BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: World: Europe
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Thursday, 26 July, 2001, 03:56 GMT 04:56 UK
Macedonians target the West
Burnt-out jeeps
Rioters attacked the vehicles of international agencies
By Chris Morris in Skopje

As international mediators battle to prevent Macedonia sliding towards a potential civil war, a streak of virulent anti-Western feeling has emerged among the majority population.

In street protests and angry government statements, Western institutions have been accused of bias towards the ethnic Albanian rebels who control swathes of territory in the north and west of the country.

Western journalists have also been singled out and beaten.

They want to shift responsibility, shift the blame

Hansjorg Eiff, Nato

"Who is protecting the terrorists? - Nato," read one banner at a protest outside the Macedonian parliament on Tuesday night. A little later, the anger boiled over.

Cars belonging to the United Nations and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe were burnt, and doors and windows were damaged at Western embassies.

A McDonalds restaurant and the offices of British Airways were among other targets which came under attack.

Not fair

"It's good that people have shown that what is happening here is not fair," said one woman, as she surveyed the damage the following day. "The West should realise they are making a mistake and that they should help our country."

Nato, in particular, has become a focus of resentment.

Many ordinary people believe it is responsible for failing to prevent the transfer of arms and men across the border from Kosovo.

Workers repairing McDonalds restaurant
McDonalds in Skopje: Riot to go
A government spokesman said this week that Nato wanted to turn Macedonia into an "international protectorate".

On Saturday, the Macedonian Defence Ministry said that a helicopter belonging to the Nato-led Kosovo peacekeeping force landed inside Macedonia and unloaded two crates before returning to Kosovo.

A Nato spokesman dismissed the report and said the helicopter had never left Kosovan territory.

But such is the distrust of Nato and the West in general that a growing number of Macedonians are inclined to believe allegations that they are the victims of a conspiracy.

Official statements often fuel the sense of national injustice.

Aggressive agenda

Western diplomats believe it is deliberate.

They argue that parts of the government are promoting an aggressive nationalist agenda in preference to granting extra rights to the Albanian minority, which makes up about one third of the country's population.

"They want to shift responsibility, shift the blame," said Hansjorg Eiff, Nato's senior civilian representative in Skopje.

"But they can't do that - the decision is theirs".

Mr Eiff has expressed serious concern in a letter to the Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski about "unjustified" government statements regarding Nato, which are damaging Macedonia's relations with the West.

The hardening of official rhetoric is also making the task of international mediators that much more difficult.

They are pinning their hopes on the fact that many Macedonians still believe dialogue and negotiation are the best way forward.

But the rise in anti-western sentiment has added another awkward twist to an already complex equation.

Key stories



See also:

01 Aug 01 | Europe
Tetovo calm after fighting
20 Jul 01 | Europe
EU team killed in Macedonia
19 Jul 01 | Europe
Row over Macedonia peace plan
19 Jul 01 | Europe
Analysis: Macedonia talks setback
28 Jun 01 | Europe
Profile: Francois Leotard
26 Jun 01 | Europe
Analysis: Macedonia test for EU
23 Jul 01 | Europe
Fighting grips Macedonia city
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories