In one of the nicer hallways of the hotel "Holiday Inn" Pavle was proclaimed for a hero of multiethnicity personally by the NATO secretary general. The chief witness of this ceremony was the translator, who translated many nice words coming from typically strict and terse George. Pavle got an A for excellent multiethnic behavior, signified by a plaque with the NATO sign and a bottle of whiskey from Robertson's homeland, and his wife sacrificed her new hairdo by falling into hearty embrace of the leader of the Alliance.
Thus, Pavle returned to his Tearce with a "decoration" in the form of whiskey, put the plaque in the place of honor in his apartment and has been telling his neighbors how "a little man saw George". Too bad he won't be able to tell this story to most of them, because they are still refugees, but they must have seen Pavle on all TV news programs, since some of the hostels for internally displaced persons have TV sets. George calmly returned to Brussels, and left to Mark Leighty the pleasure of telling journalists about a good man from Macedonia. The citizens were encouraged by NATO to follow the example of hardcore Pavle and return to their homes.
Only two days later, Robertson's message was blown to pieces by an explosion of a bomb in Aracinovo, while citizen Aco Stojanovski was murdered because of his insolence - he visited his family home.
Unfortunately, many a plaque from Robertson's collection will not be distributed and many a bottle of whiskey will not be drunk, because the romantics from NATO do not understand that two are needed for coexistence. Pavle is not enough. Aco is not enough. They do not understand that hundreds of ethnic Macedonians who want to return to their homes, since yesterday are not even considering that, because they do not know whether their ruined homes have been booby-trapped. Because they do not believe that it is coexistence if each and every one of them has to pass through hospitals and "donate" a few pieces of shrapnel only to please surrealists from NATO, who "fall" for people prepared to make a "small" contribution to the multiethnic future.
After the most recent grave incident, will Mr Robertson let us know who the new hero of multiethnicity in Aracinovo is? Who will be the new winner of a bottle of Scottish whiskey? If there is no such person, if the "drum" got stuck a bit, if the hero hasn't been identified, will George be prepared to send his NATO soldiers to personally open doors of houses of ethnic Macedonians in that village?
He owes that to both Pavle and all those to whom he said yesterday that he would reward their courage and that he would demand that culprits be punished. The public will not anymore take spent phrases of the type "this small incident should not discourage ethnic Macedonians and make them believe that common life is impossible". Whiskey is not enough for survival, nor are souvenirs a way to build coexistence. Finally, there is no life in the role that was allocated to Stojanovski.
"We may not leave Tetovo, but we do not feel safe living in block 82. I had to move my family to another part of the city, as during the fighting we were terrorized. They entered our homes and made threats. It's not nice to say this, but Tetovo is already divided in two. To 'this' and 'that' side of the Pena River, which abuts Stoel's university. Ethnic Macedonians are in large numbers abandoning 'that' side and are moving to the center of the city. This has been going on since early January. For example, if before the war in one building in the southern part of the city the split was roughly 50 percent ethnic Albanians, 50 percent ethnic Macedonians, now the ratio is 90:10 for ethnic Albanians," one ethnic Macedonian, until recently a resident of block 82, says.
He sold his apartment (70 square meters) to an ethnic Albanian for $25,000. According to him, this is not a fair price, but he is satisfied as some Albanians offered even less for the apartment. A few years ago, the price of one meter square in these settlements was between $500 and $600, and now the price has dropped to below $350. Apartments owned by ethnic Macedonians are being bought exclusively by ethnic Albanians. Besides sale and purchase of real estate, ethnic concentration of population also happens through barter of apartments.
According to our sources, the local Albanian population has opposed the return of ethnic Macedonians and obstructed reconstruction of houses owned by ethnic Macedonians.
"There was vandalism, but that will not stop the process of reconstruction. The project of reconstruction of the houses will go on until the end of June. Until then 850 houses in Kumanovo, Tetovo and Skopje regions should be rebuilt. So far 706 houses were rebuilt, 111 of them in Opae," Heidi Modro, spokesperson of the European Agency for Reconstruction, says.
She could not tell how many of those houses belonged to ethnic Macedonians since the reconstruction was not based on ethnicity.
Ethnic Macedonians are disillusioned by the attitude of their fellow villagers.
"Some houses were really rebuilt. But our neighbors simply razed to the ground, with a bulldozer, many houses owned by ethnic Macedonians and turned them into garbage dumps. Now, no one is financing reconstruction in those locations, since there is no evidence that there were ever houses there," ethnic Macedonians from the crisis villages in the Kumanovo region say.
Spokesperson of the EU, Irena Guzelova, two months ago announced that the European Agency was facing numerous problems in the villages of Opae and Matejce.
"I visited that region two months ago and I am aware that there were problems. People from the European Agency faced different sorts of threats by the local population. One local [ethnic Macedonian] engineer was forced to leave Matejce at gunpoint and prevented from doing his job. The locals have also demolished new doors that were brought in for the reconstruction of houses. Afterwards we had to negotiate about doors as well. The roof of a just rebuilt house belonging to an ethnic Macedonians who intended to return to Matejce was destroyed by the local population," Guzelova explains.
She had no information about the recent situation, but believed that the obstruction was not the only reason for the possible pull out of the European Agency from the reconstruction project.
Sources of international and non-governmental organizations active in the field confirm that ethnic Albanians are strongly opposed to the return of their ethnic Macedonian neighbors to the villages.
"In Opae and Matejce ethnic Albanians are very radicalized and are not interested in the implementation of the peace agreement, the phase that implies return of trust, return of internally displaced persons and reconstruction of houses. We did not find such resistance even in the Tetovo villages where the worst ethnic clashes took place. Our impression is that after the declaration of amnesty [for former UCK fighters] the leadership of political parties representing ethnic Albanians has lost all interest in controlling the situation in this region," these sources claim.
On the other hand, there are claims that the European Agency for Reconstructions faces the problem of insufficient funds and that this project will only formally continue until the end of June. Unofficially, we found out that the local ethnic Albanians have tried to stop the work of the European Agencies as early as two months ago, with the justification that its assistance was not necessary.
"If the European Agency pulls out before completing the process of reconstruction of houses and the return of ethnic Macedonians to their homes, that will be a debacle of the efforts to reintegrate population. Now only the houses of inhabitants who never left the villages are being rebuilt, and none of them are ethnic Macedonians. Someone refers to this as reconstruction, others as a final stamp on the ethnic cleansing. It all depends on your outlook," international representatives say.