contained in the "New
Helsinki Report" just posted in Minelres. I As of writing, it is not
clear what will be the outcome of last-minute crisis diplomacy and
engine warming-up over Kosovo/a. Although I see Macedonia as a success
story, I believe this moment of acute crisis with Belgrade requires
sparing no efforts to think critically.
1) The partial realignment of the Macedonian political spectrum around
ethnonational poles (Albanians and
> Macedonian Slavs) is a process that began long time ago (most Albanians boycotted the referendum on independence of Macedonia; a parallel plebiscite was held to proclaim an "autonomous republic in West Macedonia", while nationalist VMRO-DPMNE, which was venting strong anti-Albanian sentiments, had won the first democratic elections in the country). Despite recurrent tense crises, this process seemed to be partially mitigated by the creation of a government that included the Socialdemocrats, the Socialists, moderate Albanians (and initially the Liberals too) under the wing of the president Gligorov. Although the repressive apparatus has certainly not been idle in Macedonia (with the full blessing of external powers), the very fact that next week's general elections may see a defeat of the Socialdemocrats, shows that it is quite difficult to talk about an authoritarian regime tout court. Improvements have been made, and what remains to be seen is whether a new government led b!
y nationalist forces will do better in the future post-Gligorov phase of Macedonian politics. One should bear in mind that the relationship between Slavic Macedonians and Albanians in the old Yugoslavia was certainly worse than that between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo, because of Kosovo's autonomy status and because Macedonian nationalism in the Yugoslav system was much more tolerated than Serbian nationalism.

Despite the rupture in 1994 and the choice of different political
means, the "moderate" and "radical/separatist" Albanian parties share
some basic demands and have often been united in critical moments of
tension. On several occasions Albanian representatives have walked in
and out institutional organs. At different times, Albanian forces from
Tirana (Berisha) and Prishtina have sought to discredit the Albanian
"moderates" in Skopje. It is quite difficult to analyze political
developments regarding Albanian communities abroad if one forgets the
polarization of the political life in Albania and the state-building
work that is carried on by what is officially called the "OSCE
Presence" in Tirana. Accordingly, rather than as a step towards
institutional moderation and maturity, I would underline the tactical
character of the rapprochement between sectional Albanian parties in
Macedonia, and regard it as a further manifestation of growing ethnic
polarization in the Macedonian society. This phenomenon, which is
evident to any traveller in the region, is well described in the
mentioned Helsinki Report, and is in large part exacerbated by the
vicissitudes of Kosovo/a. It is indicative that even the International
Crisis Group in its latest report on Macedonia has recommentded that
no military action against Belgrade be launched from Macedonian bases
or territory.
2) It is becoming increasingly evident that the strategies of
"external shareholders" in regional stability are faced with a problem
of consistency. As Washington has repeatedly stated, the Kosova
Liberation Army (UCK) is a terrorist organization whose activity aims
at regional destabilization. It is also clear that today the logic of
intervention work against Belgrade, but also on behalf of an armed and
non-armed secessionist movement.  If one considers that the original
logic of preventive deployment in Macedonia is a containment logic
vis-a-vis Kosovo, it follows that the US will have to strengthen its
role in Macedonia to couterbalance the collateral effects of its
intervention in Kosovo/a. In light of the fact that the US involvement
in Skopje is already quite significant, it is possible that the result
will be a vicious circle whereby the US is increasingly embroiled in
terms of security, power projection and credibility, while no viable
regional political agenda seems to emerge.
3) Strikes against Belgrade will have repercussions in Republika
Srpska (RS), where the OSCE officers have been evacuated. Compared
with the Croat-Muslim Federation, the RS so far has received a
ludicrous amount of international assistance. Possibly one of the few
results that the international community has not been able to mask,
the victory of the nationalist Radical forces at the latest Bosnian
elections should have come as no surprise. It is difficult to support
the Dayton Peace architecture when on the one side of the Inter-Entity
Boundary Line NGOs are withdrawing because "the market is full", while
on the Eastern RS side the only bright thing is their absence. The
argument "no aid until war criminals are free" is untenable and has
proven beneficial especially for local hardliners. One could think of
the destiny of Europe if the Allied had waited to reconstruct Germany
until the last nazi war criminals had been arrested. This
notwithstanding, the Western "succeeding syndrome" has led us to see
"a success" in the Bosnian elections. We can therefore stop raising
doubts and be sure that the "Kosovo campaign" will be a success as
well. We are left with the hope that the aftermath will not be a
replica of the "Saddam Hussein story", with Milosevic and Seselj
clinging to power, and the rest of the nation - including their own
relatives - secluded in prison. Even forgetting the dubious nature of
this intervention from the point of view of international law, a
souring of relationships with Moscow is likely to follow, and the
construction of new (?) East-West sharp demarcations will then make
another step ahead. It would be interesting - in these days - to
observe the way in which "Serbs and Serbianess" are depicted by the
Western media, and to register the omissions daily served to the
public opinion. It almost seems that the scenario to be avoided is one
where several hundred thousands Albanian votes in the Kosovo/a ballots
become determinant for the defeat of Milosevic's clique (and then for
negotiating flexible solutions), rather than for sending Seselj to
Belgrade's parliament as it happens today.
4) Finally, let me recall the existence of another "troubled
Southeastern region" which has some bearing on these events, namely
Ankara's continuated war against the insurgency launched by the
Kurdish minority ("mountain Turks" for the Turkish government; the PKK
is in company with the UCK in Washington's terrorist organizations
list). Atrocities committed there are very similar to the crimes
committed by Serb special police and paramilitaries in Kosovo/a. The
main difference is that Turkish anti-insurgency forces have repeatedly
crossed international borders, bombarding and burning villages and
causing more than 30.000 deaths (plausibly 1.000 in the recent violent
escalation in Kosovo/a); and that Turkey is a Nato country. And let's
forget about the UN resolutions on the Occupied Territories.

NOTE: The draft of the agreement proposed by the US to the parties has
unexpectedly been published by "Koha Ditore". It can also be found at
http://www.ecn.org/est/balcani/jugo/jugo71.htm  (approx. 60 Kb)
Francesco Strazzari
European University Institute, Florence
e-mail: strazzar@datacommm.iue.it
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