Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Macedonia: the next step towards separation

Not everyone was enthousiastic about the Ohrid Agreement. It included a municipal reorganisation that merged many Macedonian in West Macedonia into larger municipalities with an Albanian majority. This way it created a nearly homogenous Albanian-ruled block in West-Macedonia: an easy starting point for further separation.

The official justification for this reorganisation was rather weak. It would give the poor Albanian villages access to the richer services of the Macedonian cities. That argument would have held 10 years before when the Albanians were discriminated against and much poorer as the Macedonians. But at the time of the Ohrid Framework the government sector of the economy had imploded, leaving many Macedonians unemployed. In the mean time many Albanians had found work as emigrants and in the shadow economy. So now the income gap has closed and Albanians may even be richer. This made the official argument for the Ohrid municipal reorganisation rather dubious and gave the impression of hidden intentions.

Don't get me wrong. I am not against Ohrid. It has created more equality between Macedonians and Albanians and stabilized the country. But one shouldn't ignore that it also made a future separation much easier.

In the july 2006 elections the social-democrats lost and the right wing VMRO-DPMNE became the new king maker. It formed a coalition that included from the Albanian side the DPA that got 11 seats. The larger DUI/PDP that got 17 seats was not included.

Since then the DUI has been on a war path. They simply can not accept that they - as the largest Albanian party - have been excluded from the government. First they threatened with war, but after international reprimands they withdrew that. But the more recent threats by DUI leader Buxhaku to severe the contact between the Albanian-ruled municipalities and the Gruevski government because "his government doesn't represent the majority of Albanians and can not function in whole territory of Macedonia.". This would be one step closer to a complete separation. Yet it didn't get not such an international rejection.

One gets more and more the impression that the internationals have chosen the side of the DUI. One starts reading about NATO and EU reprimands that Macedonia should do more to implement Ohrid - while not reprimanding the DUI. Newsreports start describing the VMRO-DPMNE as "nationalist".

I believe the DUI is wrong. They were part of a coalition and that coalition has been rejected by the voters. The fact that they did not lose among the Albanian voters does not diminish the fact that they were responsible for a policy that was rejected by the majority of all voters. It should remind them that they are not only in the government to promote the interests of a part of the Albanians, but also to promote the interest of the country as a whole.

90 years ago Edith Durham wrote already about the inability of Westerners to stay neutral when they come to the Balkan and their tendency to become ardent supporters of one side. Today nothing seems to have changed. The diplomats who "befriended" the DUI leaders a few years ago now seems incapapble to understand that it is time to be strict with their friends. Their behaviour endangers the future of Macedonia.

I know that the VMRO-DPMNE has a nationalist past - as has the DUI. But I believe that a government should be evaluated on its actions - not on the past of its parties. And it is the behaviour of the DUI that is by far the most outrageous at the moment. Yet I still have to hear to the first diplomat explain the DUI in public why they should accept their role in the opposition.