by Saso ORDANOSKI
This new political fact has enormous importance, not only for Macedonia, but for the rest of the region as well. First of all, from now on, all options for the survival and organization of the Macedonian state will again be open; secondly, the resolution of the Kosovo and Bosnian questions may also head in new directions.
The first effect of the violation of the Ohrid Agreement is obvious. The dissatisfaction of three quarters of population in the country is huge and, nevertheless, expressed based on ethnic, rather than political affiliation. The satisfaction was made even worse after the authorities tried to condemn it as "vandal" etc. and the SDSM tried to find (and did find it) support and legitimacy for its actions abroad, instead of among the population that will be the main victim of their controversial policies.
Crvenkovski and Ahmeti believed that such an essential problem did not need even basic democratic rules and procedures. Without basic transparency regarding the methodology and the process of finding a solution, in a typical, for both sides, Marxist-Leninist style, the agreement was simply presented to the public, with expectations that it would obediently accept whatever had been agreed. As we are all by now aware, that would not work even in Baghdad.
Thus, it is not surprising that, when the agreement was received with harsh criticism by the public, it turned out that the two negotiating partners did not have prepared answers for even most basic questions such as: What would an introduction of bilingualism in Skopje mean in practice? Why, if bilingualism is a concession that needs to be made to ethnic Albanians in the capital, was it necessary to change municipal borders within the city, based on ethnicity of the population? Why new municipalities, in which ethnic Macedonians will overnight become minorities, do not have mechanisms that would protect them from abuse by ethnic Albanian majority, as is the case with ethnic Albanians on the country level? Why do ethnic Macedonians in Tetovo, for example, do not have the right to "their own" municipality - and why would such a demand be "nationalism" and "a violation of the Ohrid Agreement" - [if ethnic Albanians did get "their" municipality in Skopje]? Finally, for everybody's good, if the authorities decided to offer a territorial solution for ethnic problems, the principle of decision making by consensus - for a certain number and type of decisions - was not introduced in ethnically mixed municipalities in hope of calming down passions and fears of the population? And so on...
No one in the government has an answer for any of the above and many other concrete questions. They act, if you'll excuse me, as if they've been hit by a bout of diarrhea in the middle of a concert. They are promising nebulous lawsuits against the opposition, starting idiotic arguments defending their "patriotism" (for example now, supposedly, Macedonians will control Matka, while before it was controlled by Albanians, and similar nonsense), making threats and demonstrating force even when there is no need for that. Minister Gestakovski seems to be saying "sorry, I'm not from here, I was just passing by and have no idea about any of this". President Crvenkovski even permitted himself, during a state visit abroad, to Brussels, to "distinguish" himself by criticizing Macedonian opposition and his own people(!) in front of Solana (who looked at him sadly, as if he were talking to a president of a hiking association).
Of course, no one sensible in this country approves of demolition of private and public property, as happened in Struga, even if culprits are members of the ruling party. However, no well meaning democrat can demand from the public to silently ignore violations of basic principles of the Ohrid Agreement, the foundation of the new constitutional order of the European republic of Macedonia.
Such development of the situation, as another important effect, could not but awaken and bring up from their political "graves" all those for whom we had hoped that they would be remembered only as an unpleasant footnote in the dense weave of the recent political history of Macedonia. On the scene, with their most recent demagogic achievements, we again have Vasil Tupurkovski and his two political "epigones" (Pavle and Zingo), then Ljupco Georgievski (carefully promoted by American ambassador Buttler) and Arben Xhaferi (with the comical concept of "thousands of years of Albanian culture"), all the way to the expert of Zastava film, Mr. Latas and the rest of the local military-warmongering media machinery. It should not be surprising if the ridiculous character of Mr. Ljube Boskovski does not show up from somewhere, for the sake of "atmosphere", and throw some more oil on the fire.
Look, even Mr. Trifun Kostovski used the political situation to promote his now Civic Movement, as well as the group of characters with whom he intends to save Macedonia. The list, besides truly honest and virtuous people (for the record - some of them are my good friends), also includes two dozen of well-known political rascals, several pronounced transitional criminals, as well as an unavoidable handful of physicians, businessmen, and "intellectuals" who for more than a decade have been looking for inroads towards power, but have been woefully unsuccessful in their attempts, mostly because of very strong competition for such posts in this country. Somehow, I fear that after the initial founding euphoria the well-meaning and polite people will abandon the Movement, while those who do not have a problem making coalition with, for example, Mr. Cile [Vasil Tupurkovski] will remain. Our people call such "digging of a hole in the water", political "pouring from hollow to empty".
