by Mersell BILALLI
Recently, by chance or not, we've had another chance to observe reactions of the Balkan politicians to a test balloon, promoting the idea of wide-based Balkan integration of states. Reactions coming from different states were naturally different, based on the local daily political needs.
After a bloody dissolution of the former Yugoslav community and setting up of its former components as independent states, on several occasions various Western structures have proposed establishment of wider Balkan integrations, which were rejected without any serious analysis of the goals of those making such proposals, as well as of possible benefits or problems arising from such integrations. In other words, what is to be gained or lost with such a regional integration. The only answer was a definite, huge NO, without much thinking and without any other alternative. Or, better said, the impression was that the desire was not to desire anything.
The problem here is not in that consistent big NO, because even if the reply were different, it would always be easy to find someone who would be unhappy with such an answer. The problem lies somewhere else. The problem is the fact that no one is actually considering the implications of a possible YES or NO but is simply rejecting the whole idea and refusing to take it into account. It is always easy to reject new ideas and attempt to maintain status quo (if it does exist), even if it is obviously not producing good results, while no serious effort is needed to reject of new ideas. It is enough to say that something is dangerous (for the nation, or the state) and to assume a paranoid and phobic attitude in the public with respect to the proposed idea. People are pushed to believe that it is better to live in hunger, but proudly, unaware that pride and hunger never go together.
Even those who attempt to use their brains and objectively analyze the proposal, will end up with a skeptical conclusion that in this (in)famous Balkans, where no one likes anyone else, such a possible community of nations would in advance be doomed to failure. However, I believe that this is an inappropriate approach to the problem. Instead of approaching the problem from the rational point of view (taking into account economics, social issues, security, communications), the whole integrative process is based on some mutual love, forgetting that absence of love does not automatically imply hatred. Even if that was not the case, love and hate are something totally different from real interests of the local communities or states. If there is a desire to construct something new, that should be based on mutual needs and interests, rather than on love or hate.
European nations did not always live in harmony and "love". Through history, they have waged many fierce and destructive wars. Even today, they face numerous problems based on their specific cultures, collective emotions and historical prejudices. But their leaders assessed that by cooperating and integrating they would not only eliminate war and violence as destructive means for solving problems, but would also create possibilities for a faster economic, social and cultural development. Similarly, it has already been proven that in an integrated community democracy and human rights and freedoms develop much faster.
All Balkan states, without an exception, hope to one day joint the European Union. However, that is only a political declaration, while many conditions need to be fulfilled before the actual accession, some of them requiring years for implementation. Whatever politicians promise, the path to full membership in the EU is neither easy nor short. Besides numerous transformations in the total political system, the crucial condition is the ability of the local markets to compete with the EU market, which, to tell the truth, means many years of hard work and waiting for the Balkan states. Thus, obviously, the main issue is the dynamic of the development of the economies of the states in the region. Or, whether that development would be faster with the individual approach (including regional customs and communications barriers) or with the regional integrative approach, which assumes a much larger market, and consequently larger investments and employment.
Objectively, it is unrealistic to contemplate a Balkan federation or a confederation. Federal links imply a shared constitution, which would be absurd given current conditions in the Balkans, while people are allergic to the mention of confederation, because they associate it with the loss of sovereignty, although in reality every state has only as much sovereignty as its currency does. However, some sort of integration of regional economies, with the goal of easier and faster fulfillment of conditions for full accession to the EU, is absolutely required.
These states will sooner or later surrender a part of their sovereignty to some sort of ashared integrative structure. The dilemma is whether to start regional integration, which implies closer integration of societies that do not boast with mutual trust, or whether to finally meet after several decades in Brussels in wider company, which in itself makes the aforementioned mistrust irrelevant. However, it is undeniable that the latter choice will demand much more effort and time, and is in any case far more attainable through regional economic integration.
