by Jovan DONEV
The first one has to do with the attitude of ethnic Albanian politicians with respect to the recent incident in Aracinovo. Unlike ethnic Macedonian politicians and political parties, who unanimously condemned the incident, ethnic Albanian politicians and parties were silent. Only Ahmeti made a statement in a press release sent to the Albanian language media. Also, ethnic Albanian intellectuals, both as a group or as individuals, were totally silent! The same applies to continuing provocations. While in the Macedonian language media one can find a spectrum of different statements, which go from support to criticism of the authorities and their failures, among ethnic Albanians, with a few exceptions, there is only silence.
The second example has to do with the changes of the Constitution and many laws that need to be changed and adjusted. This process has provoked an avalanche of diverse comments among ethnic Macedonians. Representatives of the international community have had a lot of trouble in bringing ethnic Macedonian politicians together so that they can come to an agreement. Only one day spent in front of TV, between 6 and 9 p.m., is enough to end up totally confused about who supports what. From one medium to another, commentary is so different, as if it were coming from different states. On the other hand, ethnic Albanians are again unanimous. Infrequent mutual attacks seem more a part of political folklore than based on fundamental differences. However, they find even that too much and now seek to set up a coordination body, which is supposed to make sure that the framework agreement is implemented as fast and as efficiently as possible. What is one supposed to think? To simply accept the opinion of a majority of ethnic Macedonians - that ethnic Albanians know very well what they want, extermination of ethnic Macedonians and establishment of ethnically cleansed territories that will in the future be annexed by some greater Albanian state? Hardly anyone should be surprised by such reactions. Simply, there are no convincing arguments against them. There is no statement, or action that can be used to deny these assertions. The only serious counter-arguments can be indirect conclusions, based on logic, which never seem as convincing. Logic has been discredited in this part of the world a long time ago.
Nevertheless, to make sure there is no confusion, I shall repeat: I refuse to believe in an all-Albanian conspiracy. I refuse to believe that ethnic Albanians from the Republic of Macedonia would be happier and more satisfied in any other state but the Republic of Macedonia. Essentially, I refuse to believe that they love this state less than ethnic Macedonians. Therefore, I try to find explanations for their attitude elsewhere. I keep looking for different explanations. It seems to me that the main problem is in their inner frustration caused by their historical heritage, as well as the ingrained conviction that as a nation they are a victim of history. The nation that has been for centuries exposed to pressure and torture by other Balkan nations. A victim nation, victim of centuries of oppression and injustice. To complete the picture, we need to add the Balkan-Dinaric mental framework, which puts emphasis on the courageous warrior-male, who keeps trying to protect the always impotent mother-female. Normally, in the conditions of incessant struggle, treason is universally despised. Can there be a bigger ignominy then treason of a co-national, who is fighting a war? Of course not! And that is not shameful. Every nation reacts similarly.
In this specific case problems start when the psychosis of perpetual victimization is persistently nurtured. When the impression of living surrounded by enemies is persistently nurtured that in itself creates a war psychosis. For example, in a poll I found the following statement, made by a young ethnic Albanian: "There will be no peace in Macedonia until the government recognizes Tetovo University." Let me be very clear. This attitude may not mean anything special. And most likely does not mean anything special. But, the statement clearly indicates the state of mind of this young man. But, even if he can be forgiven, how can we forgive all those who should be mature enough to know that such statements should not be made, but they nevertheless keep making them? How can we forgive those who fail to say anything even though they have a lot to say? Even worse, how can we forgive those who know the state of their own community very well but do nothing to change it, in order to foster their profits?
I would really like to hear at least a single example of a nation that managed to reach prosperity without freedom of expression. A nation that did not have the guts to publicly discuss its own failures? Even worse, in multi-ethnic conditions, to publicly debate their conationals, supporting opinions of their compatriots from another ethnic group. I will conclude here, even though the topic demands a lot more. I simply cannot accept that all ethnic Albanians in the Republic of Macedonia, every single one of them, are doing so badly that not a single one of them wants to raise the state flag. It seems to me that their fear of being denounced as traitors keeps them away from the flag. The fear, which I can justify if it is a result of their subjective consciousness. That fear will slowly disappear. But, what if it is consistently fostered? What if someone keeps feeding that fear? What if someone is making profits based on that fear? In that case, I have no answer. And I would really like to hear one!
