interview by Nenad Lj. STEFANOVIC
These days, after fierce shootouts on the slopes of the Sar Mountain, many again dealt with the same topic, the stability of the Macedonian state, and revisited Gligorov's achievements. The former president of Macedonia agreed to comment on the recent events for Vreme:
"All that has recently happened in the south of Serbia and is currently happening in Macedonia, and I would also add to that newspaper reports that the UCK supporters have apparently appeared in Montenegro as well, is above all the result of the realization of the Albanians that the support for and favorable attitude towards their goal of independent Kosovo has disappeared in the international community. Their disquiet has been also prompted by the signing of an inter-state agreement between FRY and Macedonia demarcating the border, which in practice indicates that in the future it will be impossible to cross that border illegally without a passport as until now. But all of these recent developments are directed primarily at the West and NATO, as a warning that the Albanian question in the Balkans hasn't been solved. That is why they are promoting the idea about the so-called necessity of an international conference regarding the Albanian question, so that it could finally be resolved. What is currently taking place in Macedonia is not a struggle for civic rights but a demand that the Albanian community in Macedonia, through a modification of the Constitution, becomes a constitutional nation. Although the Macedonian Constitution very clearly states that the sovereignty of the Republic of Macedonia is based on the sovereignty of all citizens of this state regardless of their ethnicity, religious or cultural differences, which is obviously the civic concept of a state. Obviously, that is not enough for Albanians.
VREME: You've recently stated that the concept of "Greater Kosovo" is behind all these events.
Terrorists have spread out a map which clearly indicates that they demand Greater Kosovo. That map, besides Kosovo, includes three towns in the south of Serbia, then several towns in Western Macedonia and Skopje as the capital of that Greater Kosovo. They do not want to publicly talk about Greater Albania, because they are aware that the international community is not prepared to support such a concept.
The leader of the DPA, Arben Xhaferi, claims that the situation in Macedonia cannot be stabilized without an independent Kosovo. In your opinion, what would be the implications of the independence of Kosovo for Macedonia?
A precedent that an autonomous province becomes an independent state would have great consequences not only for FRY, Macedonia and the Balkans, but for the rest of Europe as well. Similar problems exist everywhere in Europe. If something like that does take place, who will, for example, force three nations in Bosnia-Hercegovina to remain in one state? Croats there already demand their own entity, such as the republic of Srpska, or the Muslim part. If we continue, we shall reach the Basque Country, Catalonia... It would be difficult to later close that Pandora's box.
Do you fear that the current events in Macedonia have definitely destroyed the concept of inter-ethnic tolerance that you advocated as the president of the state?
For me personally, it is very important that these terrorist groups that came from Kosovo did not manage to provoke an uprising of Albanians in Macedonia. And that is their biggest disappointment. Not that the Army will take control of the situation. They thought that they would make this into a global problem, that they would draw the attention of the whole world. And that they would repeat the Kosovo example in this case. But that will not happen. I believe that it is necessary to continue with what we insisted on since the founding of this state - a political dialog in the state institutions. Put all the contested issues on the table and see what can be changed and what cannot.
There's been a lot of talk that George Robertson and Javier Solana have brought to Skopje support for the authorities in their showdown with terrorism, as well as a message that the Macedonian Constitution will have to be changed to address the demands of the Albanians?
I cannot give a definite answer regarding what will happen with the Constitution. But it must be taken into account that a large majority of citizens of Macedonia would have a hard time accepting that. They would definitely view something like that as a result of militant terrorist actions. Many would experience that as the annulment of something that was stated, as a historical fact, in the preamble of our Constitution, and which does not give or take away anyone's rights. And if all of that is tied in with the main demand of the Albanians that Macedonia become a two-nation state, that would be experienced as a loss of our state. This also includes a question of principles that could have consequences for the rest of the Balkans and the whole Europe - whether this situation can be accepted as a legitimate way to obtain one's own independent state, and where all of that leads. Something like that would bring in danger democratic principles of decision making as the Albanians are demanding that in this state in the future all decisions must be made by consensus of Albanians and Macedonians. That would mean that one side would have the right of veto. I do not believe that a state could function normally in that manner.
Do you share the impression that the international community has significantly encouraged or even assisted the creation of the structures such as UCK today? Those who tried to resolve problems using arms were quickly promoted into important negotiators and carried to negotiating tables?
It is obvious that the international community had certain sympathy and support for the solution of the Albanian question in Kosovo. It seems that now it is difficult to abandon that mode of operation. Thanks to what has happened earlier in Kosovo, especially after Milosevic abolished the autnomy there, and especially due to the activities of Albanian lobbies abroad, they enjoyed a lot of sympathy and got a lot of support. Perhaps something like that was normal at the time. But in the meantime the situation has significantly changed. FR Yugoslavia is not what it used to be. Also, the demand that Kosovo become an independent state has now been much more clearly articulated, and that was done by repeating that they cannot live together with Serbs anymore. And something like that can hardly be acceptable to anyone in the world. Regardless of personal opinions, Serbia is a very important factor in the Balkans. Since the regime has been ousted, in a very short time the approach of the international community has changed, including the very important issues such as the status of Serbia and FRY. All the chief roads and railroads, and telecommunications routes in this part of Europe pass through Serbia and are the shortest path to the north. That's how it is and that should be taken into account.