However, no one, not even the undisputed leader of the SDSM can ignore the fact that a sort of a political storm has been predicted and that it could seriously shake up the ship steered by Crvenkovski's and Ahmeti's troops in the near future. An analysis of the events over the last few months would clearly confirm that anchors that have allowed that ship more or less smooth sailing for more than a year are giving in.
Without any doubt the most important anchor that is securing the stability of the ruling coalition, and the country as a whole, is the Ohrid Agreement. At the beginning of its term, this government took several important steps in the direction of consistent implementation of this agreement. However, over the last few months there has been an increase in dissatisfaction among ethnic Albanians, supposedly provoked by the slowness and superficial nature of the implemented reforms, based on the Ohrid Agreement. Of course, that is a false argument, since it clearly hides the intention to dig even deeper in the tissue of Macedonian unity and open a new "Albanian question" in the country. These plans will become even clearer and more dangerous over the next few months, more specifically next spring, when we can expect a new Albanian offensive in the region in the expectation of the definitive closure of the Kosovo question on the international stage.
Recently the government has attempted to respond to that pressure by making serious methodological and political mistakes. It is as if they are attempting to turn Macedonia into a big experimental workshop, by essentially promoting Ohrid principles of protection of minority communities in locations where they are a majority into irrational and provocative rules and schemes that are applied in the environments where there is no need for that. That is the essence of the chaos in education implemented by minister Pollozhani, who behaves like an elephant in a china shop.
They even went a step further. Expecting announced, disputed, and apparently so far clean results of the population census, a streamlining of the naturalization process has been announced. The goal of the streamlining of the process, as some ethnic Albanian politicians have openly stated, is to strengthen the Albanian community in Macedonia with a new contingent of ethnic Albanian citizens of Macedonia. All of that goes against and outside the Ohrid Agreement, if it is still considered to be a peace agreement. On the contrary, we are witnessing a process that is supposed to strengthen ambitions of ethnic Albanian politicians who dream about a definite dismemberment of Macedonia.
The other anchor that has been dangerously weakened is this government's ability to implement reforms. I cannot predict whether the dangerous trend of complication of inter-ethnic relations will endanger the most important forthcoming reform - decentralization and transfer of jurisdiction to local authorities. However, I am convinced that the promoted "reforms" in the public sector and in the economy are big failures resembling inadequate, demagogic and propaganda actions. Instead of reform concepts regarding successful management of the state-run health care system, for example, we have gotten only dismissals, horrific shortages of medications, weakening of the government control and strengthening of the despotism of the director of the Health Care Fund. In other public institutions and companies "reforms" also boil down to lists for layoffs; there is a general lack of creative ideas about how to better utilize funds provided by taxpayers. Petrov's "agrarian reform" will be yet another unprepared and insufficiently planned action, which with its ideological "shade" will only be comparable to the turbo-socialist project "apartment for everyone".
On the other hand, the authorities haven't done anything to create a favorable atmosphere for investment and development of the economy. Very few initiatives from abroad for investment in Macedonia have been greeted with rancor, inimical moves by the authorities, "spontaneous" strikes, suspicious looks by the government, and our local "scarecrow" - the silly crusade against Macedonian "mother of all corruption" (which in the end boiled down to unjust persecution of several VMRO politicians and Amdi Bajram; this campaign is these days ending with a direct attack by the government on the judiciary - a total discrediting of the law and justice).
Altogether, it is becoming obvious that the captain of this ship, Prime Minister Crvenkovski, cannot anymore find excuses in demagogic statements of the sort "we have achieved a lot, but even more is needed". Actually, very little has been achieved, and it is high time that more, much more, has been done. We already have objective analyses and research reports (such as the one indicating an obvious fall in popularity of Macedonia in the eyes of investors from abroad) which clearly indicate that we are not doing well. That means that Crvenkovski has definitely wasted the first peaceful year of his mandate. It is time for thorough changes.
I doubt that the government does not know or hasn't understood that within the Medical Center in Tetovo a five floor building is being built, without any permits and approvals from the competent institutions. Or that they do not know that the illegal medical school in Tetovo, which by the way has moved to the Medical Center, has been teaching new students. These students have not only been attending lectures at the illegal medical school for three years already, but are already operating and experimenting with the health of citizens and are testing the limits of tolerance of the rule of law in this country. All of that illegally. As a pet project, if that implies the non-functioning of the system.
In that health center, although there is no permit to open an open-heart surgery clinic, they are already sharpening knives, providing space and rolling out red carpets to welcome top surgeons from abroad.
In the general degradation of the national health care system, it seems that we only needed ethnic divisions. Deep ghettoization that is advocated in all spheres, including the health care, will introduce another degree of mistrust among patients, who will, as usual, pay the price for all these games.