First and foremost, it must be emphasized that this was not a victory of the Macedonian diplomacy or the state leadership. Let me repeat, this was a victory of the Macedonian public - you respected readers, and we, the media. I am not saying this in order to emphasize the leading role of Dnevnik in the seven day long fierce campaign for the defense of the territorial integrity of Macedonia from verbal assaults by UNMiK and KFOR. We all know who started, who said what and who pretended to be stupid - it is enough to skim through newspapers and immediately everything becomes clear. However, I am talking about something else, about unbelievable indolence of the state leadership, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, over the president of the state, people whose salaries we pay so that they could lead our state.
Imagine, now the Minister of Foreign Affairs Slobodan Casule and president Boris Trajkovski are beating their chests in unison and boasting about some sort of "intensive diplomatic activities" that won the battle. Sure! My colleagues and I, respected readers, can publicly confirm that the two of them are liars! The truth is totally different. The truth is that no one in the circle around President Trajkovski and no one in the MFA read and realized the importance of the claim made by the American general, reported by the Albanian language media in Macedonia. Absolutely no one! Furthermore, once we reported the scandalous statement on our front page, we immediately contacted both President Trajkovski and the MFA. Can you guess what they said? In the MFA we got a "diplomatic" response that they needed to first check what the general had exactly said. People close to president, on the other hand, berated us for "making fuss about an ordinary statement"?!
Even when the affair started getting serious, when UNMiK openly supported the statement by the general, the president remained silent, and in the MFA they could not find a single document in which the UN supported the disputed agreement. Imagine, they told us to go search UN's web site! Well, that's why we pay them, respected readers, so that they can tell us to surf the Internet! If you can't believe it, let me repeat it: they are clueless and would not be able to take care of a sheep, let alone a state!
But, even that is not all. How did the political parties react? Two most significant parties slept through this battle. Both the VMRO-DPMNE and the SDSM failed to say anything. I think that they even did not realize what was going on. I fear that they also were not interested, since all the brains in the parties are working on the forthcoming election campaign. That is all they care about - power.
Finally, reactions of the newly minted intellectual elite, the so-called "moderate intellectuals", mostly activists of various non-governmental organizations, journalists without audience and unemployed professors, were another story. These individuals do nothing else but "brief" foreigners and "explain" the political situation to them, while in return they get seminars, trips abroad, projects and donations. Apart from very few honorable exceptions, a few hard working and honest people I happen to know, who are really daily trying to positively influence the attitude of the international community with respect to Macedonia and ethnic Macedonians. Unfortunately, a majority of "intellectuals" has given themselves a task to please the foreigners as much as possible, by gossiping about and spying on their colleagues and hunting "nationalists". Because of such "intellectuals" foreigners are convinced that all of us in Macedonia are spineless weaklings, that here anything goes and that anything can be said and done. That is why we are being taught to adulate, to keep quiet, not cause trouble and never pull out the "gun" we are saving for "trouble".
Well, such "intellectuals" for days ran around in panic from one embassy to another, from a lunch to a dinner, and from a dinner to a breakfast (I wonder how their bellies don't burst from so much food!), trying to convince their bosses that they had shut us up - as if our mouths were like theirs, easily stuffed by lunches and dinners. But, wise foreigners know well that that's not how things work. They know our power, the power of independent and courageous Macedonian media, and of you, respected readers. Read well the statement by the US State Department. It openly states that here no one may bark as he pleases, because there is public in Macedonia and generals should watch what they say! Foreigners know that in this country there are people who refuse to be spineless weaklings and to be led by spineless weaklings, They know that we know that there is injustice in this world, but that there is also justice, interests, but also principles, slime-balls, but also courageous and sincere people. Foreigners know that there is public in Macedonia, the public that is prepared to fight for justice and for principles and knows that that battle can be won.