Thereby carried out annulment of the Ohrid Agreement, at one point proudly described as the "golden bullet" that will resolve Balkan ethnic conflicts, will also have an important regional impact. With this, definitively and most southerly, ethnicity is promoted in the functioning of Balkan democracies as a more important principle than citizenship. This is an important message for all ethnic minorities in the Balkans. However, it is also an important signal for the majorities, especially Albanian in Kosovo and ethnic Macedonian in Macedonia. The principle of territorial expansion, unavoidably followed by a certain mode (slow, fast, violent, "voluntary" etc.) of ethnic cleansing, has turned out to be a more efficient method for the solution of inter-ethnic problems than the principle of sticking with achieved agreements and slowly, and persistently developing inter-ethnic trust and tolerance.
This essential change in the policy of the international community in the Balkans is the result of their weariness - diplomatic, political and financial. They do not have time to waste on us and are prepared to accept any solution that would imply a swift, although not high quality, closure of the problems, regardless of whether it is likely to be short or long term.
"Give them everything they want," is the sentence with which Branko Crvenkovski, according to well informed sources of Forum cut several weeks of difficult (and secret) negotiations between the government partners: SDSM and LDP on the one and the BDI on the other side. That sentence symbolizes the race with time that Crvenkovski tried to win and "close" the "Macedonian problem" before the risky and uncertain closure of the Kosovo problem in 2005. The BDI, assisted by Xhaferi's radicals, is not even hiding its method for territorial expansion, which bears a striking resemblance to military tactics: if you do not satisfy all our demands we shall leave the government and provoke a political crisis and thereby push the country into the "Kosovo scenario".
A member of the Macedonian administration, a participant in the recent decentralization negotiations, openly admitted to me that at one point of Mavrovo-Skopje negotiations the BDI did not hide that if the process of accession to the EU is a priority for ethnic Macedonians, it is certainly not a priority for ethnic Albanians in Macedonia. Therefore, a possible fall of the government and consequent political crisis would endanger (ethnic?) Macedonian, but not Albanian priorities.
That is a cruel political reality of Macedonia. Those are the limits the SDSM faces in the negotiations. In that sense the approach give-them-everything-they-want sounds more like buying of time than a long term basis for the implementation of decentralization in Macedonia. If they think carefully, the annulment of the Ohrid Agreement is not beneficial for ethnic Albanians either, since it is not an advisable recipe for future inter-ethnic coexistence in the Republic. In the best case, some politicians will, no doubt, take all of this as an attempt to buy time in a game with two halves. (Honestly, ethnic Albanians are 2:0 up in this game, after scoring in 2001 and 2004, with assistance of referees, but there are always rematches... Besides, just consider what Greece did at the European championship?!)
The people, justifiably, keep asking: is there an end to this?
The decentralization, as conceived by the authorities, will pass and will be adopted in the Macedonian parliament. After everything said above, that will have one good result, found in a pretty easy prediction that a large part of the veteran Crvenkovski's and SDSM's political team (oh, and let's not forget Penov) has signed its "death sentence" as far as voters are concerned. The forthcoming local elections and, most likely, early general elections, will be an indicator of that. By now it is clear that the government of the "cashier" Kostov, who, by the way, in the whole decentralization story both does not understand anything and is not even trying to understand, and only managed to insult ethnic Macedonians with silly comparisons between Macedonian and English languages, will be unable to survive until the next regular election, not only because of consistently bad economic performance. That will ignite yet again the old internal crisis in the Social Democratic Party that will not end soon and in which, at least initially, the advantage will lie on the side of those (Tito Petkovski for example?) who are not currently on the top of the party pyramid and are not involved in the controversial government policies. However, the crisis will ultimately sweep away the political generation of Social Democrats who for the last 15 years treated democracy mostly as a process for personal enrichment, brazen and crude manipulation of the public, with the goal of disguising the goal (personal enrichment). No one can predict who will be in the new leadership of the SDSM, but it will definitely not include Crvenkovski's trump cards such as Kondarko, my buddy Makraduli and others like them, but it is clear that the greatest danger comes from wealthy party members who will attempt to pull strings from the background.
The violation of the Ohrid Agreement, justifiably, is after all simply a (prolonged) end of political careers of the members of the current administration. Unfortunately, they will hand over the reins of power after planting the seed of a new crisis.