Although the country faces a surplus of qualified physicians, so that more than 200 doctors and dentists have been unable to find work, the illegal medical school continues to produce more physicians who will head straight to the unemployment bureau. Who will give licenses to or take them away from these newly fangled, instant physicians? Who will sanction their mistakes? The association of ethnic Albanian physicians or the Ministry of Health? In the flood of aggressive promotion of someone's ethnic rights, we have forgotten that sickness does not care about patient's ethnicity.
Divisions evident in medicine, science, education and other spheres lead to the worsening of the quality of services, which will ultimately harm the patients.
The need for yet another clinic for open-heart surgery cannot be denied; indeed it is a high priority project. However, if the realization of that project takes decades, that opens space to the idea that the project should be realized by someone else, in illegally constructed buildings.
That is precisely where the state should make a "by-pass". It should provide conditions for realizing the project. It should select the best manager for the future clinic in an open competition. Perhaps director Gafuri would be one of top five choices in such a competition.
However, by dismissing the activities as "a pet project" and by failing to take specific steps to stop these activities, the authorities are essentially doing nothing. Only, even those who so far have not needed a heart surgeon are feeling their hearts skip, while the state authorities are well on the way towards a cardiac arrest.
Can any sort of explanation for this absurd of tolerance in Macedonia after the Ohrid Agreement - legal, ethical, Christian, Islamic, empirical - be found? All of them, essentially, say only one thing - once a state allows a group of terrorists and bandits, together with their criminal gangs, to take power, no one will ever be able to control their supporters when they decide to confront the authorities. They were nothing and no one and overnight they became both clean, and honored, and in power. Is there a better example of how heroism becomes a vice?
The massacre near Vejce is for ethnic Macedonians the most shameful defeat of the conflict from two years ago, as well as an expression of the total powerlessness of state authorities today. Just consider how our Minister of Internal Affairs (Police) has confronted blockades: "If it turns out that we cannot get to Vejce, I shall resign". That is his response to willfulness of citizens - nothing but a portent of another defeat. Two years after the bloody events and nine months after the change of government, in which BDI, transformed Natonal Liberation Army (UCK) became Minister Kostov's party's coalition partner, we expect a forceful reaction. And Kostov, even though he enjoys support of his coalition partner, failed to confront the obstruction either with the integrity of his office or politically and verbally. Instead of action, facing a challenge, he announced yet another withdrawal, another defeat.
Since 2001 Vejce remains in the collective memory of ethnic Macedonians as a spot of unprecedented crime, a symbol of perhaps the worst of many treasons that fill our history, the worst defeat of state institutions by a group of terrorists and bandits, because until today the authorities haven't even initiated an investigation, let alone found culprits and brought them to justice. In 2003 Vejce, on the other hand, has violated one of the basic democratic principles in the Macedonian Constitution - freedom of movement. There is no better proof that the rule of law does not function in the country in which citizens, even with police assistance, cannot reach certain locations.
Ethics and history indicate that even the bloodiest wars are interrupted to bury the dead. I doubt that Islam [religion of most ethnic Albanians in Macedonia] rejects that extra-religious act of facing the truth, even the painful sort. Therefore, it cannot be that ethnic Albanians, due to their religion, feel less pain when mourning their loved ones who have passed away.
The local population in the three villages below the Sara Mountain blocked ethnic Macedonians from visiting the location of the crime because their wounds, due to their victims, haven't completely healed. What can parents of slain policemen and soldiers, whose sons as members of legal security forces were ambushed and criminally murdered, say while they watch murderers of their children parading through state institutions!? Have their wounds healed after their futile attempts to reach Vejce for two years?! Or should they get together in front of the Parliament and government buildings and prevent ethnic Albanians from going inside? Let us not ignore the truth. Some ethnic Albanian leaders persistently play that card, skillfully hiding behind "slow implementation of the Ohrid Agreement". But, we believe that Macedonia will overcome that phase; Macedonia must not become a hostage of those who seek to interpret conflicts between groups of citizens and state institutions as inter-ethnic clashes.
In the end, let us say a few words about those who are supposed to guarantee the future of post-conflict Macedonia. American ambassador Lawrence Buttler, who, just like Kostov failed to convince ethnic Albanians to remove their blockade, said something that indicates his view of Macedonia and her future. Asked what he would say to parents waiting in Tetovo for the outcome of negotiations, he responded: "the same I would say to my mother if she attempted to go to Vietnam, where my father died". Victims are victims everywhere and every human being feels the same pain due to loss of our loved ones. But Vejce is far from a Macedonian Vietnam. Vejce is not separated by oceans from Macedonia; Vejce is not in a different country. Vejce is Macedonia proper. Consequently, it is in bad taste and insulting to draw parallels between Macedonian and American experiences.