The international standing of Macedonia is bad because of people who do not lead and people who shame us speaking on our behalf. Macedonians are unlucky because among us there have always been spies who say that we are bad, nationalists, anti-NATO, and what not. Do not fall for their propaganda. Be encouraged by this small battle we have won. Hopefully, it will convince you that we are a nation that can win its battles.
According to theory of journalism, it is not news if a dog bites a man, but it is news if a man bites a dog. That is why I hope that in the future there will be more reports starting with words "mixed police patrols, OSCE observers, teams of journalists... were greeted at the entrance of the village by the state flag on one side and the Albanian flag on the other". There is no need to emphasize how important such an act would be. I have been listening to some local leaders who respond to journalists' questions regarding where the state flag is by saying that "it will be hoisted soon". Why soon? Why not now?
Despite "understanding" for motivation, I would nevertheless prefer a different attitude of ethnic Albanian villagers. There are no "obstacles" for immediate resolution of the ways in which national symbols may be used, with some sort of law, since the old constitution allowed flexible reading of the articles dealing with their use (it is another issue that the constitutional court struck the law down as unconstitutional).
I expect that they will surprise me these days and raise the state flag, as a smart political move, as a sign of trust. Those who think that that would be a mistake are wrong. (Healthy) logic says the following: fine, you feel very strongly about the national Albanian flag, but would you lose anything by raising the flag of the state in which you live and in which you seek to have full rights? Perhaps some base their actions on the experiences from the past when the distrust with respect to the state was built, although that argument is not valid anymore.
Nevertheless, the issue of flag use is not new. Those who believe that a flag is (merely) a symbol of a state either deliberately or accidentally ignore different historical circumstances, as well as various emotional issues. It is fine if a flag is a symbol of a state, but on the other hand, the use of the flag outside the mother country is a sign that a part of that nation enjoys more rights or all rights, as if it lived in its own state. And it legitimizes the state that allows such display of flags as a truly democratic state.
If we put this simplified discussion aside, we reach the other dimension - historical. In Macedonia, as elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia, there was more or less cooperation between nations in their full national liberation and emancipation. After fruitless years of the Yugoslav kingdom, when neither ethnic Macedonians not ethnic Albanians enjoyed ethnic rights, there was WWII in which different nations participated for the sake of national liberation (besides liberation from the fascist occupier). Thus, both Albanians and Macedonians were in the identical historical position. The National Liberation Movement invited the Albanians to fight under the "flag of Skenderbeu". The history of the post-war period indicated, however, that ethnic Albanians who participated in the war, who made sacrifices for freedom and equality, which were their national goal for centuries, were cheated. Because of their flag, under which they fought in WWII, many ethnic Albanians spent years in prison after the war. In the early seventies the use of the Albanian national flag was regulated by law (federal, state and province laws), but these laws were abolished in Macedonia in late eighties by the infamous amendments 48 and 56. Emotional resonance of the national symbol cannot be stopped by rigid solutions, since every encroachment increases the sense of injustice, as every denial of earned rights is viewed as a tragedy.
Therefore, may symbols of others not bother us. The more we respect other nations' symbols, the more we shall have the right to love our own symbols. Thus, my fellow Albanians, surprise the [ethnic Macedonian] public by a gesture that will bring them closer to us, especially because the sun [on the Macedonian state flag] must not be experienced as a foreign symbol.
The author is a commentator for Flaka and a writer
by Jovan DONEV
And we'd just sighed with relief. We had just started thinking that all sorts of unfortunate misunderstandings provoked by an unfortunate statement by some American general had been sorted out; that the UN security council had straightened out its employees in Kosovo. But, devil neither tills nor sows! He keeps coming up with ways to make our lives difficult. And he succeeded yet again!