Prejudices should remain prejudices. So that we do not have to admit one day that we spent our whole lives tilting at windmills.
by Jovan DONEV
To tell the truth, during the 1998 election campaign, the VMRO-DPMNE changed its old tactics and dropped its usual propaganda terminology. The leadership of the party focused on the economy and improvement of living standard of the population, which is unusual for a rightist, nationalist party. Thereby created empty space was immediately filled by the SDSM. They not only switched to a more extreme rhetoric regarding the Albanian question, but also much more ferociously attacked members of the VMRO for their pro-Bulgarian orientation. The victory of the VMRO-DPMNE in the election and the formation of their coalition with the radical Democratic Party of Albanians (DPSh) was depicted as a confirmation of a secret agreement of these two parties with the goal of dividing Macedonia between Bulgaria and Albania.
To make sure we understand each other, it is necessary to explain the radicalism of the DPSh. Organized political activities of Albanians in Macedonia started in the spring of 1990 with the establishment of the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP). Until 1998, the party actively participated in the work of the Macedonian parliament and all governments formed by the SDSM. Therefore, it was an active participant in the tumultuous political events of 1990 and 1991, when the key battle for the future of the future independent country and her constitutional order was fought. There are two chief characteristics of its activities in that period - consistent insistence on improvement of the status of ethnic Albanians in the Republic of Macedonia, through the recognition of the Albanian as the second official state language, and the refusal to grant legitimacy to the Macedonian state, through a boycott of the independence referendum and refusal to recognize the new Constitution of Macedonia. The result of such political tactics was increased mistrust of ethnic Macedonians with respect to ethnic Albanians. In any case, the agreement of the leaders of the PDP to participate in all the governments formed by the SDSM could be assessed as a way to grant legitimacy to the state, but unfortunately, that's not how it was interpreted by the ethnic Macedonian majority. Essentially, during this period, as well as later, ethnic Albanian political parties in Macedonia were in one way or another hostages of the Albanian question in the region, above all thestatus of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. With that in mind, the behavior of ethnic Albanian political parties in Macedonia seems rational. Simply, at that time, and later as well, conflicts within the Macedonian political block with respect to the future of the country prompted Albanians to assume a back up position. Thus, if Macedonia decided to remain within the rump Yugoslavia, ethnic Albanians would have coordinated their demands with those of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo. According to the same logic, their demands for the transformation of the Republic of Macedonia into a bi-national state are a part of the general Albanian strategy on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. According to that strategy, ethnic Albanians from the former Yugoslavia demanded that Kosovo become an independent state, Macedonia be transformed into a bi-national state, ethnic Albanians in the south of Serbia proper be granted autonomy, while ethnic Albanians in Montenegro be granted cultural autonomy.
The definition and concrete action towards the implementation of such a platform clearly indicated that it would be difficult to at this time describe certain ethnic Albanian party in Macedonia as radical, and another as moderate. The separation of one faction of the PDP and the establishment of the new PDPSh was essentially in intra-Albanian dispute regarding the tactics and methods of action of the ethnic Albanian political factor in Macedonia. Especially if one takes into account a rather lukewarm reaction of the PDP during disturbances that took place in some cities in Macedonia, in which several ethnic Albanians died. Clashes in Tetovo, in connection with the opening of the so-called Tetovo University, declared to be illegal by the government, are especially important in this context. Essentially, general assessment of the activities of the PDP within the government between 1992 and 1998 clearly showed their meager contribution to the solution of the chief problems troubling ethnic Albanians in Macedonia. Thus, the description of the PDPSh as a more radical party was an expression of a propaganda war initiated by the SDSM with the goal of justifying its coalition with the PDP in front of the ethnic Macedonian public. The results were as expected. The condemnation of the PDPSh as a more radical party and SDSM's tacit defense of its coalition partner contributed directly to the increased popularity of the opposition ethnic Albanian party in the Albanian electorate, and a corresponding drop in support for the PDP. Ethnic Macedonians, on the other hand, interpreted that as yet another proof of disloyalty of ethnic Albanians towards the state.
In general, it is fair to say that since the second parliamentary elections in 1994 the Macedonian society has been split in two ways. On the one hand we have an internal [intra-Macedonian] division between former federalists and separatists, while on the other hand there is the division between ethnic Albanians and ethnic Macedonians.