1 – Macedonia and regional stability
BSSB.BE http://geopolitical-info.com 28.05.2015
The Republic of Macedonia faces new security risks 14 years since war ended and 20 since the first Balkans Peace Agreement, the Dayton Accords. The region has regained its strategic importance following new Cold War clashes between the West and Russia.
The US has warned that Macedonia is first in line of fire from Russia and Russia’s foreign minister claims the West wants to destabilise the country. World peace is challenged from Ukraine to Yemen. Regionally, Europe is challenged by the Balkans, and a peaceful and stable Macedonia is important.
GJORGE Ivanov, the President of Macedonia, cut short his trip to Moscow’s parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War Two to deal with a major incident at home.
Heavy gunfire had been exchanged in a 40-hour battle between Macedonian police and armed ‘intruders’ in the northern Macedonian city of Kumanovo on May 9, 2015.
President Ivanov claimed immediately, in a letter to the United Nations, that Kosovo was responsible for the attack, although investigations had found no evidence of Kosovo’s involvement. Thirty people – 18 Kosovo nationals, 11 Macedonians of which two live in Kosovo, and one Albanian living in Germany – have been charged by Macedonian Police with ‘terrorism’-related offences.
There were no Kosovan soldiers, Kosovo police or Kosovan flags or state emblems in Kumanovo where eight policemen and 10 gunmen were killed in the weekend clashes. It remains a mystery why some of the attackers had Kosovo passports, but this does not prove that the Republic of Kosovo was behind the attack.
According to President Ivanov’s logic, some European countries could be accused of crimes committed by the Islamic terror group ISIS, because some of their fighters hold EU passports. The same logic could see Ukraine accusing Serbia because some Serbian fighters are fighting with pro-Russian separatists against Ukraine’s army in eastern Ukraine.
An alternative view is that the Republic of Kosovo has acted as a good neighbour throughout, expressing condolence for the victims, offering intelligence support and placing police cordons around houses in many towns in Kosovo where the families of the Kumanovo attackers live. The Republic of Kosovo was the first country in the region to adopt a law in 2014 which stipulates fighting abroad is a criminal act.
Kosovo, Albania and all Albanian political parties in Macedonia have distanced themselves from these fighters. They are known to want stability in Macedonia.
Albania has been a member of Nato since 2008. Kosovo is not a Nato member but Nato forces have been in Kosovo since 1999 and Nato would not allow either of these countries to attack Macedonia.
So, why did Kumanovo wake up to heavy gunfire?
The answer must wait for a neutral international investigation. But there are at least three main elements of neutral analysis which could help to understand who could be interested in destabilising Macedonia.
First, a continuing tense internal political situation in Macedonia which has two parallel disputes – an intra-ethnic battle for position and opposition, and inter-ethnic clashes.
The intra-ethnic fight within Macedonia between the ruling Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) and the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) has continued since December 2012 when security forces ejected Macedonia’s opposition from parliament because it opposed adoption of the annual budget.
The opposition also refused to accept the results of the April 2014 election and boycotted parliament. And in February 2015 the opposition published a tape allegedly of a senior state official involved in corruption.
Demonstrations against the government have been held and one, estimated to have attracted more than 20,000 people calling for the government’s resignation, was staged on May 17.
A day later a massive protest supporting the government was organised in Skopje, and talks continued in Brussels and Strasbourg between the main Macedonian political leaders.
Inter-ethnic tensions between two main nationalities in Macedonia – Macedonian and Albanian – have continued since 2006, when the government called for a moratorium on ethnic issues. Translated into daily political vocabulary, it stopped full implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, which ended the war in Macedonia in 2001.
Three provisions of that peace agreement remain to be implemented 14 years later – the Albanian language adopted as the official language together with Macedonian; better Albanian representation at state level; and better budget distribution for Albanian projects and municipalities.
The European Commission has repeated the need for full implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement every year since 2006 in its annual progress reports. The 2014 Nato summit in Wales asked for this too.
Second is the international dimension. Macedonia has an important geopolitical position at a crossroads between two main pan-European corridors, eight and 10, and between two energy corridors, Turkish Stream and the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP).
Both pan-European corridors are planned to pass through Macedonia. Corridor eight runs from Italy, Albania, and Macedonia to Bulgaria and the Black Sea. Corridor 10 runs from Serbia, Macedonia, to Greece and the Aegean Sea.
Macedonia is strategically important between Russia and the Mediterranean. It is crucial to the planned gas pipeline from Russia to Europe. But it is also on the border with Greece and Albania where the Azerbaijan gas pipeline would pass through to Italy for the European Union market.
Kumanovo is on the planned Russian gas pipeline route near the Serbian and Kosovo border and on the Belgrade-Athens highway.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has won the backing of the prime ministers of Hungary, Greece and Serbia for Russia’s proposed Turkish Stream gas pipeline. Macedonia’s government has not officially made a decision, but senior officials have confirmed its participation in the project in many public statements.
Author: Professor Dr Blerim Reka
Ambassador Professor Dr Blerim Reka is Pro-Rector for International Relations, (South East European University, SEEU), and was Pro – Rector for Research SEEU, (second mandate: 2010-2014 and first mandate: 2005- 2006); and the Dean of the Faculty of Public Administration at SEEU; 2003- 2005).
He was Ambassador of the Republic of Macedonia to the European Union in Brussels (June 2006- June 2010), and also held diplomatic and legal advisory positions such as Advisor to the President of Republic of Kosovo for EU Integration, (February- March 2011); Member of the Expert Committee for Foreign Relations of the Parliament of Republic of Kosovo, (2011-2013); Member of the Legal Council of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia, (2003-2006); and Member of the Expert Team of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia for National Strategy for Integration to the EU, (2004).
*This is the first part of the article about current events in Macedonia. More information You can find in the next part of this article.