After much confusion, leaders from Kosovo managed to reach an agreement regarding the division of power and elected their president and prime minister. Appropriately, the new prime minister addressed his citizens, and naturally, he spoke about the border. He also demanded that the border be redrawn. We responded nicely and politely, but he is persistent and keeps talking about the border. We even sent a protest note to the civilian UN administrator of Kosovo, pointing out that his recently elected prime minister was stepping outside his jurisdiction. It's easy to talk to sensible people. He immediately understood what the problem was and berated the prime minister.
However, just as we were getting relaxed, and concluded that the border issue was definitively closed as far as we were concerned, more trouble appeared on the horizon. The newly elected president also demanded that the border be redrawn. He said that the Kosovo parliament had passed a resolution in which it rejected the border agreement between FR Yugoslavia and Macedonia and would send it to the UN Security Council. So that everyone knew that the resolution was there and was to be taken into account.
Nevertheless, let's get serious! The situation is not at all na´ve, nor funny. It requires seriousness! Let us not lie to ourselves. The fact that the international community is saying that the border issue is closed means nothing. The fact that the UN Security Council is making these or those statements similarly does not inspire confidence. Hopefully, we have learned that lesson by now. The decision of Kosovo leaders to open this issue, the statement of the Kosovo president that the parliament has adopted a resolution and will send it to the UN Security Council, is a serious indication that the Republic of Macedonia is again being dragged into this dispute, which most likely will be political this time. As such, it can only be resolved through political means. That means through negotiations. And as soon as one starts negotiating, that indicates readiness for compromise. There is no other way, because if you refuse to bend in negotiations the other side, as well as the international community, will accuse you of lack of cooperation; or of deliberately delaying a solution of the dispute and other similar negotiating tricks.
It's even worse to refuse to negotiate. The whole world would accuse you of being an enemy of the stability and peaceful development of the region. The circle closes. Above too high, below too deep. Pick as you please! Therefore, I've been increasingly inclined to conclude that we should abandon the idea that this dispute is closed as far as we are concerned. Perhaps we should not enter debates, we should stay silent. But, quietly and behind the scene, we should seriously consider all aspects of this issue and prepare a strategy for dealing with it. Hopefully, it won't be needed. However, that is unlikely, given the other side in the equation.
The opening of the border issue does not only concern a few acres of fields and pastures. This issue does not only concern the right to use one's own land. It also implies the questioning of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Macedonia. Especially by the subject, which from the territory of FR Yugoslavia, currently under administration of the UN, is moving towards independence. Thus, the very moment Kosovo declares independence all issues related to its borders, not only with FR Yugoslavia and Albania but also the Republic of Macedonia, will be open. And that is the most important moment. The way in which Kosovo reaches independence. And that is well known. Europe does not recognize violent changes of borders. But Europe will recognize every change of borders achieved through peaceful means. Through negotiations. Therefore the future status of Kosovo will be defined only through negotiations with Belgrade; direct or indirect, no matter. Serbs and Albanians will have to sit together and talk. They will have to sign an agreement.
And we, as the closest neighbor should and have to care about these negotiations. Especially because the word negotiations is only a euphemism for the word barter. I am very curious what Serbs will demand from Kosovo Albanians in return for recognizing the independence of Kosovo. No one gives up anything for free. Let alone independence and territory.
Kosovo leaders, at least so far, have demonstrated that they are not na´ve in the least. Kosovo leaders are seriously approaching all aspects that should in one way or another lead to independence of Kosovo. Consequently, I very much doubt that they haven't considered all possible options in connection with negotiations. I doubt that all possible options haven't been placed on the table, including a possible division of Kosovo, something that Serbs would also find acceptable. Thus, it makes sense that they are trying to create as many open issues as possible. The dispute regarding the border with Macedonia should be viewed in that context. It may come useful. Especially if they succeed in making the Republic of Macedonia a hostage of Serb-Albanian relations. After that everything comes easy. Everything is possible in the Balkans. Europe will accept anything as long as a wider regional conflict is avoided.